Okay, I know we talk different. But we think you talk different, too.
In college at ECU, I took a speech and public speaking class. Not knowing where I was from, the professor, after hearing me speak, quickly identified me as coming from the Sampson or Duplin County area. I suppose we do speak a little different.
An example is the way many, who have been Sampson County residents their entire life, say the word, “Clinton.” Locals will often drop the “t” off the name of the county seat and replace it with an “n.” “Clin-ton” becomes “Clin-nen.” By the way, I found out that this can be confused with Clemmons, a town near Winston-Salem, by people you are talking to over the phone with in Raleigh.
But it is not only the way we talk, it is the terms we use. It’s often easy to identify who was raised in this area and those who have moved here. A few years ago, I was reminded of one of those unique expressions while driving home. I saw one of my neighbors, Blossom, out raking her yard. I rolled down the window in my truck and told her how smart she was to be out there working in the yard.
“Don’t you want to help?” she asked.
“I’d like to,” I responded, “but I’ve got to go see a man about a dog.”
She looked at me with a confused look, and I remembered that she’s not originally from the 283 zip code. I explained to her that I really wasn’t going to see a man about a dog, but it was just a sort of nice way of saying, “I don’t think so.”
“I’ve got to go see a man about a dog.” — Translated it means, I really don’t want to do what you have asked me to do, so here’s my excuse to get out of it. This is a term I have heard from my childhood. Daddy would often use that line when Momma would ask him to do something he really didn’t want to do, like shell peas. By the way, Momma knew what was going on, and I think she would ask him to help just to see what type of excuse he would come up with.
How in the world did the expression, “I’ve got to go see a man about a dog,” start? It probably started when a man was asked to do something he didn’t want to do, like shell peas, by someone, like his wife. Thinking fast, he said, “I would, but I’ve got to go see a man about a dog.” When it worked he realized he had a new excuse. He told his buddies, and the rest is history.
There’s another expression that I feel is pretty unique to this area and it is an important one for those coming to this area from the outside to learn. And it’s an easy one to use inorder to find out who was born and raised here. I realized it while being President of the Clinton Kiwanis Club a few years ago.
While presiding over a business meeting, I mentioned a subject that was presenting a problem to the club. I commented, “I’ve just about had a bait of it.” About half of the members there nodded in agreement and the other half had that same confused look that Blossom had. One of the confused asked, “A bait? What’s that?” Yes, she wasn’t raised in the 283 zip code either.
“I’ve had a bait” or “I’ve just about had a bait.” – Translated it means, I’m very frustrated over your actions, the situation, etc., and if it continues I may respond in a manner that will be very detrimental to the environment and those around me. Growing up in Sampson County you probably heard it from your Momma. You know, “I’ve about had a bait of your noise in this house! Now get outside in the yard and play!” You knew it was time to go outside, and go in a hurry!
Now don’t ask me how the term, “I’ve had a bait,” originated. I don’t have a clue. If you do, let me know. But I do know if person tells you he’s had a bait, be careful. If he tells you that you are the cause, be extremely careful.
I hope this helps you folks who have moved into this area. And if you run into a person who says, “I’ve had a bait, and I’m going to go see a man about a dog,” just nod, and let him to go on.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]