Column: ‘Jist a minute,’ I said, confirming my local status
Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen. The following column first appeared April 16, 2005.
WORTHINGTON — Duane Scribner, WHS Class of ’49, had some glowing life experiences. At one turn, he was chief aide to Walter Mondale at Washington, D.C. The U.S. Senate office building where he worked was a long way from his family home on Sherwood Street.
Several years before this, just after college, Duane was a news editor at the Daily Globe. He studied linguistics at Moorhead State, and he made a project of pinning down where people were from by listening to words they used. He said all across America, from one small region to another, people have their own ways of saying words.
I remember asking him, “How would you know I am from here — from southwest Minnesota or northwest Iowa?”
“By your ‘jist,’” he said. “People here say ‘jist,’ for ‘just,’”
I realized he had me. I suddenly was aware that I say, “Jist a minute,” and, “Jist now.”
After that, I made it a point for a while to say, “Just a minute,” very distinctly. I suppose I thought I could throw people who knew linguistics off the track. They would listen to me and think, “He must be from eastern Idaho,” or, “He must be from Altoona, Pa.”
We called Duane “Scrib.” I wish I had asked Scrib about crick. It is my impression if any man in our neck of the big woods is having trouble and can do nothing about it, he may tell you he is “up a crick without a paddle.”
If there had been soldiers from southwest Minnesota in the Civil War, the first big battle of the war might have been at Bull Crick, rather than Bull Run. In the east, in Maryland and Virginia, people call a creek a run. I knew a man from Ohio, however, who said, “creek” distinctly. “Creak,” not “crick.”
I think all of us carry some of those kinds of words in our personal word boxes.
I never thought my dad said anything strange, but I learned along the way he always said “taters.” He didn’t do it just as a slang alternative to potatoes — all his brothers said the same thing. I wondered if we had ancestors in old Virginia — “that’s where the cotton and the corn and taters grow.”
If my mother is cutting green beans, she will tell you she is “snibbling” beans. I will tell you the same thing — I don’t know how else to tell you what I am doing with green beans. Along the way once again, I found there is no “snibble” in a dictionary.
My Grandma had a word that is something like “fleece-ka.” She might see lint on your sweater. She would lift off the lint with her fingers and say, “You had a fleece-ka on your sweater.” I thought that was a good word, but I can’t find it in a dictionary. Maybe that’s because I don’t know how to spell it.
This was about the time we all called pastors “preachers” and addressed preachers as “Reverend.”
I have mentioned before that I was one of the pioneer businessmen on Oxford Street. My dad had a filling station at the corner of Oxford and Humiston and, in the summers, I ran a pop stand there. That’s what I called it. Pop stand. Everyone knew what I was talking about.
People asked, “What kind of pop do you have?” Customers told me, “I’ll have a pop.” I got a new stock twice a week from the pop man. I was aware of “soda pop.” I thought that was the origin of pop. Now I hear many people, maybe most people, saying, “Soda.” “I’ll have a soda.” Maybe it is pop if it comes in bottles, soda if it comes in cans. There were no cans when I was running the pop stand.
I have been talking about words in the past. It wasn’t a great long time ago — well, maybe 25 years — someone told me about a sub sandwich. What is that? “Sub?” I was told, “Sub is for submarine. It is a great big sandwich with everything on it — it goes down like a submarine.” I asked somewhere about a sub. The response was, “You mean a hoagie?” A woman next to me said, “He means a hero.” What do y’all say about that?