What is a whipstitch? Slang meaning explained as Crawdads come to Netflix

Bruno Cooke November 14, 2022
What is a whipstitch? Slang meaning explained as Crawdads come to Netflix
Image downloaded from Getty Images. Credit: Halfdark. Image #: 78766301.

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Where The Crawdads Sing is on Netflix, barely four months after its initial release. It features an original song (Carolina) by Taylor Swift and some North Carolina slang some viewers might not have heard before, including the term “whipstitch” (or “whip stitch”).

What does whipstitch mean, and is it unique to North Carolina, where the action in Where The Crawdads Sing takes place?

Swift, incidentally, swept the floor at the MTV EMAs on Sunday (November 13, 2022). She took home four awards. The event was held in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Here’s a primer on the meanings of some terms of North Carolinian slang, including whipstitch, which Where The Crawdads Sing audiences might be curious about.

Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Where The Crawdads Sing: ‘You can’t run away from every whipstitch’

“Kya, you can’t run from every whipstitch,” reads the line in the original novel by Delia Owens.

Where The Crawdads Sing came out in 2018. It’s a coming-of-age murder mystery. It follows two timelines, both of which play out in North Carolina, though in different specific locations.

“Sometimes you have to discuss things. Face things.”

And in the movie, the line is similar. Not far from its mid point, Tate Walker and Catherine “Kya” Clark are having a conversation about their respective futures. Tate reveals his desire to “get a degree and be something,” which scares Kya. She fears that he won’t come back after leaving, and runs away.

Where The Crawdads Sing | Official Trailer 2

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Where The Crawdads Sing | Official Trailer 2
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Tate shouts: Kya! Kya, stop!”

Then: “You can’t run away from every whip stitch!”

What is a whipstitch? Meaning explored as Where The Crawdads Sing arrives on Netflix

More and more people have been watching the movie adaption since it arrived on the streaming platform on Saturday, November 2022, 2022.

The literal meaning of the word whipstitch is similar to “brief interval” or “moment,” but as with any slang word, what it means on paper doesn’t necessarily capture all of what it means when someone says it. Its meaning will change depending on context. 

For example, in one blogger’s account of their grandson’s birth, they use the term in the context of keeping people informed of labor developments. “She checked in every whip stitch,” they write, meaning every now and then, or every so often.

The example another gives for the phrase (which they define literally as “brief interval”) is that their cousin visits them “every whip stitch” – meaning every now and again, or similar.

Where does the word come from?

A whip stitch is a type of sewing stitch. You use it when crocheting, knitting and sewing. When using a whip stitch, you pass the needle in and out of the fabric in a series that circle an edge of the fabric you’re stitching.

It creates an edge and stops the fabric from unraveling. But it’s more likely the way it looks that translated into the slang meaning of the word whipstitch.

Every sewing stitch looks different when complete. In terms of what you can see from the outside, the whip stitch consists of multiple downward-slanting lines, each with a gap in between.

One can imagine each line representing a moment in time. Or events occurring at intervals, while the line the stitches make up represents chronological time. In this sense, it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see how whipstitch could come to mean “moment,” “brief interval” or “minute.”

What are some other southern slang phrases like whipstitch?

Sweet Southern Prep is primarily a food and recipes website. But its author Ashley also sometimes writes blog posts about other things.

Image downloaded from Getty Images. Credit: THEPALMER. Image #: 1182740913.

One such is about phrases people use in the south – to accompany her recipes for food people eat in the south.

She starts with “kiss my grits” and “I’ll be darned.”

Other examples of southern slang, not necessarily limited to North Carolina (where the action takes place in Where The Crawdads Sing), include “he was madder than fire,” “slower than molasses,” “djaeetyit?” (as in, “did you eat yet?) and “I’m so angry I could spit.”

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.