You live in Missouri when...

Here's a bit of internet lore we've received at the website a number of times -- we finally decided one or more of its versions should be archived here. It's very much in the spirit of Alan Dundes' collection of xerographic folklore produced in cubicle culture, gathered in such volumes as "Tales from the Paperwork Empire;" near the end of his life, Dundes was recognizing that the genre would take on new dimensions with the Internet.


  In Missouri: --If you run your car into a ditch, don't panic. Four  men in a four-wheel drive pickup truck with a tow chain will be  along shortly. Don't try to help them, just stay out of their way.  This is what they live for.

  Don't be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same  store.... do not buy food at this store.

  Remember, "Y'all" plural, not singular.  "All o' y'all's" is plural possessive.

"Out yonder" is an undefined distance, but it is a little closer than "a piece" and much closer than "a fer piece."

  Get used to hearing "You ain't from round here, are ya?"

  Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed later on  how to use it.

  Don't be worried at not understanding what people are saying. They  can't understand you either. The first Missouri statement to creep  into a transplanted out-of-stater's vocabulary is the adjective "big'ol," as in "big ol' truck" or "big'ol" boy. Most out-of-staters begin their Missouri-influenced dialect this way. All of them are in denial about it.

  The proper pronunciation you learned in school is no longer proper.

  Be advised that "He needed killin," is a valid murder defense in Missouri.

  If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even the smallest accumulation of snow or ice, your presence is required at the local grocery store.  It doesn't matter whether you need anything or not. You just have to go there.  After the snow or ice storm, you need to go to the grocery store again, just to prove you are not stranded at home.

 Do not be surprised to find that 10-year olds own their own shotguns, they are proficient marksmen, and their mammas taught them how to aim.

 In Missouri, we have found that the best way to grow a lush green lawn is to pour gravel on it and call it a driveway.

 AND REMEMBER: If you do settle in Missouri and bear children, don't think we will accept them as residents. After all, if the cat had kittens in the oven, we wouldn't call 'em biscuits.

A similar form is the variable frame-statement, "You know you live in Missouri when..."; the list is built by accumulation and collaboration, with some editing during transmission. Naturally, the items will apply to more than one region, and the same claims may well be advanced for residents of other states or areas -- as a genre, the variable frame statement is not specific to the state. There is an aesthetic at work in the selection; the items which are most regularly retained in lists have the same quality to be found in folk idioms of Missouri (and elsewhere): the imagery is vivid, the expression in pithy, the detail telegraphs a complex of characteristics of life here we both rue and cherish.

The lists are mainly focused on Missouri's rural character, which of course will seem strange to residents of St. Louis or Kansas City, but it may be part of the function of this lore to affirm a communal conviction that the state is at its heart and in its essence, rural.

It is instructive to compare two different lists, with considerable overlap, down to the level of quite distinctive word-choice, indicating some linkage -- whether one borrows from the other, or both derive at least in part from some common source (a determination which is complex enough when we do a stemmatological analysis of the relations among manuscripts or print texts, but which becomes impossible in light of the ongoing revision of web-text). Here are two obviously related texts:

You know you live in Missouri when...

"Yardwork" involves a gas can;

You've got the heat on downstairs and the AC upstairs;

You switch from heat to AC and back again in 12 hours and find nothing odd about it;

You know what "cow tipping" or "possum kicking" is.

You think "frog gigging" should be an Olympic sport.

 You can tell the difference between a horse and a cow from a distance.

There's a tornado warning and the whole damn town is outside watching for it.

The local gas station sells live bait.

Everyone in your family has been on a float trip.


Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.

You've seen all the biggest bands ten years after they were popular.

You know more than two people who have hit a deer.

Your school classes were canceled because of cold or heat in the same month.

You know what and where "Party Cove" is.

You think
Missouri is pronounced with an "ah" at the end.

You think ethanol makes your truck "run a lot better."

You know what's knee-high by the Fourth of July.

You see people wear bib overalls at funerals.

You see a car running in the parking lot at the store with no one in it no matter what time of the year.

You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

You think of the major four food groups as beef, pork, beer, and Jell-O salad with marshmallows.

You carry jumper cables in your car and know that everyone else should.

The local paper covers national and international headlines on one page but requires 6 pages for sports.

You think that deer season is a national holiday.

You know which leaves make good toilet paper.

It is instructive to select one of these items and Google the results, using reasonable Boolean procedures; it's clear that the lore belongs to places far removed from Missouri -- for example:

You know you live in a small town when...

Some items that may appear in lists for Missouri, for small towns in Missouri (or anywhere else, for that matter); most of these items came up in a list for Aberdeen Idaho, though I have heard them for Kirksville Missouri and Hannibal.

... during a storm you check the cattle or sheep before you check the kids.
... you are related to more than half the town.... your car breaks down outside of town and news of it gets back to town before you do.
... without thinking, you wave to all oncoming traffic.
... you don't buy all your vegetables at the grocery store.
... you get up at 5:30 am and go straight to the bowling alley or the coffee shop.
... you're on a first name basis with the local police.
... you have the number of the Co-op on speed dial.
... using the elevator involves a grain truck.
... your mayor is also your garbage hauler, barber, and insurance salesman.
... you call the wrong number and talk to the person for an hour anyway.
... your excuse for getting out of school is that the cows got out.
... you know cow pies aren't made of beef.
... you wake up when it's dark and go to bed when it's still light.
... your nearest neighbor is in the next area code.
... you know the code names for everyone on the CB.
... you wear your boots to church.
... it takes 30 seconds to reach your destination and it's clear across town.
... you can tell the smell of a skunk and the smell of feedlot apart.
... the meaning of true love is that you'll ride in the tractor with him.
... your main drag in town is two blocks long.
... you design your Halloween costume to fit over Wranglers and Cowboy Boots.
... you have more miles on your tractor than your car.
... you have 10 favorite recipes for Deer meat.
... you owe more money on your tractor than your car.
... you can write a check at drive-in for fries and a root beer
... you know several people who have hit a deer.
... you've ridden the school bus for an hour each way.
... you learn your pickup will run without a muffler.
... you've never met any celebrities, but the mayor knows your name.
... a bad traffic jam involves two cars staring each other down at a four-way stop, each determined to be the most polite and let the other go first.
... someone asks you if you've been to Europe and you answer, "No, but I've been to St. Louis"
... you find out you’re going to be a father before your wife gets home from the doctor.
... you actually know the first names of the neighbors who live on both sides of you....and everyone else's in town!
... your address is simply Route 1, cause the mailman knows where everyone lives.
... directions to your home include..."Turn at the second dirt road."
... the only red light in town is set to start 4-way flashing at 6:30 p.m.
... high school graduation lasts only 15 minutes.....12 minutes for the speeches and 3 minutes to hand out diplomas.
... the grocery store that rents videos only has one copy of the latest release.....and there is a two week waiting list.
... the town shuts down during the high school basketball playoffs.
... the tractors have the right of way on Main street.
... the banker's home number is not unlisted.
... satellite dishes are second in popularity only to pickup trucks.
... you run out of propane on the coldest day of the year and the propane truck driver is out hunting deer.
... you can flunk your driver's license exam and take it again in half an hour.
... somebody says, "hello, how are you?" and stops to listen to your answer.
... you can name everyone in your graduating class.
... you know what 4-H and FFA mean.
... you used to drag "main."
... you said a bad word and your parents knew before you got home.
... you ever went cow-tipping or snipe hunting.
... school gets canceled for potato harvest.
... it was cool to date someone from the neighboring town.
... you had senior skip day.
... the whole school went to the same party after graduation.
... you don't give directions by street names or directions by references (turn by Nelson's house, go two blocks east to Anderson's, and it's four houses left of the football field).
... the golf course had only 9 holes.
... the town next to you is considered "trashy" or "snooty", but is actually just like your town.
... anyone you want can be found at either the drive-in or the feed store.
... you see at least one friend a week driving a tractor through town.
... football coaches suggest that you haul hay for the summer to get stronger.
... your letter jacket was worn after your 19th birthday.
... you decide to walk somewhere for exercise and 5 people pull over and ask if you need a ride.
... your teachers call you by your older siblings names.
... your teachers remember when they taught your parents.
... you can charge at all the local stores.

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