Before Jeff Foxworthy got famous for his show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” he made some cameo appearances on sitcoms. I particularly remember him on “Designing Women”, back in the last century, when he played Dixie Carter’s mentally unstable brother. He had some great lines. One of my favorites was:
“ ‘Naked’ is when you got no clothes on. ‘Nekkid’ is when you got no clothes on and yer up to something’.”
Sometimes slang has really good linguistic flavor. My personal favorite is liquor versus likker. Liquor is commercially distilled or fermented, sold in a bottle, and can make an excellent gift for someone you’re not well acquainted with but want to make a nice impression on. There are ads for liquor on TV.
Likker has far more meanings than liquor. There’s pot likker, the liquid meat, poultry, vegetables or some combination of them has been simmered in. It’s nearly as thick as gravy, full of vitamins and flavor, and you keep it around for the next batch of chicken or new potatoes to add more flavor to them. If it’s meaty and your Momma or Grandmomma made it, it can heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, sober up a mean drunk, and make menfolk sermonize on the wonders of God and Mommas right at the dinner table.
Then there’s the other likker. The other likker is found in bottles occasionally, jugs more often, and rinsed out jars most often. It might be homemade, it might be storebought, but it’s always bad news and in the province of things men do that make women yell at them. If you make your own likker, be it elderberry wine or moonshine, some woman somewhere is going to swat you good and hard with a dishrag when she finds out about it. Teenage boys will steal swigs of your likker and get stupid and puke out the back of the pickup truck. And if you drink too much of this likker, you might get punished for your sins by not getting any of the pot likker with your chicken and dumplings and have to suffer through a Sunday sermon and a long, hot afternoon with a blinding hangover and sour gizzard.
And, there’s a third likker for little kids. It usually involves a puppy and goes like this…
Son (aged 7-12): (banging on door) Momma! Let me in RAT now! I’m in a terrible state!
Momma: (opening door) Good Lord, Beanbag (or some other southern nickname), what on earth’s the matter? You’re hasslin’ (panting) and sweating and covered in dirt clods! What CAN you have been doing?
Son: (sits in a chair and wipes forehead with back of hand) Oh, Momma, I need some tea RAT now. I’m ‘bout done in. I thought I’d never get home safe!
Momma: (looking very concerned) Glory be. Here’s your tea. Now, do tell, son.
Son: Momma, you know how Daddy told me to feed and water them gun dogs for Uncle Toad every day, right?
Son: Well, Daddy didn’t tell me that the red bitch had a litter of eight puppies a couple of months ago, or maybe I didn’t remember it, and they’re weaned and full of spit and vinegar now.
Momma: Well, what happened?
Son: Momma, I got there and I saw those puppies, and you know puppies are all friendly and cute, so I filled up the food and water troughs and then figured I’d get in there and scratch those puppies and see if one of them looked like he’d be a good dog for me.
Momma: Oh, dear.
Son: Yep. Well, I got in there, and I hunkered down and started petting and scratching first one puppy and then another, and then next thing I know, they had knocked me down and all eight of them were crawling and jumping all over me, drooling and slobbering and loving on me until I was just about completely likkered up!
Momma: (trying very hard not to snort with laughter) Likkered up?
Son: You know, they got to licking and slobbering and drooling, and I was rolling around in the dirt trying to get away from them without being mean, and I was feeling about as dizzy as Uncle Toad gets from time to time. I figured I needed to get some tea in me before I started stumbling and needing to set down and nap a while like Uncle Toad does when you get mad and tell him to go home if he’s likkered up and clean hisself up and not come back ‘til he’s decent! I guess them puppies must knock Uncle Toad down and likker him up a couple times a week!
Momma: (mentally slapping her head) Well. I don’t think you’re in any danger of that, Beanbag, but you might want to go hose some of that dirt off and then come back for the rest of your tea and some of my gingersnaps that ought to be done by the time you’re all cleaned up.
Son: You bet! (runs off to remove a layer of topsoil)
Momma: (sighs) Oh, my goodness. (snorts) Likkered up, indeed.