A Northern NH Vocabulary Lesson

When did “barn door” become a verb?
Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

Everybody knows that northern New Hampshirites are likely to employ “Ayuh!” as an affirmative answer, even if he or she were not asked a yes or no question.  Case in point: When I ask my mechanic, Dennis, how he is doing, he responds, “Ayuh!” 

However, nothing could have prepared me for the creative indignities done to English when I traveled to Ossipee to visit a friend this spring.

As I walked in to the local pizza establishment to meet my friend Jess, I found him standing up, animatedly telling a story and the brazen poetry in his words arrested my steps. It is hard to surprise a high school English teacher with abuse of the English language. After all, most of my days are spent with some of the most recalcitrant English abusers alive. But what I heard and what I learned shocked me. I learned this:

“Barn-door,” unbeknownst to me, had at some point become a verb.

Jess was standing up at the table, regaling our mutual friend Keith about a scuffle he’d recently engaged in. And I quote: “And then I reached right back from the graveyard and (expletive) barn-doored him.”

Barn-door [bahn-dohr]. v. To punch with extraordinary force, as in the slamming of a barn door.

I was stunned. When did barn doors stop being nouns, and start performing actions on their own, such as punching people, and apparently with devastating effect? And, the barn doors have seemingly acquired supernatural/metaphysical properties, as they also reach into graveyards before doing so.

Graveyard [grave-yahd]. n. 1. Grassy lawn set aside exclusively for internment of corpses.

2. n. Mystical location wherein barn doors gather supernatural force to be employed for physical assault.

Not wishing to interrupt the poet in his medium, I sat silently and drank in the coarse music of his words. Jess was done describing the altercation, and greeted me, then aimed his rustic music at the forthcoming pizza he’d ordered.

“The bacon pizza here …” Jess interrupted himself, closing his eyes and thrusting out his lower jaw, giving the appearance of a substantial underbite. He slowly shook his head, awash in his prophetic vision of the pizza to come. “Uhhhh.”

Uhhhh [uhhhh]. Part of speech unknown. Delightful in the extreme.  Usually accompanied by closed eyes and shaking of speaker’s head.

I said nothing, afraid to disturb his beatific vision.

Eyes still closed, he continued, “… that pizza is urr-boy, is what. (Expletive) urr boy.” 

Urr-boy  [ur-baw]. adj. A state of ineffable sublimity. To be so good as to defy description.

“Wow, Jess,” I said. “I can’t believe your creativity with language. Very inventive.”

He shook his head. “Ayuh. Didn’t you know the first snowmobile was invented in Ossipee?”

Having lived my whole life in New Hampshire, I was surprised to learn this fact.  

In fact, it barn-doored me.

Categories: Humor