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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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What are some regional-specific idioms in Huckleberry Finn?

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There are many examples of southern regional idioms in Huckleberry Finn, as Mark Twain captured the local dialect that was then spoken along the Mississippi. Jim uses a regional idiom when he says, "Dog my cats ef I didn’ hear sum-f’n" (page 5). "Dog my cats" is an idiom that means something along the lines of "I'll be darned," and it's an expression of surprise. 

Another idiom is "to make a body’s mouth water," which Huck says about the way that the widow speaks about Providence (page 12). In other words, the widow describes the afterlife in a way that makes Huck yearn for it. To make someone's mouth water is to tell them something tantalizing, and the use of "a body" rather than "someone" is a regional Southern idiom. 

Huck uses the idiom "three or four months run along" (page 16), which is a way of saying that three or four months have passed very quickly. He also refers to being "uncommon tired" (page 16), which means very tired, and the use of the word "uncommon" before an adjective is another regional idiom. 

Huck's father says, "Don’t stand there palavering all day" (page 32). "Palavering" is a regional expression that means talking with no purpose or gabbing at length. 

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The first chapter is loaded with regional idioms. 

The book begins with this statement: "YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." The narrator is Huck himself, and the idiom is "without you," meaning "unless you." 

Huck says that the book was by Mr. Mark Twain who told the story (of Tom Sawyer) "with some stretchers," meaning "lies." 

He explains that at the end of the book, he and Tom had gotten rich from the treasure they found: "It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up," meaning it was a lot of money and looked really impressive when it was piled up. 

Huck tries to take up the civilized life with the Widow Douglas, but "when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out," meaning he left. 

Tom brings him back home, but Huck is still restless: "After supper [the Widow Douglas] got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrusher." "Learned me" is a regional idiom for "taught me." 

Her sister, Miss Watson, comes to live with them "and took a set at me now with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour." That is, she was determined to teach him to spell, and worked him fairly hard at it for about an hour. 

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