Monday, April 26, 2010


I’ve been asked about a particular purely-Southern usage of the word “one” which SEEMS quite superfluous, but is quite a part of the language. We learn it as a matter of course, as a part of our regional idiom, and it never occurs to us that those from “off” might find it strange.

It’s an either/or term, in which a choice of two or more items/actions/people are spoken of in a sentence in which the word either is not used. The natural finish to the sentence is then “, one.” Comma one. (Sometimes hussied up as “one or the other”---often shortened to “wonner thother.”---th pronounced as in the, not in throw).

He’s goin’ to the dance with Libby Sue or Wanda Fay, one.

I’m cookin’ ham or porkchops, one.

He’s drivin’ home or stayin’ at Mammaw’s, one.

Some of the best usage of this little Southern conceit was displayed in Olive Ann Burns’ Cold Sassy Tree, especially in conversation by Will Tweedy, the narrator, who takes on the youthful voice of a teenage self, telling the story.

And there’s one telling line from Grandpa Blakeslee, as he told his two dismayed and outraged daughters of his approaching re-marriage to his store employee, just three weeks after Grandma Blakeslee had passed away:

I ain’t go’n be no burden on y’all. Not ever. Which means I got to hire me a colored woman or get married, one, and tell you the truth, hit’s just cheaper to have a wife.

All clear, now?


Southern Lady said...

Cute post, Rachel. Having been born and raised in the South, I have heard "one" used in that manner all my life and just assumed that everyone knew what it meant ... lol

Hope you're having a good Monday. I'm "fixin'" to go make a salad or a hamburger one for lunch.

mary said...

I laughed in surprise at this post. I am a Mississippian from birth onward, was an English teacher, have used this idiom all my life and never really "heard" it. I have been too steeped in Southernisms or am dense, one. Thanks for a bit of fun.

Tonja said...

Oh, yes, I understand completely! And, I laughed at SL's comment about 'fixin'. My youngest son is on a personal campaign to stamp out the use of 'fixin' in the language of the South. Ain't gonna happen!

Jeanne said...

Hi Rachel, it's late but I wanted to come over before I go to bed. Thanks for your visit today. I am glad you enjoyed my story.

I enjoyed your explanation and examples of true southern ways of speaking. It always has amazed me how accents and ways of speaking are so different from region to region. Such is life. I was raised in Southern Florida but I was born a Yankee. Horrors! Smile. My family up North think I have a Southern accent. I guess they are correct.

I am so sorry about what happened in MS too. My prayers go out to all who are suffering terrible losses.

Hugs, Jeanne

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I mean totally clear...and I've heard it used and paid it no nevermind. :) Hugs and love,