Twanglish Lesson: Lightnin’ Bug

Spring and Summer bring about one of the real delights of living in the South. And no, I don’t mean our delightfully muggy weather. I’m talking about everyone’s favorite bioluminescent insect.

But if you call them “fireflies,” we’ll assume it’s because you’re one of those people from up North. This is your last chance to get it right. Then I’m afraid we’ll have to ask you to leave.

Lightnin’ Bugnoun 1. an insect of the family Lampyridae – flying beetles that produce bioluminescence in their abdomens through the oxidation of luciferin, emitting an intermittent soft, yellow light:

You ain’t lived ’til you’ve read a book by the light of lightnin’ bugs in Mason jars.

It’s said that when Walt Disney had artificial lightning bugs installed in the Disneyland version of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” West Coasters thought the bugs were simply another whimsical expression of Disney imagination. They couldn’t believe such a thing actually existed. That makes us sad for them.

It is hard to imagine life without the simple pleasure of chasing lightning bugs. It was only later in life that we here at RSM heard about the rather perverse ritual of squashing caught lightning bugs to paint oneself with the glowing chemicals within. We, however, promote a catch-and-release policy. We figure the more lightning bugs in the wild, the better.

And here’s a fun tip: if you want to see a dazzling display of lightning bugs that rivals the best Christmas light displays, go to the drive-in movie theater in Argo, Alabama. Then turn and face the bushes in the opposite direction of the screen. Pure magic…

13 Responses to “Twanglish Lesson: Lightnin’ Bug”

  1. Ok, I need your help boys…….maybe you could post a list of common “Yankee” or “Northener” words. I thought everyone called them fireflies (though I have occasionally heard them called lightning bugs”). I am going to SC in a few weeks & have already been warned I will probably get lots of stares for the way I talk, but I didn’t think about the phrases I use. Luckily my husband’s family is from AR/MO so I am familiar with a few such as “tump/tump over” (dump, drop, fall over, etc), winder (window), Walmarts or Illinois (both with the “s” very pronounced), “Fixin” (getting ready to, or cooking), and a few more.
    This site is great, always makes me smile 🙂 I’m thinking you need a sister site, or is it alright for a Yankee woman to be posting here (LOL)????
    P.S. Can you explain the difference in lunch, dinner, & supper? Up here we say lunch is, well lunch, the noon meal, and dinner is what you eat about 5 or 6 pm? I can’t be wrong here can I????

    • Where to begin?

      The dinner/supper thing is more generational. Those of us raised in the post-TV era are more likely to call the midday meal lunch and the evening meal dinner. Our parents have never had a lunch in their lives. It’s dinner and supper to them. I suspect that tradition goes back to England…or maybe Middle Earth, you know since Hobbits eat breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, dinner, supper and afternoon tea. (Yes, some of us are geeks.)

      “Tump” is an upcoming Twanglish Lesson, as is “windur.” We like the U, because that way it doesn’t sound like the word for “one who winds.”

      Never, ever say “pop.” Or “bubbler.” You can probably get away with “you guys.” In general, talk like TV anchors. That sort of homogenized neutrality, while reprehensible in theory, will at least keep your good looks intact.

      Best of luck!

    • And yes, we have thought of cooking up a sister site. All in due time…

  2. I thought everyone called them fireflies? Ok boys, I think I need your help. I would love a post on some dead giveaway phrases or words of “Yankees”. Also, a clarification on lunch, supper, & dinner would be fabulous. I say lunch is at noon & dinner is the meal between 5&6 pm (though some people up this way do use dinner & supper interchangeably). And when in Dixie, is the biggest meal of the day lunch (aka noon) or is it dinner (5 pmish)? Thanks, any suggestions will be appreciated 🙂 One last thing, is it just my inlaws, or do all Southerners like a lot of ice with their, um, Coke?

    • Yes, a lot of ice is preferable. It’s hot here. And it’s the only thing that separates us from those lesser beings known as Europeans. Well, that and our definition of “biscuit.”

      As far as lightning bugs go, everyone may call them fireflies from time to time, but only Southerners call them lightning bugs. Love bugs are a whole other matter…


    Great post, funny I just wrote about the same thing… I found yours through “skipping stones” blog. Yep, I am fireflies guy… and yes, one of those people from up North! Love the comments too, dinner vs. supper, soda vs. pop… there’s a million of them. My wife was from New England and used to say bubbler. I think I’ve cured her of that.

  4. Hey about the pop thing is i live in oklahoma i know it aint the deep south but its still the south and everyone i know call it pop.

    • I can honestly say that every time I’ve heard someone say “pop,” they had a thick Midwestern accent – usually Ohio or Minnesota, bless their hearts. And the sound of it was usually followed by laughter from the Southerners who heard it. We weren’t laughing at them, we just thought they were being funny.

  5. Hey about the pop thing, i live in oklahoma i know it aint the deep south though it it the south most of us do talk with an accent and everyone i know call it pop. I think it might depend on where your at in the south. But heck i could be wrong.


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