Today, I have Texas on the brain. And not just ‘cause I live here. I'm writing dialogue for a Texas protagonist.
I gotta confess: as a born-and-raised Yankee (Pittsburgh), I didn’t have a clue how to write authentic, Texas dialect for my bestselling Wild Texas Nights series. Living in Houston (and later, Austin) didn’t help me as much as you might think: most of my big-city neighbors originated from Michigan and New York.
Then one day, while I was prowling through the State Capitol’s gift shop, I discovered This Dog’ll Hunt: An Entertaining Texas Dictionary, by Wallace O. Chariton. That book quickly became my Bible for Texas dialogue.
One of the reasons why This Dog’ll Hunt “tickles me” (Yep, that was Texas talk), is because people really speak this way in the Lone Star State. (Not ALL people, mind you. But there are enough “folks” in rural Texas who do pepper their conversations with outlandish exaggerations to make the Hollywood stereotype real.)
One of my favorite examples of Texas braggadocio?
“It’s so dang hot, that a fella bit into a jalapeno pepper and got hisself a brain freeze!” (Overheard in Austin, TX, November 2011.)
I suspect charming quips like that keep Texans stereotyped in novels, movies, and television shows.
Let’s see if I can give you a “slice of Texas” with the help of Chariton’s book:
Description of lazy:
“He’s like a blister: never shows up ‘til the work is done.”
Description of short-tempered:
“She has a fuse shorter than an ant’s eyebrow.”
Description of an ugly man:
“His mama had to borrow a baby to take to church.”
Description of a poor cook:
“It takes her an hour-and-a-half to cook minute rice.”
Description of a mean child:
“He’s the only hell his parents ever raised.”
Description of someone who talks too much:
“She had to have her tongue retreaded.”
Description of impossible:
“You can’t pole vault with a pitch fork.” (Think about it!)
Chariton says, “Texans usually take the attitude that nothing is impossible; some things just take a little longer to get done.”