For those with a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, traveling Texas becomes more interesting because the Spanish names of places reveal, or hint at, their histories. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong has some examples.
A plan for state officials to take over special education in the Austin Independent School District is being reconsidered. Becky Fogel of KUT in Austin shares more.
Record heat this summer statewide has led to widespread water leaks amid an already pressing need for repairs – but will a fund earmarked for fixes be enough?
With five deaths from fentanyl on average in Texas each day, a growing number of those deaths is among young people. The Dallas Morning news turns a monthlong spotlight on a growing crisis.
Two of the highest profile cases the Supreme Court will hear in a term full of controversial issues: and they both come from Texas. Before the high court today: Texas’s SB8. We will have more on oral arguments in a pair of cases challenging the unusual enforcement mechanism in Texas’ de facto ban on most abortions. Also, what’s been called the Red Rural Wall, and what Democrats may have to do to unseat GOP control of Texas. And we’ll meet a letter carrier whose doing much more than just getting out the mail…and the unlikely translator who’s playing an outsized role in the Astros championship bid. Those stories and much more today on the Texas Standard:
The date’s been set: September 20th. And so has the agenda, if the Governor has his way. What’s in store for a third special session? We’ll have details. Also, new lawsuits take aim at Texas’ new election laws. And as the U.S. goes, so goes Mexico? Quite the contrary, as Mexico’s Supreme Court, in a dramatic step, decriminalizes abortion. A victory for an increasingly strong women’s rights movement there. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
I showed a friend of mine a picture of me sitting at the edge of a thin ridge jutting out, about 300 feet above the Pecos River. He said, “I can’t look at that, it gives me the willies.”
Oh, yes, the willies, goosebumps and shiverings triggered by our phobias. As an amateur linguist, I’m always wondering where certain expressions come from. How did the words end up as common words in English? The willies, for instance, has a fascinating derivation. Frontiersmen, you see, used to wear wool undergarments, but as they were made of wool, they often got itchy causing “the woolies,” which evolved into “the willies,” and was then used to name all circumstances of discomfort that make your flesh crawl.
I love words that have interesting origins like that. There are many words we use daily that we might believe are native to English or even Texas, but are foreign. Here’s a few that fit the bill.
Honcho. Seems like a word of that would have come from the old West. “Who’s the head honcho around here?” It’s actually Japanese. It means, as you know, “boss” or “group leader.” It was brought back by U.S. soldiers who served in Japan after WWII.
Savvy is another word that migrated here. Again, it sounds like, and was, a word used in Western movies. “That boy’s got a lot of savvy about horses.” It comes from the Portuguese verb saber. Sabe – to know. Within a trade language it became sabi, with an ‘i” and in that pidgin language, traveled to the Caribbean where sabi became savvy.
Ever been stuck in the boonies? I hear that word often. A text comes in – “I’m stuck out here in the boonies – truck won’t start. Can you come get me?” The boonies is derived from bundók, a Tagalog expression U.S. soldiers brought back from the Philippine-American War in 1899. It means: in the remote areas of the interior, in the mountains. Similarly, there’s a common expression in Spanish I often hear in Texas: “en el monte,” meaning remote areas that are unpopulated and perhaps backward.
Metroplex is both Greek and Latin. The metro is derived from the Greek Metropolis (mother city), which gives birth to smaller towns and cities. Plex is Latin to weave. And so it means that the mother cities of Fort Worth and Dallas have weaved an enormous network of interconnected cities and towns and suburbs.
A few more for you. Ketchup is, one would think, American as apple pie. But it is Chinese. Lemon is Arabic. Wanderlust is German. And we get a lot of good slang terms from Yiddish. Your IT specialist often explains the trouble you were having with your computer as “a glitch.” That’s Yiddish. So is schmooze. And so it klutz.
You might think that the word chocolate, a virtually vital condiment here in America, would have its roots in English, or in a European language, but no, it comes from the native American language found in Mexico, Nahuatl. It’s xocolatl in its original form. It migrated to Spanish as chocolate. And we Anglicize it as chocolate.
Last, we come to words so common, especially in Texas, that we forget they’re Spanish. Rodeo, patio, corral and desperado, which evolved from desesperado. Actually, if not for Spanish words that have become staples in English, we couldn’t eat our favorite meals: avocado, guacamole, chili, chili pepper, and tomato. But sometimes we don’t bother to use a translation or even use the cognate pronunciation. We just say, “Otra cerveza por favor, amigo.”
Hungry? Let’s go to lunch.
After a death from hypothermia, a Conroe family among the many filing suit against Texas electric grid manager. But can ERCOT be sued? Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a governmental entity cannot be sued without its consent. But ERCOT, a private non-profit corporation, claims it is protected too. What’s behind the claims and counterclaims mounting across the Lone Star State? Also, could technology embraced during the pandemic lead to and end to snow days for schools across Texas?Plus another lingering effect of the storm, the rise of so-called Buy Nothing groups. All those stories and a whole lot more coming up today on the Texas Standard:
In Texas’ most populous metro area, a rethink of how the COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed, we’ll have the latest. Plus, when the Texas capitol city cut the budget for its police department by almost a third last year, Texas’ governor warned there would be a price to pay. Now, with the Texas legislature in session, what the governor plans to do to keep other Texas cities from following Austin’s move. And the Biden administration’s plan to increase the minimum wage. Is now the right time and do the numbers add up? Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
In Texas we are mighty big on the word “mighty.” Mighty is used as a ubiquitous adjective. Mighty pretty, mighty ugly, mighty expensive, etc. The word “might” (mighty’s cousin) is popular, too. It is used in place of maybe. Instead of saying, “maybe I can help you Sunday,” we say, “I might be able to help you on Sunday.” “Might” works with verbs to give us an impressive menu of options for conditional expressions like might could, might would better, might oughta, might’ve used to, and even the steroidal conditional tense: might woulda had oughta.
Taken out of context they can sound odd and even wrong, but when heard in conversation, they come to life and seem, well, mighty normal to many of us. I want to point out that Texas is a diverse state of varied dialects. Many Texans would never use this folksy grammar, but there are many who prefer it’s adorned utility. And there are many who would never talk this way at work, but slip into these comfortable rhythms when they get home. Some of us are bi-dialectal.
Let’s begin with “might could.” It is often used to answer a question:
“Would you go with me to the movies Friday night?” “Might could.”
“You figure you can fix the starter on my truck?” “Might could.”
“Might would better” has a good deal of appeal. It is used often as a command. You hear it in Western movies:
“Sherriff, you might would better think long and hard ‘fore you pick up that gun.”
Or you can use it as a self-directed, thinking out loud, suggestion:
“Well, I might would better get on to bed. Long day tomorrow.”
“Might would better” is also a future tense conditional verb, something that might be done differently in the near future.
“On second thought, I think they might would better drive on down here Friday night.”
“Tell you what, she might would better just divorce that man.”
“Might oughta” is often used in kind of shaking one’s head over poor choices:
She might oughta thought about those bills before she quit a job without havin’ another.
He might oughta known not to tease a rattlesnake, especially with a short stick.
For an uncertain memory, we have, “might have used to.”
“I might have used to stay there when I was in Dallas, but I can’t say for certain. “
“I’m sure I might have used to know how many feet was in a mile, but now that you ask, I can’t recall.”
And here’s the mighty king of the conditional tense: might woulda had oughta. Linguists call this modal stacking, like verbal legos – just keep piling on verbs to see how high you can stack them. “Might woulda had oughta” is way outside the bounds of standard English.
When my wife, an English prof and proud member of the Grammar Police, hears such verbal anarchy, she wants to call in the swat team. But I find “might woulda had oughta” admirably creative. It’s like watching Lebron James fly to the basket and do a mid-air spin to reverse dunk between two defenders. Magic.
In redneck culture, it’s comfort grammar. Here’s an example:
“They might woulda had oughta sold that house about ten years ago before it fell apart on ‘em.”
“They might woulda had oughta listened to me when I told ‘em not to buy a used pickup that was owned by a teenager.”
The famous southern linguist Jeff Foxworthy has pointed out how useful “used to could” is in Southern speech. He says people ask, “Do you dance?” Some respond: “Used to could.” Even “used to could” is used in modal stacking. “Might have” often precedes it. “You know how to program the TV remote?” “Might have used to could, but not anymore.” See? Saves you from unwanted work. Here’s another instructive example: “Can you tune up my 98 GMC Z-71?” Well, I might have used to could, but mighty doubtful about it now.”
I’m W. F. Strong. These are Stories from Texas. Some of them are mighty true.