Anyone who has ever been south of the Mason-Dixon lines knows that when someone starts to explain to you how to keep a chicken in a coop, the description will start out with a statement like “ I have some chichen coops for ya’ll”. Ya’ll is a commonly used phrase in the south that generally means all of you, when the speaker is addressing a group. If the speaker is addressing an individual then ya’ll stands for the family of the individual, like when they say “ya’ll come”, or it can stand for the last person the individual was with, like when they say “what did ya’ll do for lunch”. You may assume you will only hear rednecks and hillbilly’s using this term but the fact is everyone accepts this as part of the language in the south.
A lot of your old timers in the southern states did not get to go to school a great deal, or for very long. Their parents needed the older children at home to help raise enough food to feed the entire family, and to help do all the daily chores that were required just to survive. So many of these people would actually know their letters, but would not know much about the proper ways to spell words. When speaking of a cage for keeping poultry, they could very well write “chichen coop”, or maybe “chickin coops”, or even “cicken coops”. If you are dealing with someone who grew up during the great depression, in the south, then do not expect proper grammar when they write about things, because they generally just spell things the way they sound.
They may not have gotten far along enough in school to realize that when you place a small e on the end of a word the e is silent, but it changes the way the previous vowels in the word are pronounced, so you would spell chicken house, but they may spell it chicken hous, forgetting the final e altogether. They are not dumb people by any standards. They are and were capable of creating things, and solving problems that we would have to have tools, and devices to help us solve, they just did not place as much importance on proper spelling and grammar. They had bigger fish to fry.
These old timers were known to use any materials they could find to build the items they wanted. I once saw an advertisement for chicken coupe plans when I was in Louisiana. If the way that is spelled brings to your mind a picture of a two door sports car, with a hard top, then you got it right. This elderly Cajun gentleman had built himself a chicken coup out of an old rusted coupe that had the seats stripped out. His birds were happy, and he was too. He had been asked by someone to share with them the plans to build a co-op chicken house like his, and it gave him the idea that he could sell the plans for this structure. He was convinced that with all those old cars that were sitting out back of people’s houses, and new ones breaking down every day, that there would be a big market for ways to use them. Building houses for poultry from the remains of automobiles seemed to make perfect sense to him. I actually bought myself a set of those plans for one dollar, and have them stored with my important papers.
Their spelling may be horrific, and they may not speak with proper grammar, but the southern people do know a good deal about raising poultry, and making things work in ways they may not have been designed for. When traveling through the southern states you will see many bathtubs sitting in cow pastures serving as water troughs for the animals. You will not believe how many toilets you will see turned into flower planters, or how many old bedsteads are set up with roses growing in them. You are correct, a bed of roses.
Southern people have good senses of humor, and they love the irony in things, and a play on words to them is a fun thing to do. So ya’ll come see us when you can, and we’ll have some chichen coops for ya’ll to take home with you.
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