SD Dictionary

By: Seth Tupper/Daily Republic

South Dakotans have a language all their own. Following are some of the more peculiar words and phrases you might hear while traveling the state.

Crick: Preferred pronunciation of “creek.” Example: There’s a little crick that winds through our place.

Dinner: If you use this word to invite a rural South Dakotan to an evening meal, they’ll show up six hours early. In rural South Dakota, “lunch” is “dinner” and “dinner” is “supper.”

Drouth (pronounced “drowth”): The word used by survivors of the Great Depression and some other old-timers to describe a period of prolonged dryness. Example: The drouth was so bad, we had grasshoppers the size of gophers. Sadly, use of this word has nearly been replaced by the much less colorful-sounding “drought.”

Fer: Preferred pronunciation of “for.” Example: What can I do ya fer?

Head: An extra word that, for reasons not entirely known, is usually used when referencing a number of livestock. Example: We’ve got 20 head of cattle. This is perhaps a distinction between the number of hooves and heads in a herd. Yet no one ever says “we’ve got 80 hooves of cattle,” so it would stand to reason that saying “20” would be sufficient. Still, “20 head” is the norm.

Hills, The: Always and without fail, this is understood as a reference to the Black Hills. Example: We’re going to The Hills for a weekend.

Hot beef: Rather than merely describing the temperature of beef, the phrase “Hot Beef” is used to describe a particular dish consisting of roast-beef sandwiches smothered in gravy and accompanied by mashed potatoes. This dish is consumed most often for dinner (which means lunch) at small-town restaurants, and especially at cafes attached to livestock auction barns.

Hunnert: In many areas west of The River (see entry below) and even in some areas near The River, this is the correct pronunciation of “hundred.” Example: There’s a hunnert head of cattle down by the crick.

Kattywampus (also kattycorner or kittycorner): This word is often used when giving directions, to indicate that one thing is located in a diagonal direction from another thing. Example: Our house is just kattywampus from the grain elevator. It can also mean askew: I was trying to fix the tractor, and I got all kattywampus.

Oil: A commonly used description of an asphalt road. Example: Just take the county oil for three miles and then turn west.

Old girl: An adjective used to describe aged cows, mares, farm equipment, vehicles and women. Example: That old girl has pertinear had it. (Yes, “pertinear.” See next entry.)

Pertinear (pronounced “pert-ih-near”): A combination of pretty and near, used to indicate the close proximity of one thing to another or the near completion of a task. Question: Are we there yet? Answer: Pertinear.

Pot: An acceptably shortened reference to a potbelly semitrailer, the lower deck of which hangs down like a potbelly. Example: I need a pot to haul these cattle.

River, The: In most of South Dakota, references to “The River” are typically understood to mean the Missouri River. Question: Where are you gonna fish? Answer: The River.

Salty: Often used as a begrudging compliment, in reference to an adversary’s toughness. Example: That Mitchell basketball team is pretty salty.

Warsh: The preferred pronunciation of “wash” among many of the cowboys, farmers and rural-raised people of the state. Example: I need to warsh my truck before I go to town. The pronunciation is consistent in other word constructions, including references to the state of Washington. Example: I have to drive clear out to Warshington for a wedding.

Whatnot: An acceptable and often-used substitute for etcetera. Question: What’s in that drawer? Answer: Oh, you know, scissors, tape, the phone book, and whatnot.

You guys: The South Dakota equivalent of the Southern “y’all” and the western Pennsylvanian “yuns,” used in reference to a group of people. Example: What are you guys doin’ today? (Note: The possessive form is “guyses.” Example: Is that you guyses’ truck?)

One thought on “SD Dictionary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *