There are two types of measurement systems in the world. Metric which is used by all but three countries. The remaining three officially use the Imperial system, feet and pounds. And these three backwaters are: Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States.
In Texas, we often use an even more informal Southern System for distance and weight. One that I like to call: Yonder and Smidgen.
“Yonder” is for distance, “smidgen” for weight or amount.
I have found there are two kinds of people in Texas: those who say yonder – and those over yonder, who don’t.
Yonder is highly diverse in its meanings. It can be used for nearby.
“Put this down yonder at the other end of the table.”
Or for down the hall.
“I’m goin’ in yonder to the TV room.”
Or in the yard.
“Could you go out yonder and get the paper.”
Or across town.
“Gotta drive over yonder to H.E.B.”
Or it can be used for great distances, such as:
“Can’t believe they drove all the way out yonder to Arizona just for a birthday party.”
Just change the preposition and you have adjusted for distance – down yonder, in yonder, out yonder, over yonder, way out yonder, and let’s not forget the wild blue yonder and the ultimate “up yonder,” where we all want to be when the roll is called.
I guess the greatest distance Texans regularly cope with is Texas herself. So when yonder won’t do, we have this: “The sun did rise and the sun did set and I ain’t out of Texas yet.”
Another informal distance you hear often in Texas is “damnnear.”
“The way he swung that axe he damnear took my head off.”.
“If you wanta buy beer, you’re gonna have to drive damnear to Dallas, or damnear into next week.”
I had great uncle long ago who used to measure distance in beer. “It’s a two beer drive to over yonder.”
I’m not endorsing, just reporting, but we all know that used to be so.
And for very short distances we have these: “a hairs’ breadth” and “if it had been a snake it would’ve bit you.”
And then for density we have Couldn’t throw a rock without hitting something.
“You can’t throw a rock in Austin without hittin’ a lawyer.”
Or for small and cramped we have, “That room was so small you couldn’t swing a cat in there.”
Why you would want to swing a cat I have never figured out. I doubt cats favor the custom either.
For amounts we have “a smidgen.” It is mostly for cooking.
“Just put a smidgen of garlic in there and the beans will be perfect.’’ Just a smidgen of cinnamon, now.’
For larger amounts: “dollop.”
“Just a generous dollop of that vanilla ice cream is all I need.”
Bucketfull. How many nails you need?
“Bring a bucketfull.”
And then there’s “He ain’t worth a bucketful of warm…” well- you can finish that on your own.
Well, wanted to talk about measurements of time, too. But I don’t have time for time. I’ve got to drive over yonder to the bank faster than small town gossip to make a deposit. Gonna go so fast I’ll likely catch up with yesterday.