Monday, April 4, 2011

I reckon

Saturday, while I found myself doing some manual labor, I said something to Patti, and she replied "I reckon".  I forgot what it was I said, but I knew exactly what she meant.

I've lived lots of places in this country - from Leominster, Massachusetts to Monterey, California, from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota to Killeen (and San Angelo), Texas.  I spent many years in Maryland (Baltimore area), and now North Carolina.  And several years in Europe.

There is no "normal" way of speaking American English.  People who were born and raised in Baltimore have an especially unique way of saying things.  And people from surrounding counties speak just differently enough that you know they're from central Maryland, but not quite from Baltimore. 

I spent my early years in southeastern Kentucky and was surrounded by people who'd use "I reckon" with impunity.  So when I was let loose into the wider world, I didn't think a thing about it, but I soon learned otherwise.  Once you cross north of that great divide that is the Ohio River, common usage of  "I reckon" diminishes exponentially.   It's not something they hear everyday, and to their ears it seems archaic and quaint, and old way of speaking.   If I let an "I reckon" slip in Minneapolis it was noticed.

I'm sure "reckon" used the way it's used in the southern USA is an older way of getting an idea across, but there is nothing quaint about it.  It is deceptively complex, in fact.  If you havent heard it or used it all your life when you do hear the words they'll really stick out, but you'll miss a lot the subtleties of meaning. One of the biggies is, is it used at the beginning or the end of a sentence? It's all context and tone of voice.  It can mean a lot of things, and apparently I'm bilingual this respect because I understand it very well.  Pretty sure.

It is also one of my 3 favorite common phrases used south of the Ohio River: 

I reckon as in "I reckon"
Fixinta as in "I'm fixinta eat me a hamburger"
Likedta as in "It likedta killed me"

It's been awhile since I expounded on any aspect of spoken English as I know it.  I was just thinking & that's all this was about.

2 comments:

Patti Anne said...

"kilt me" instead of "killed me"...

I reckon you'll know what that means.

And, we Southerners never say "ya'll" to just one person. "Ya'll" is at least two people.

A Valdese Blogger said...

PA: I agree y'all always refers to more than one person, tho that may not always be evident.