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?