When I moved to Texas from California what feels like a million years ago, it sometimes felt as if I’d moved to a far more exotic locale than just a new state in the same country.
The food was different.
The BBQ meat looked burnt and inedible but tasted delicious, and everything was always covered in a thick american cheese sauce they called “queso” or in a gloppy white sausage gravy. I learned you could deep fry anything if you tried hard enough, including a twenty-four-pound turkey.
North, South, East, and West are meaningless.
I now needed to parse “thisaway” and “thataway” and discern how long “a spell” was when I asked for directions. I was once told, “Y’all go thisaway for a spell, and then turn thataway when you see the tree with the yellow ribbon tied to it.” Not only did I never find that tree, I abandoned my trip entirely when I encountered a hissing armadillo in the middle of the road that refused to move.
And then there are the colloquialisms.
The first time I met my new in-laws, Uncle Joe-Boy said to my then husband, “She’s got some snap in her garters.” I wasn’t sure if I should be offended, but I rightly took it to mean I was a sassy one. Over the years I had to dig out my Texas-English dictionary when he said about his sister, “she’s two sandwiches short of a picnic basket,” commented about any politician, “he’s slicker than boiled snot,” or when he angered a waitress and said, “she’s in a horn-tossing mood.”
As authors, we’re able to imbibe our characters with a little color. We can let their personalities shine through descriptions and colloquialisms. As a reader, I love these little analogies. But much like my early Texas life, don’t assume your reader will know what in the “Holy Sam Hill” you’re talking about. Be sure the phrase stands on its own for readers from all countries so you don’t pull them out of the story or send them running to Google something.
Otherwise, that dog won’t hunt.
To Your Success,