One Word: Pert Near

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A recent article of mine uses the compound word “pert near”. What’s the deal there?

It was my article on whistling (I can’t whistle) in which I asked whether there’s “anything you can’t do … even though pert near everyone else you know can”.

One Word: Pert Near

Of course, “pert near” is a slang expression meaning “pretty nearly” or “darn close to”. Perhaps even “virtually” – as in “virtually everyone else you know”.

There’s always debate among language mavens as to whether slang words are “real” words. This word, at this time, isn’t in Oxford or Merriam-Webster, or even in the exceptionally comprehensive

The only source I’ve found that includes “pert near” is

Like Wiktionary (a WikiMedia project, sibling to the fabulous and better-known Wikipedia), Urban Dictionary is a “crowd-sourced” reference. That is, it relies on reader input. Unlike Wiktionary, which aspires to high standards, Urban Dictionary takes pride in having no standards at all.

By that I mean it will take pert near any or all reader contributions, letting other readers vote them up or down. This often results in a cacophony of mutually exclusive definitions and spellings – an online brawl. Yet there’s insight to be gleaned from that. Especially if the word in question exists only in the outer fringes and badlands of modern speech.

That seems to be the case here. Urban Dictionary has several entries for the word, spelling it variously as “pert near”, “pertnear”, and “pert’ near”. I really prefer the hyphenated “pert-near”, but decided, after tallying all votes, to go with the spaced two-word version.

The fourth “definition” (if we can call it that), submitted by a user calling themself “ORRMER”, reads: “If this word is used then you have located a hillbilly redneck.”

That hardly seems fair. A hillbilly I am, of course – but a redneck? Only on alternate Tuesdays. ORRMER provides the following usage example: “I’m pert near to pushing that goat through that fence.”

This inept word choice demonstrates ORRMER’s utter lack of fluency in hillbilly-redneck rhetoric. Correct usage is (of course): “I’m pert near to pushing this here goat through that there fence.”

For whatever it’s worth (hint: not much), there’s a website named Pertnear is a “social media marketing” firm touting its ability to bring thousands of fans to your Facebook business page.

Its fees range from $1,000 to $100,000 per month (depending, I suppose, on how many Facebook fans you want). This is stated in Pertnear’s front-page article titled “Command Your Audience, Grow Your Brand”.

The article’s lead sentence features this commanding display of branding grammar: “… the more loyal fans you have, the more number of sales opportunities you have.”

Speaking of more number, that same opening paragraph ends with a link that reads “Read More »»” – implying there’s more to read. Alas, there is no “more”. Clicking the link leads back to the same page you’re already on.

Since websites change, I’ve saved screenshots as mementoes of Pertnear’s glory days.

(This article is part of my series on words that are #worth1000pictures.)


One Word: Pert Near — 4 Comments

  1. When our grandmother would use such expressions and we would correct her, she would respond by saying “you know what I meant.” Sometimes we knew and sometimes we didn’t understand what she was saying. I soon realized that she always knew what we were saying and I learned at an early age who was the smart and wise one in the conversation.

    • Great point, Gwen. While growing up, I either took for granted the sometimes-odd speech patterns of my grandparents, or I felt (in some cases) annoyed by them. Now I’m sad that I never wrote them down, asked them about certain points, and appreciated them more.

      Later, in college, a standard part of my English curriculum was a course in regional dialects. Among these was the speech of rural Appalachia. That in-class version was close in many ways to what I’d experienced. Not the same in all ways. My professor and the textbook author seemed unaware that there are several such dialects — not just one. My region had been for decades (or centuries?) isolated from others; it had developed along its own lines.

      For example, we would promise to do something “dreckly”. That two-syllable word means “pretty soon now — all in good time”. Years later I realized this was a shortened form of “directly” which, in standard English, can be used the same way. But in my class, the dialect being taught used “tereckly” (three syllables). I noticed lots of other little variations.

      But to me the real value of the course was, I was startled and chastened to discover that the dialect I’d grown up around was being studied and taught by serious scholars. It was an actual language! It had its own real norms, vocabulary, syntax, and everything else. It gave me a so-much-deeper appreciation of my own farm-valley background.

      During our Peace Corps stint in Grenada (1988-90), Cheri researched and recorded a book called De Trut’ Is Speak. It’s an “oral history” of the village, Marian, where we lived, as told by the village elders. With the full and enthusiastic support of those very elders, Cheri chose to publish it in the word-for-word dialect they spoke. Where necessary, she explained in footnotes and parentheses. But she ignored advisers who wanted her to “clean it up” by recasting the tales in modern standard English. She felt there was something indescribably precious and valuable about the speech patterns, something she wanted to protect for future generations.

      Nowadays, in our connected world of TV and Internet, I think regional dialects are disappearing. No matter where they live, kids today learn to speak the way they hear on YouTube, the nightly news, Saturday Night Live, and in blockbuster movies. Language is steadily becoming more homogenized. In many ways that’s good. But it was our ancestors, in all their diversity of speech, who paved the way for that. Here’s hoping we honor their contributions befittingly!

  2. I grew up in an area (eastern NC/ outer banks) with a very distinct dialect. My first grade teacher was from that area and had a very strong flavor of it in her speech. My parents were not from the area and as the year progressed they had an increasingly difficult time understanding me and began to correct my speech often. As I got older my friends and I made fun of the accent and vocabulary by over dramatizing it but when we were away from home there was no mistaking where we came from. I can lapse into that now and you probably wouldn’t know what on earth I was talking about.

    • Great story, Linda. You know, in my recent article on the word “translate”, I mentioned my theory that recasting thoughts into a different language helps us distinguish meaning from the words we’re using to express it. Isn’t the same true of translating between different dialects of the same language? If it is, there’s real value in that.

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