I am as happy as a hog in slop to bring you our first episode of Talk Like a Texan, a six-part podcast about the way we Texans express ourselves—the phrases, words, pronunciations, sayings, and metaphors that make us a breed apart among Americans.
In our first episode, we’re getting nutty with an exploration into the right and proper way of pronouncing “pecan,” whose abundance here is proof that God does truly love and has blessed Texas. We explore the historic wrangling over the way to name this nut, and tear into those poor misguided Georgians who say it all wrong.
I regard spoken language as living, breathing folklore, and my family has a long history in that field. My great-grandfather John Avery Lomax came to Texas from Mississippi in 1869 when he was two years old and grew up in Bosque County, about halfway between Waco and Fort Worth, on a branch of the old Chisholm Trail. From his bed at night he could hear the cowboys singing lullabies to their herds on the way out of town, or roaring out profane drinking songs on their way into the saloons of Meridian, the nearest town. He took those songs down by hand in notebooks, and eventually published Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads, a book endorsed by Teddy Roosevelt himself. Later, he and his sons (Alan, and to a lesser extent, my grandfather John A. Lomax Jr.) traveled all over America recording folk songs in prisons, logging camps, plantations, and city slums, with their collections eventually forming the cornerstone of the Archive of American Folksong at the Library of Congress.
Two generations after my grandfather, it seems that Texas and America are about scoured out of folk songs, so I am turning my attention to the language. I truly believe that the vast diversity of American language, and even the Texan dialect, is underappreciated and undiscovered. I have seen dialect maps of America that claim that there are less than a dozen accents and/or dialects in all of America, but if you really, really listen, there are a whole lot more than that.
Hell, all four of my grandparents were native Texans, and they all had their own ways of talking: Grandfather Lomax with his urban Austin drawl, grandmother Marable with her genteel Clarksville lilt; Grandfather Taylor with his Fort Worth twang, and grandmother Plummer with her southwest Louisiana-influenced Beaumont singsong.
In future episodes, we’ll talk about the varied names we all call our grandparents, and some peculiarities to Houston traffic talk, and then we’ll keep on riding into the great big yonder of Texas talk. Your ideas are always welcome, as, of course, is your tuning in. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride, and I would be mighty thankful if you came along.
Looking for recipes of what to do with all those pecans? Check out some of our favorite recipes for pecan pie.