Twanglish Lesson: Near ‘Bout

Today’s Twanglish Lesson is for those times when we fall just short of the mark or come up short of our destination. There’s no shame in almost, but good luck telling a Real Southern Man that.

Fortunately, this phrase can be applied to situations and objects other than ourselves. It could be the answer to the ubiquitous family road trip question, “Are we there yet?” It could approximate the time until dinner (not to be confused with supper, of course.) It can also work well as a euphemism when, for example, you need to comment on someone’s lack of mental acuity … bless their hearts.

Near ‘Bout -preposition 1. In close proximity:

We’re near ’bout where Daddy’s cow used to be.

-adverb 1. Almost:

That lawnmower we got at the Walmarts is near ’bout next to nothin’.

2. Close in time, number, degree. etc.:

It’s near ’bout an hour ’til the Opry.

3. Euphemism used to lessen the severity of an insult or criticism.

Son, I love you and all, but sometimes you’re just near ’bout stupid.

Synonyms: Pert Near, Kindly

Antonyms: Plum, Slap

My father is the king of “near ’bout.” In fact, the phrase used in on of the examples above, “near ’bout next to nothin'” is one of his all-time classics to describe shoddy workmanship or cheap consumer products. In a black-and-white world of extremes, near ’bout is his only shade of gray.

Of course, the synonyms pert near and kindly will work as well, although kindly does have a slightly different usage as anyone fluent in Twanglish knows. The distinctions between pert near and near ’bout seem to be primarily geographic, with the high country folks preferring the former and low country the latter. (High country, of course, means pert near the mountains, and low country is near ’bout to the Gulf.)

3 Responses to “Twanglish Lesson: Near ‘Bout”

  1. I’m a mind to cry in my cornflakes over this post, as I’ve been “pert near” a meltdown this summer with a newborn and a burgeoning business and all the headaches that can bring. This made me fall out of my chair- or i’m at least fixin’ to. thanks for the hilarity.

    • Tough summer! You might want to find a fainting porch and rare back with a glass of something sweet and strong. If you’re not in an area uppity enough for fainting porches, just find the nearest front porch you can and pull up a seat next to the washing machine!

  2. “Pert near”, if I understand it correctly, is not Southern. It’s pure New England backwoods.
    In Lonesome Dove, Yankee cavalrymen say it. But no Texans do. I’ve never heard anyone say it. I’ve heard damn near, plenty of times. I’m from Texas. ” Warsh” is another word that’s incorrectly attributed to the Southern language. But it’s also from north of the Ohio river.

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