On Stir-Bugs, Skitters, and Truck Skinners
One of the things I love about The Grapes of Wrath? The dialogue.
It’s filled with slang and colloquialisms, and it can be difficult to read at times, but it feels right. I can hear the characters speaking when I read it. That’s much different than, say, Gone With the Wind–where the dialogue seemed over-the-top and goofy–and Neuromancer–where the dialogue seemed artificial and stilted.
Within conversations throughout The Grapes of Wrath, you’ll want to pay close attention to some of the word choices and terminology. Steinbeck included quite a few funny terms that I had never heard of before reading this book.
Some examples (with definitions from Clifs Notes):
Dogs: Slang term for feet.
Example: “Thanks, buddy,” he said. “My dogs was pooped out.” (after getting picked up by a passing driver)
Skitters: Slang term for diarrhea.
Example: “They et green grapes. They all five got the howlin’ skitters. Run out ever’ ten minutes.”
Stir-bugs: Slang for prison inmates.
Example: I wonder what the stir-bug I got for a cell mate is doin’.
Truck Skinner: A skinner is a mule driver; here it refers to a truck driver.
Example: “A guy that never been a truck skinner don’t know nothin’ what it’s like. Owners don’t want us to pick up nobody.”
Heller: Rowdy, troublesome person
Example: “I was much worse. I was a heller, you might say.”
IITYWYBAD: If I Tell You, Will You Buy A Drink?
I have no idea what exactly this means. Even the context in the book doesn’t explain it.
Piker: A cheap, stingy, tight-fisted person
Example: “I ain’t a piker. I got to get a car. We’re goin’ to California. I got to get a car.”
Your takeaway from today’s post?
The last situation on earth you want to be in is in the same prison cell as a stir-bug with the skitters.