Let's face it...People outside of Alabama tend to think we all talk the same - like hicks. But growing up in Mobile, the dialects and expressions were as varied as the people themselves. You had urban dialects and rural dialects and skater dialects and yes for a time in the 80's, even a valley girl dialect.
Yep, Mobile, Al was like a city wide "Breakfast Club"
Vespidae Yearbook (1983), McGill-Toolen
But the one thing that made us all Mobilians was our ability to "jank." For those who need to know, janking is the gentlemanly art of the "put down." It's counterpart is the "comeback." Both were held in extremely high regard during my time in Mobile. Often janks involved style and apparel, especially "bo-bo's."
Bo-bo's were any non-brand shoes that could be found at K-Mart, Gaylords, etc. They might have stripes on the sides but they weren't Addidas. They might have swooshes on the side but they weren't Nike's. They were just sad bo-bo's. And if you were caught in my neighborhood with no-name bo-bo's, you were getting an earful.
It would begin innocent enough. "Are those new shoes?" someone might ask. But you knew you were in for it. Best to start thinking of a comeback. Unless you were being gang janked, then you were better off running home and never coming out again. I swear there were kids that showed their face in my neighborhood once and then disappeared forever.
There was even a song reserved for bo-bos:
Bo-bo's make your feet feel fine,
Bo-bo's cost a dollar ninety-nine
So ask your mom to take you to the store
So you can get yourself some more
But it wasn't just your shoes you had to worry about. Fly collars, bell bottoms, and other outdated fads were all fodder for janks. I once janked The Great Matt Houdini for wearing a Panama Jack shirt well past its expiration date. As we would say in my neighborhood, that shirt was "bo-bo as hell."
A good jank would sometimes be celebrated with a chant, "Jank, jank, your booty stank!" Talking about adding insult to injury!
A well crafted comeback was the only thing that could save you from a jank. Comebacks always went something like,
"Well at least I don't have a Brillo pad for hair and have to wear my brother's hand me down underwear."
To which a counter comeback may follow such as, "Well, I'd rather have Brillo pad hair than a butt-cut like you."
When I was very young, "cut-downs" were in vogue. Cut-downs were like janks on training wheels. A cut-down was basically a threat to cut someone down so low that the laws of physics would no longer apply to them. The most commons ones I remember were, "I'll cut you down so low that diarrhea won't slice," and "I'll cut you down so low that you'll have to hold up a sign that says, 'Don't spit, can't swim!" You get the idea.
We said other stupid things too:
But unless you think we were nothing but just a bunch of crude kids, we could be goofy and silly and care-free.
The girls around town could often be heard playing hand games and singing:
See, see my playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Holler down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we'll be jolly friends
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