Folk speech

Chest High Waders

The informant is a second year student at the University of Southern California, studying History. He is from Chicago, IL, and he lived abroad in Rome when he was younger. At USC, he is involved with student affairs and television production.

This piece describes one of his father’s, who was raised in Texas, “Southernisms”: folk sayings that invoke themes from the American South.

“Southernisms are a commonly accepted feature of dialect. So, my dad will occasionally say things like “You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink.” Or, my favorite and the one which has stuck with me my entire life is, “Well, better get my chest high waders on cause the bullshit is flowing deep in here.” So, and I’m not sure why that started happening, uh in my family, but I do know that it’s something my grandfather used to say. Um, so what’s likely is that it was transmitted through my father to me.

And I remember the, it’s always used whenever I—I make any assertion that my dad wants to challenge. And also, one time when literally when our stump pump stopped working and our drains overflowed during like a really heavy period of flooding, so our basement flooded. So there was my dad in his chest high waders. So I said, “Hey dad!” Because I was like five or six. “You’d better get your chest high waders on because the bullshit’s flowing deep in here!” And he laughed and then told me never to say the word “bullshit” again because it was a bad word.”

So aside from you making an assertion, are there other contexts where you would say this?

“Um, okay. Um, as a—as a, uh expression of almost sorrow or disappointment. For example, the 2016 presidential election, whenever Donald Trump opens his fat cheetoh mouth. That’s immortalized for the archives, that’s good to hear, uh, whenever Donald Trump opens his fat orange mouth and says something, my immediate reaction is, “Better get the chest high waders on cause the bullshit’s flowing deep in here.””

Analysis:

This piece expression definitely relies on an understanding of ranching practices, common to Texas, in order for the expression to be fully appreciated. The audience needs to know what chest high waders are normally used for in order for the expression to achieve maximum effect; while those unfamiliar with waders can infer from context, they miss the full context.

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