Ford column: From ‘Peep Eye!’ to potlucks

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 7, 2008

At baby Henry’s first professional photo shoot, the photographer kept uttering an unfamiliar phrase.
“Pee-pie!” she said jovially. “Pee-pie!”
Using my extraordinary observation skills, I discerned from the repeated use of her hands over her eyes that she was articulating a southern variation of “peek-a-boo.”
Since then, friends have told me she could have been saying, “Peep Eye!”
Thirteen years later, I’m still collecting words and phrases unique to the South and comparing them with their midwestern counterparts.
For example, I learned that Henry had his picture “made,” not taken. I discovered that when he was sick, he looked “puny,” and when he threw a tantrum, he “pitched a fit.”
While I was pregnant, my southern mother-in-law asked me what I wanted the baby to call her.
I think I laughed. At the time, I had no idea that grandparents here have a host of options beyond grandma and grandpa, most notably meemaw and pawpaw.
My in-laws chose granny and granddaddy.
Someone caught me kissing my husband outside the Post one day and accused me of “giving him sugar.” I thought the voyeur meant I literally had handed my husband a bag of sweetener.
Women here paint their nails instead of polishing them and use a pocketbook, not a purse. A midwestern couch is a southern sofa, and my hick is your redneck.
In South Dakota, I take hotdish to the potluck. Here, I carry a casserole to the covered dish. After turning off the lights. Or cutting them off, depending.
Neighbors in the Midwest live kitty corner from each other, but here, they live caddy corner, or possibly catty corner. Meow.
If you get pulled over by a highway patrol trooper in South Dakota, you got busted by a hypo. I’d made iced tea and sun tea, but never sweet tea. And I still don’t like it, regardless of what it’s called.
Southerners get very specific, as in “ink pen,” “short pants” and “hug your neck.” I was encouraged to learn, however, that you can hug other body parts and still use this phrase correctly.
When I moved here, I learned that “hey” means hi, “directly” means soon, and “bless her heart” means … well, pretty much whatever you want it to mean.
I told my friends on Facebook recently that I had just eaten the most incredible oatmeal cream pie.
“Did you eat the whole pie, or just a piece?” asked a childhood friend in Minneapolis. “I love pie … never heard of oatmeal cream. Will have to try it out.”
My aunt and her family live in London now, where they’ve learned that a swimsuit is a swimming costume but a costume party is a fancy dress.
When we visit them for Christmas, my kids will hear “Put on your football boots so we can play the fixture on the pitch,” instead of “Put on your soccer cleats so we can play the game on the field.”
And I’m sure they will be thrilled to learn that while “trousers” means pants, “pants” means underwear.
I can already hear them trying to explain it to their friends when we get home.
Bless their hearts.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.