Tag Archives: folkspeech

Going Out the Road

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 19 year old college student who lives at the Jersey Shore in South New Jersey in the summer. He explains to me the colloquial term used in his town when a person is driving from the island on which they live to stores inland. The conversation came up during a family discussion whether or not everyone in the town of Sea Isle City, NJ knows the term “out the road” means going inland or if it is specific to the informant’s family (this was never resolved). 
  • Text:

A: “Out the road is when you’re down at the shore in New Jersey… which is the southern part of Jersey in between Atlantic City and Wildwood.

And… uh… when you’re going out the road you drive inland and south towards where the shopping centers are in middle New Jersey… uh… and there’s a TJMaxx and there’s a couple other stores…

And you go out the road when you uh… when you want things… anyway that’s what out the road is.”

  • Analysis: “Out the road” is a term used to describe going from the islands to the inlands because you physically must go out the road. There is only one road leading in and out of the island in New Jersey where the informant spends his summers, so it makes sense that there is a term for this action. It creates a group of those who know the local terms and those who do not. It also creates a group of inlanders and islanders and the two are physically separated by a road as well as a specific term/speech.

Taking someone to the Squash Courts


At the boarding school Cate, “taking someone to the squash courts” meant you were going to hook up with someone. Not that people take others to the squash courts to hook up with, but once upon a time people did that. At least that’s what people say.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a student at the University of Southern California who graduated from this boarding school (Cate). His knowledge of this phrase dates back between 3 and 11 years ago, though it is reasonable that it has existed for longer. The squash courts at the school were a very secluded and private place.


American culture has a huge phobia of sexuality—it is extremely taboo. Whereas in other cultures that coveted spot is taken by violence, American children are taught to hide their sexuality. As a result, different pockets of the country choose to make euphemisms to describe the act, acknowledging it while at the same time making it a more speakable act. In my opinion is essentially equates to using “He who shall not be named” in place of Voldemort (in reference to Harry Potter). Even hook up is a vague term as it implies a consenting, physical act between two individuals, but does not describe the nature or extremity of the act. I believe that the term “hook up” is so colloquial as slang for engaging in an act of intimacy that it has become necessary for teenagers to water the phrase down further, so as not to make themselves feel dirty while talking about the act.




Years ago (in 2007 ish) the Defense of the Ancients (Dota) community and Heroes of Newerth (HON) community were at odds because it’s essentially the same game. Players knew that one would eventually triumph over the other as the popular game of the genre and the loser would be discontinued—like a fight for survival. Dota eventually won and HON players switched over, so “hontrash” became an insult for people who switched over. Eventually the community moved on from insulting that group of players, and the phrase instead shifted its meaning to become an insult targeting anyone who demonstrated a clear lack of skill in the game.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a member of the Dota community who has been active since approximately 2007 during the time at which this phrase occurred. He was exposed to this folk speech in online matches in which players around him used the phrase to insult others.


I became active in the Dota community around fall of 2012 and have never witnessed this insult in my time as part of the community. As a result, I would reason that the lifespan of this folk speech was a band of time in-between 2007 and 2012.

Insults in the online gaming community are quite common at the non-professional level. I would reason that this is an affordance of the nature of anonymity with the games—each player speaks from behind a computer screen.

A Soft Rain

Original Script: “My Grandmother would say when it would rain, like a soft rain, my grandmother would tell me it’s a soft rain, she learned that when she went to Ireland…it doesn’t apply to thunderstorms. Only lightly rainy days…”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jessica grew up in a catholic Irish home. Her family is very connected with their Irish heritage. Her grandmother had went to Ireland a couple of decades ago and learned the term “soft rain,” which only applies to the equivalent of a “sprinkle.” Her grandmother now always uses the term.

Context of the Performance: Light Rainy Days

Thoughts about the piece: When Jessica had mentioned the term to me before; I was thoroughly confused, what exactly what “soft rain” was. Was it rain that did not hurt, like some of the pelting rain that happens in the Arizona Valley (where I am from)? However, after she explained it to me, it did make sense why light rain was called “soft rain.” After researching about the term, I found that many articles published in Ireland, used the term soft rain. For example, there is an article called Detailed Annul Report of the Registrar General for Ireland published in 1892.1 In this report, it tells of what the weather was like the past year in the country of Ireland. I found that usually “soft rain” came up when it was springtime. I also found that because Ireland weather is often rainy, they have many terms for rain: soft rain, hard rain, spitting, and bucketing, were the mot terms that came up through the documented source.

Furthermore, upon more research, I found a book that documents Irish literature named Irish Literature: Irish Authors and Their Writings in Ten Volumes by Justin McCarthy published in 1904.2 While reading this book, I found that many authors, all ranging from poets to writers, used the term “soft rain,” notably, when talking about beauty or spring. It is interesting that the Irish say, “báisteach bog” (which is a rough translation for soft rain) because other adjectives in Irish relating to soft, such as lách, are related to the English words of soft, delicate, and lovely.3 This could explain why many of the Irish authors used the term “soft rain” when speaking about beauty.

Additionally, when bringing beauty into the term, it is interesting that the Irish use the term “soft rain” because it is applicable to the equivalent of “beautiful rain” or “pleasant rain.” Perhaps because of the frequent rainfall and thunderstorms in Ireland, it is literally “beautiful” and “pleasant” when there is a light rain. This light rain can also be correlated with springtime and it literally bringing beauty into nature because it waters the vegetation in Ireland. (This also correlates with the first source mentioned in the “soft rain” bringing upon vegetation).

Thus, the Irish speak for “soft rain” is a correlation to rain bringing in a pleasant atmosphere to Ireland due to the frequent rainfall Ireland’s weather is usually composed of.

1 Unkown. Detailed Annual Report of the Registrar General for Ireland. Vol. 28-32. N.p.: Ireland, 1892. Google Books. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

2 McCarthy, Justin, Maurice Francis Egan, and Charles Welsh. Irish Authors and Their Writings in Ten Volumes. New York: P.F. Collier, 1904. Google Books. Web. 01 Apr. 20.

3 “Google Translate: English to Irish.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

More in the Cellar in the Teacup

Informant: In the country, when we were just joking around, usually offering food, with guests—people we liked—we’d tell them, “Take a lot of them; take two!” And sometimes we’d add, “There’s plenty more down in the cellar in the teacup.”

The informant (my grandmother) was born in Missouri and has lived in Berkeley, CA for close to sixty years. She has always been a remarkably hard worker; she was raised by her uncle on his farm, where she more than carried her own weight, and, after completing four years at Penn State (where she was the only female Chemistry major at the time), she insisted on paying her uncle back every dime of her tuition. The informant moved out to California, went to graduate school at Mills College, and became a nutritionist working with nursing homes and other care facilities to develop standards for feeding different types of patients. After having two sons, the informant became the President of the Parents Association for the Head-Royce School in Oakland, CA and remained an active member of the Claremont Book Club.

This pair of sayings seems to play on the idea that rural Missouri families were not always living bountifully, but that what they did have, they were willing to share with friends. The notion that “a lot” means “two” is indicative of a lack of resources, as is the idea that the speaker’s reserves are meager enough to be fit into a teacup.

The second part of the item—the comment about the teacup in the cellar—is a somewhat well-documented saying, though the documents date in the early 1900s. Specifically, I tracked down a Good Housekeeping magazine from July 1916. A stamp on the inside cover reads “The Pennsylvania State University Library.”

Citation 1: Lane, Rose Wilder. Free Land. New York: Longmans, Green, 1938. Print.

Citation 2: Wood, Eugene. “The Feast of the Home-Coming.” Good Housekeeping July 1916: 56. Print.