Like residents of several regions of the United States, people who live in the Ozarks have developed some unique and interesting ways of utilizing the English language.

This linguistic contouring has produced a fascinating vernacular that features many words and phrases you might not hear elsewhere in the country. Conversely, residents of some regions of the country – like the West Coast – don’t use much (if any) localized speech, but rather stick closely to what’s technically grammatically correct.

Here’s a few examples of what you might hear in the Ozarks compared to the Western U.S. version.

Up air.

This phrase refers to a place where people go when they need to.

It’s almost always men, and they typically do so when they’re going somewhere north of where they are or are climbing something like a ladder or tree.

It’s also possible for men to go “back air” when they’re returning from somewhere or going behind the barn or something like that.

“He was all for it until I went up air and helped him change his mind.”

“He thought he could hide back air, but we found ’im.”

West Coast version: “Up there.”

•Tuba four.

This isn’t a marching band instrument, but refers to any length of a wooden plank or board that’s about two inches thick and four inches wide.

“I think I can fix ’er right up with a couple of tuba fours.”

West coast version: “Two by four.”


When something is burning, this is produced.

It’s also possible to scare this out of someone.

“When he saw flames comin’ from out the rooftop, it scared the far out of him.”

West coast version: “Fire.”


When something is damaged beyond repair or destroyed, it gets this way.

“Dadgummit, you ran over my fishin’ pole and now it’s roont.”

West Coast version: “Ruined.”

•Four wheeler.

Lots of vehicles and other mobile machines and objects have four wheels, but only those that can be categorized as all-terrain vehicles are referred to this way.

“He hurt his back when he was ridin’ a four-wheeler and crashed.”

West coast version: “ATV.”


Basically a version of the four-wheeler with a storage bed in the rear and up-front seating that allows people to sit next to each other.

“She hurt her back when she was ridin’ in a sidebuh-side that crashed.”

West Coast version: “Side-by-side.”


The circular rubber objects that help a four-wheeler or sidebuh-side roll.

“Them tars look a shade worn.”

West coast version: “Tire.”


Someone might do this to an on-off button or a key on a computer keyboard.

“Mash that there button and the contraption should start workin’.”

West coast version: “Press” or “push.”

•You-uns (or just y’uns).

When a person wishes multiple other people well or says goodbye to them, they might begin their statement with this phrase.

It’s short for “you ones” and is similar to the more widely used “y’all” (short for you all).

“Y’uns have a good day now.”

West coast version: “You guys.”

While not everyone in the Ozarks uses any or all of these words and phrases, one thing is for sure: They’re all part of the amazing set of characteristics and the wonderful personality of a place I consider to be one of the best on Earth, and I sincerely love hearing them spoken (along with others unique to the Ozarks).

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

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Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

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