Heritage Notes – Gomin’, Warsh, and Subtitles

Today I’m proud to bring you Mama’s third installment of Heritage Hints and Notes. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below and be sure to check out her other Heritage posts by clicking here. Gratefully, Christy

  I come from a long line of proud, hard-working country people, and despite what you might see on television from time to time or hear about ever now and then, we country people are definitely not stupid or ignorant. My ancestors may have talked differently from others but they were soft spoken gentle people.

A while back, I happened upon a documentary on Appalachian people. I try not to call Christy when these are on because more often than not they subtitle folks as they talk and nothing gets her riled faster than seeing Southerners subtitled…

This particular documentary really stood out to me, though, because I recognized a lot of phrases used by my grandparents, phrases that I’m often corrected on nowadays because folks simply don’t understand them. As it turns out, the words make perfect sense (and always have), it’s just that they were somewhat foreig – what things were called in England and Scotland years earlier and passed down generation by generation.

A prime example is a phrase I’ve heard all of my life. My grandmother (Lela) always complained that we kids were “A messin’ and a gomin’ ”.  I always wondered what “goming” was.  A man on the documentary explained that goming was making a real mess or being messy.  Brings to mind how we were always in the kitchen fixing us a snack and leaving a mess behind-“goming”.

My grandmother “toted stuff in a paper poke”.  Translated that means carrying things in a paper sack.  Times were hard and my grandmother carefully folded her used paper pokes to be reused whenever she got any.  They were reused until they were soft and floppy.  Unknowingly she was practicing saving the earth. Country folk recycled long before it was popular.  Every now and then I toss a plastic throwaway container in the trash and I can’t help but pause to think of how my grandmother would have loved and cherished something as simple as a plastic container.

Country people rose with the dawn, worked the fields all day, raised all their own food, and preserved it to feed their families through the winter.  They made every piece of clothing their family had and even recycled outgrown clothing into clothes for younger children or quilts to provide warmth on long winter nights.  Nothing was wasted.  Every scrap, thread, and piece of string was valued and saved.

I am often corrected for saying “warsh” instead of wash. Christy tells me that her kids have told her she is supposed to pronounce her father’s title “Da-dee” instead of “Deh-dee”.  We aren’t supposed to say ain’t, pokes, “coo-pun” instead of q-pon and the likes. Often, I am torn between using what I know as proper grammar and holding on to the speech and values of my beloved ancestors.  It feels as if I am turning my back on them if I change my ways.  On the other hand, if I don’t I am perceived as backwards or uneducated. Many a Southerner (or folks from any region with a specific dialect for that matter) struggle with these same feelings.

From my ancestors, I have learned values, how to work hard, and integrity that no school could ever teach.  Just like Northerners speak differently, so do I and I will continue to do so. I am proud to be from great loving hardworking stock.  I can never turn my back on my heritage but I will try to tone down the “ain’t” at school assemblies for my grandkids as long as they’ll sit and listen to my stories of the people they come from – I figure that is a fair trade off. It is my hope to pass on the integrity with which my ancestors lived every day.  I may sound more like them than future generations will, but I only hope I can be half the person that they were.

When asking my Mother what should I do in a sticky situation, she would answer…

“In your heart of hearts you already know the answer. You just have to listen to your heart.”

~Advice from Dawn Tierney’s mother that Dawn submitted on our Give a Penny Page.

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  1. I am not saying this is the origin of “messin’ and gomin'” but I suspect that it might. Would really like to know as my mother also accused me of that……….and she was always correct. But “Gome” is the name of the old axle grease that was used on wagons and applied by hand. Very messy work.

    1. I am 77 and from the south and have 2 yrs in college and still say “Messin and Gomin” At times .I remember my mother-in law saving every bread bag and every scrap of fabric,she also cut buttons off worn clothing.Love the South!

  2. Don’t change the way you are. I understand you perfectly and I am a northerner by birth but love all of the southern ways. Toni

  3. Thank you Mama! I too love those old ways of talking! I’m Gramaw to 10 and Great-Gramaw (G.G.) to 1.
    But so far I only occasionally feel like I’m “fallin’ to staves”! 🙂

  4. Grew up in Missouri, family were all from Kentucky and still had the accents. All the family were farmers and “poke salet” was a staple plus anything we could grow and hunt.

    One thing I remember well was how flour came in cloth sacks with pretty decorations, usually flowers. Those sacks were made into everything from school dresses to undies, my children and grandchildren just don’t understand that most everything can be reused if one puts their mind to it.

    1. It’s been years since I’ve thought about making things from flower flour sacks. Thanks for the memories!

  5. Well I always thought it was “poke” salad or “salat” as it was pronounced by my family! See…I learned something today…”polk”…not “poke.” Anyway, I love hearing the old southern terms that I grew up with. My daddy carried 3 piglets in a burlap poke up to the mountains in the floorboard of his pickup truck and raised some of the best eatin’ sausage we ever had! (we lived in the city but didn’t really belong there) And more recently, I worked with a great gal who hated whenever we had a gomed up mess to clean up…or even worse, a blivet! Of course my all-time favorite was my Mama saying, “Sheeewww…that smells like karn!” Now, what the heck is karn?! LOL Being educated doesn’t make us smart!

  6. Yep, proud to be a country girl….you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl 🙂 I also remember paper bags being called pokes back when…..and I also remember picking POLK to cook…..it is greens similiar to spinach, etc (grows wild)…..yummy….my husband liked to pick the tiny ones just sprouting up and I would roll them in a beaten egg and fry them, he loved that…and they were delicious….anyone else out here know what that is ? I also remember going with my grandma and we would pick wild greens to cook….she knew them all, I remember always asking her if this was one to pick ? And this goes back many,many years……..

      1. I pick polk every year that I can. I know where a big patch is and in the spring, unless I miss the short period of time ( I do some years) I go and get me a “mess”. Hubby’s grandma showed me how to find it, clean it and to cook it many many years ago. I don’t know many who actually know what this is. The original spring tonic (laughing out loud).

  7. I am a transplanted southern girl. You can take the girl out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the girl.

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