By Kevin Wilson
It’s taken me quite a while, but I’ve figured it out. I know what it is that separates a Portales native from others.
It’s the difference between somebody who’s just visiting, attending college or making a shopping trip for peanut butter, and somebody who’s been in Portales for the long haul.
I’ll tell you what my secret is in due time, but first I want to give you some of my wrong guesses over the years — theories that have been proven incorrect over time, and are only somewhat indicative of a true Portales resident. Still, you might match up on a few of these:
• You have a favorite Allsup’s.
• You think there are too many traffic lights in Portales.
• You’ve ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from Cattle Baron.
• You’re the first person to reach a four-way stop, but you still wait until EVERYBODY comes to a complete stop before you proceed.
• You’ve played on a church softball team with somebody you’ve never gone to church with.
• When you go to eat at a buffet, you pronounce it as a “boo-fay.”
These are all theories I have had over the years, but none of them has proven as true as the phrase I’m about to tell you. It’s said by the young and the old, the smart and the dumb, and it marks a Portales resident.
It’s the phrase, “Dowhat?”
I’ve always wondered where this phrase came from and who originally said it. I haven’t figured out either of those questions, but my experiences from many, many conversations has indicated that the phrase is only uttered from the mouths of people that you’d consider Portales natives. I don’t hear it in other cities and I don’t hear it from Eastern New Mexico University students who come from elsewhere.
At my best estimate, “Dowhat?” is a shortcut when you didn’t understand all or part of a question or statement that somebody just told you. Your response of “Dowhat?” is basically another way of saying, “I am sorry, but I do not completely understand what it is that you just told me. Could you repeat that?”
So instead of saying 21 words, Portales natives seem to have it narrowed down to a six-letter phrase. Maybe they have caught on to something, a better way to communicate.
In any case, I believe I’ve found a way to separate the true Portales people from the temporary residents. All you have to do is ask them a question a little bit more quickly than a normal person can comprehend, and wait for those six letters that say they’re local. If they say “Pardon?” or “Excuse me,” you’ve got an outsider.
If that doesn’t work, just ask them which Allsup’s is their favorite. I’ve found that to be pretty effective, as well.
Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail: