Texas, our Texas
Norwegians are right. Damn right.
Growing up, I spent my life in Texas with little side trips to Oklahoma, Arkansas and the border towns of Mexico, places where being Texan was not considered too out of the ordinary.
But when I first ventured a bit farther than states where people said things like “fixin’ to” or “not worth a gob of spit” on a daily basis, I began to sense that being Texan was, well, different.
And that’s not just pure hype – or bragging – it’s also true.
My first trip to London, my traveling partner, also from Texas, and I attempted – unsuccessfully – to pretend to be urban sophisticates, so witty and urbane you would have thought we’d stepped out of a Noel Coward play. We thought we could carefully eradicate “y’all” and such from our vocabulary and carefully enunciate our words with eloquent precision.
Our undoing came as we were part of a walking tour near Buckingham Palace – dressed not as tourists but as well-heeled William Powell and Myrna Loy-types out for a bit of slumming by taking in the tourist sites.
Suddenly we heard a familiar Southern dialect. There was a man leading another group of tourists standing in front of Buckingham Palace. “This here,” he said in the drawl we had sought to avoid, but knew was really part of our DNA, “is as important to the British as the Alamo is to us Texans.”
I swear there was a hushed moment of reverence – mention of the Alamo you know – before he began again. I also noticed how he was keeping the group together. He was carrying – high and proud – a Texas flag and leading the group from tourist site to tourist site. “Y’all follow me over ‘ere,” he bellowed.
Soon, Texas was occupying Trafalgar Square, something Napoleon couldn’t do. Nelson’s Column was surrounded by drawling, boot-shod, pearl-snap shirt-wearing tourists from across the pond and then some. Believe me, I’m exaggerating this a bit, but it’s no Texas exaggeration.
Despite our plan to disguise ourselves as members of the international jet set – pretty tough as we were both young journalists – our Texas friendliness took over and we joined the group. They were just too entertaining and so proud to be from someplace that had its own culture too, by damn. At some point we retired with them to a bar called Elvis – dedicated to another Southern cultural hero – to talk about who our families were and do you know such and such in Abilene, whatever. We could have been at a Baptist church social in Big Spring, except that we drank Lone Star Beer – what else? – that night. The Brits loved that, too.
Back then anyway, in the days before George W. Bush made the Texas cowboy a bit less popular overseas, the British loved us. Oh, they thought we were strange as all get out and spoke some very foreign bastardized dialect of English that had been dragged through the mud, whipped with barbed wire, dipped in rock salt and chewed up and spit out by a bobcat. But they loved the idea of wearing hats, boots, eating spicy chili, cream gravy, nachos, listening to Willie Nelson, owning cattle ranches and gazing out on wide open spaces.
So it came as little surprise recently when I saw a news story talking about what “Texas” means in Norway.
According to our Washington Post story, when a party gets out of control in Norway or things get a bit heated at a sports match, they say: ‘Det var helt Texas!’
In English that translate, ‘That is totally texas!’”
Apparently Norwegians have been using the term “texas” (always lower case, often accompanied by an exclamation point) for over 50 years to mean “exciting,” “crazy” or “out of control.”
What other state has a song written about them called “Screw You, We’re From Texas!,” via Ray Wylie Hubbard. That’s kind of our attitude, for better or worse.
As y’all Norwegians know, we’re different. Damn right.