When to “P” and When Not to “P”


Dear Reader:

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and others around you when it comes to dialect…especially in the south. How we speak and how we spell are closely tied together. I remember helping my Uncle Herschel with a birthday card he was giving his wife, my aunt, Mary Ellen to surprise her. Since I was at their house that summer he had asked me to add a special note inside his card. (I was probably around 8 or 9)

He was just about to close the envelope when he glanced one last time at the card. He suddenly stopped and said in bewilderment….”Who is Aunt Marah Ellen?” Becky!” I blushed and stuttered…”You know…Aunt MARAH Ellen?

It took a full 30 seconds of complete bewilderment on Uncle Herschel’s face to turn into laughter…knee-slapping laughter. He turned to me, wiping tears from his eyes, and grinned. “Is that what you think I call her?”

“Yes sir….MARAH Ellen!” Uncle Herschel rolled off the sofa still laughing. He finally patted me on the back and said that we were definitely leaving the card just the way it was…because it had the best story of all in it.” “Come to think of it…I reckon it does sound like “MARAH Ellen doesn’t it?”

Since my love of storytelling came from my grandparents and uncles…I think that story became a classic in the family and was re-told on Aunt Mary Ellen’s birthday from then on.

As a teacher in the classroom teaching state history…I prepared myself (each year) for a “southern” mistake that was going to pop up a lot during our study of the Civil War. No matter how many times we studied Fort Sumter and the bombardment of it…the famous event that started the Civil War…and no matter how many times we saw pictures of the fort while many school children  even visited it for their end-of-the-school-year field trips…I was prepared for what was to come.

“What fort located in Charleston Harbor became famous for the site where the Civil War started?” ______________

At least 80% of the answers came back…_Fort Sumpter!

When I gave the test papers back….I told the class that I gave them credit for the right answer the first time… but if any of them misspelled the name of the fort a second time incorrectly…the answer would be wrong.

I wrote the word SUMTER on the board and then told the students to write this little Dingle Jingle down, in their notebooks,  as a way to remember to leave out the ‘P.’

Fort Sumter is right

Add a “P” and its wrong

No extra letter is needed

To keep this fort strong.

I will have to admit, like Uncle Herschel, that when one listens to most Southerners talk about Fort Sum(p)ter… one definitely does hear an “umph” sound in the middle. Again…it is just southern dialect run amuck.

A new word that has become increasingly popular is the new synoymn for “well.” It is “welp.” Supposedly it came from the dialect/script from the 1994 movie Dumb and Dumber.

At one point, Jim Carrey’s charcter- Lloyd walks out of a 7-Eleven and notices two men drinking Big Gulps, and says, “Hey guys! Oh, Big Gulps, huh? All righty then.” When the men respond with blank stares, Lloyd rebounds with,  “Welp, see you later.”

Saying “welp” instead of “well” is similar to saying “Yep or Nope” instead of “Yes” or “No.”

Remembering back to my childhood…there really is a difference in the two responses. “Welp” does introduce a remark expressing resignation or disappointment.

Sometime we cousins would be packed in the back of the car with Uncle Herschel driving and start begging him to stop somewhere in the summer for ice cream. He might start out saying “No” which meant we still had some hope…but when he switched to “Nope” it was all over. There is something about adding that “P” sound that does bring closure to begging.

That is the perfect moment when we could have looked at each other in resignation or disappointment and said “Welp…we tried!”

So until tomorrow…Remember when in doubt…the next time you refer to Fort Sum…ter...pause between the two syllables and remember not to add the “P” sound… “P” just sneaks out when we are rushed in our conversation. (And this is true in other areas of our lives too! 🙂

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

  • A strange God Wink. Patty emailed to let me know that her father was stationed at Chosin’s Reservoir in Korea during the Korean War…and by a  ” God Wink” she gave out tootsie roll pops to her Sunday School class last Sunday.



A shout-out to Anne and that delicious dinner we had left over from her band playing at church yesterday and having them for Sunday lunch. She called and said she had lots of left-overs so come on over for Monday supper. OMG! Delicious homemade meal with silver queen corn…it was too good just to have one cob. It was dessert!




About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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