A historic "Ozarks" postcard printed between 1935 and 1945. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

It seems to me that the most true-Ozarks word in use today is “hollers” — as in the “hills and hollers” of the Ozarks. 

It’s used often over the airwaves on KSMU, and those who blog about the Ozarks are fond of it, too.

For the uninitiated, a holler is a lowland between two hills or mountains.

Best I can tell, being a Chicago native, a “holler” is smaller than a “valley” and typically does not have a river running through it.

Last year I wrote about common words many newcomers have difficulty pronouncing, such as “Bois D’arc,” “Gillioz,” “Kearney Street,” “Kimbrough Avenue” and “Rehwald” — as in Springfield Daily Citizen reporter Jackie Rehwald. (It’s pronounced Ray-walled.)

In response to that column, Betsy Kester of Ozark wanted me to see her old bedraggled edition of “How to Talk Pure Ozark in One Easy Edition.”

Copy of the book How to Talk Pure Ozark. (Photo by Brittany Meiling)

Dale Freeman wrote it in 1951 when he was city editor of the Springfield Leader & Press. Its sixth reprinting was in November 1965.

Robert Palmer, a long-time cartoonist at the paper, did original illustrations for “How to Talk Pure Ozark.”

Palmer died in 1999 and Freeman passed away last July at 94.

The book has 15 pages of listings and is like a pamphlet.

It looks like it was printed on a mimeograph machine, which produced print using stencils and an ink roller.

Freeman had fun with his little book. It was never intended to be a scholarly work you would find in the Missouri State University Archives while working on a doctoral degree in, say, Linguistic Roots in the Ozarks Plateau in the Post-Industrial Era.

In fact, the reader was prompted to add to the glossary in the book. At the front is a blank page with the heading “Personal Glossary/Ozarks Words That I Have Learnt/Writ by Hand.”

I’m sure there was a time when people who lived here talked this way. After all, 1951 was over 70 years ago. 

Or perhaps Freeman, with his sense of humor, even then was exaggerating a bit.

Regardless, if you want to speak what Freeman called “Ozarkese,” here’s how. I’ve included not only the word but Freeman’s example of how to use it in a sentence.

Airs:  The first baseman made two airs on one play.

Backer: What the oldtimers take a chaw of.

Bobbed: Don’t tear yore britches on that bobbed war (wire.)

Canny: Let Billy Bob have a peeny’s wuth of that rock canny.

Colt: It was colt all last spring and up into summer.

Fanger: Billy Bob, quit gnawin’ on your fanger nails.

Farman: He was a farman with the volunteer far department.

Fraidy holes:  Storm cellars and fallout shelters.

Furriner: Anybody whose folks haven’t lived in the Ozarks since the War (Between the States.)

Grub: He grub her from behind. 

Keeyow: A farm animal: We cain’t go to town until we malk the keeyows.

Kin-see:  Daybreak.

Mere: He seen himself in the mere.

Nixie: Nixa, a town in Christian County, Missouri.

Oral: Your car needs two quarts of oral.

Rang: When they got married, he put a rang on her fanger.

Seed: He seed her first.

Shadder: The groundhawg seen his shadder on February 2.

Taxes:  A southwestern state; Austin is the capital.

Thanks: He thanks he’s so smart.

Toad strangler: A heavy shar, wuss than a gully washer.

Umparr: The umparr called him out at home. 

Yurp: A continent overseas. 

I reckon you get the idear so I’ll stop here. I’m a little tard and it’s getting dork outside. See ya tuh marr.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin