(And other great expressions)
Growing up in the South, I learned a number of Southern Colloquialisms. I feel sure that if I had lived in Minnesota or New York, I would have possibly heard the same ones or some very similar. Words, phrases and expressions that were, and are, used to express the point we are trying to make in no uncertain terms but which are never fully explained. The “meaning” of the words has more to do with the manner and tone in which they are expressed and the circumstances under which they are used.
Today, we are seeing an increased acceptance of “foul” language used in public, on TV and in music, especially rap, which would have not been tolerated a few years ago. Once, some years ago while traveling through Atlanta, I had the car radio on what was then WBIE. It turns out that WBIE was an early pioneer in FM radio and was the first “Country” music radio station in the Atlanta area and was run by an individual that became a legend in the radio business in the Atlanta market. That station is known today as WKHX, “Kicks”.
They were playing a record. I don’t remember the record name or the artist singing, but what I do remember is that somewhere in the lyrics the singer used the word “damned” or “damn”. And quite suddenly, the music stopped. The announcer came on to offer his apologies to the audience for the vulgar language in the song. He then went on to say that the record would never be played again on WBIE. They would not allow songs with foul language on their station. I’ll bet you a quarter that they did not do it again while that man owned the station. His name was Jim Wilder and he started the station in 1959.
That would probably eliminate a large percentage of the records being played today. Words like “ho”, “bitch” and even worse are not only acceptable but expected on many songs and stations today. No subject is off limits if we call it “rap”. Murder, rape, sexual references, drugs, robbery, and shooting are all ok under the rap genre, and I am sorry to say, increasingly, country music.
I can’t say if there is actually any word that would be considered “obscene” in the under 30 crowd today. They have been desensitized to them. No wonder that the youth of the world use such bad language and I hear it in many public places as I meet people walking by or hear them at an adjoining table in a restaurant.
The words and phrases I grew up with were corny and homespun. Words like Shucks, shoot, heck, darn(Considered borderline), dad gummed, dag nab it, and fiddlesticks!
Phrases like “I’ll be blame”, “Lord love a duck”, “no sirree”, “no sirree bob”, and “go jump in the lake” were often used to make a point. One of my all-time favorites was “I’ll be jumped up!” “By Gosh” and “Golly Gee” should be thrown in for good measure. How about “How in the Sam Hill”? (How can be replaced with what, when, why, and where if needed to fit the situation). You probably could add several to this list.
Words that came nowhere close to clearly defining the amount of any item you were discussing were common place: dab, smidgen, tad, snoot full, mite, belly full, and “ton” could be any quantity based upon the situation. “A barrel full” and “A Boat Load” were common. “They do a “ton” of business, for example. “Fair to middling” was a phrase of condition that was clearly understood if you were a cotton farmer.
Then, there is “Happier than a dead pig in the sunshine”. Have you ever given any thought to that one? You would think that the worst day anyone ever had would be better than that of a dead pig in the sunshine. One opinion is that that condition is such that the pig is totally oblivious (being dead) to his or her situation, yet the sun has dried the lips of the pig out causing them to appear to be smiling. Thus, a happy, yet dead, pig in the sunshine.
The expression, “I Suwannee”, is an expression of surprise and exasperation. And, one of the off color ones, only used in adult company, was “sweating like a whore in church”. Somehow, that is a very descriptive one.
Another very descriptive phrase that I like is “Colder than a well digger’s butt”. (I cleaned that up a little. Use your imagination and it came in a couple of versions.) Some versions dealt with the upper extremities and the others the lower extremities. And, the phrase that could be very positive or negative, depending on the connotation is “Highfalutin”. It could be used to describe some of the “upper crust” of the local society or some pompous person who looks down their nose at the folks around them.
Some folks have written books with hundreds of these little beauties and many that I have never personally heard used. Being somewhat of the “Bible Toting” varieties, both my families kept a lot of their little “cuss words” out of earshot of the little folks. But many of these other phrases were part of the everyday vernacular.
Take “No sirree”. Very often there is a time when we want to say “no”. “No, you can’t have pie and ice cream”. “No, we can’t take a ski vacation to Aspen this year since I lost my job”. Most children learn that if they cry, beg, plead, and scream they can turn that “no” into a “yes”. Wives learn that the “nag tolerance level” will soon kick in if they ask something enough.
So, no one really pays any attention to a “no”. It is just a place to start a negotiation. It is an “indefinite” answer. The sales experts always said you could expect 7 or 8 “no’s” before you get a yes and telemarketers that call your house just as you sit down for dinner all are trained that way.
“No sirree”, on the other hand, is a much tougher response. But what they hear, even with a “no sirree” is, “Well, maybe”. Keep working on it. He’ll probably change his mind.
But, when you give them the 3rd level of “no”, which is “no sirree Bob” (often accompanied by a finger wag), they know that is final and non-refutable! In the old days, a good butt whooping followed if the kids ignored a “No sirree Bob”! (In some circles this was “No Sirree Bobtail”)
That is the “No if’s, ands, or buts” answer. That is where our international politics have failed. Not understanding the various levels of “no”. (P.S. Kids today don’t know what a “butt whooping” is and they don’t know what “no” is either.)
I lived in a boarding house at 201 15th Street in Atlanta when I came to work for IBM. We got two great meals a day. I shared an apartment room with a Georgia Tech student and there was a variety of people living there. Included in the assortment was a theology student from Emory University. My roommate used his stereo for an alarm clock. WKLS radio came on the air at 7:00 each morning and the announcer would say, “Good Morning! This is WKLS. It is 7:00 A.M. in Atlanta”. A hundred watts of that would certainly wake you up!
The theology student had aspirations of becoming a Methodist minister in a large church with a big budget and a big pastor’s salary. No harm in that. He liked to read the Atlanta paper every morning from cover to cover, as I recall. Looking for sermon subject matter, no doubt.
He, along with some of his fellow classmates, had been advised that they should join the Toastmasters Club, a group that teaches people to improve their public speaking skills, and that would help them greatly in their careers. So, he and some of the other Emory students had joined a local Toastmasters chapter and they attended meetings on a regular basis.
Part of the learning experience at Toastmasters was that someone was called on at random, given a topic to discuss, and given a minute or two to prepare and then they stood up and made a one minute presentation on the topic they had been given. One of his fellow Emory Seminary Students had been called on and given the subject of “Profanity”. Somehow, they thought this was a great topic for a wanna be preacher.
The young pastor-to-be got up and gave all the reasons why profanity was bad, should not be used, and cited all the old adages about profanity being a substitute for people who were not capable of properly expressing themselves and having to resort to this low and vulgar form of expression. He then came to the conclusion to his presentation on “Profanity”.
The young pastor ended by saying: “However, I realize that when you are walking through the den at night with the lights off and you hit your shin bone on the coffee table, a plain ole “Aw, Shucks!” just does not seem to be adequate!” The room erupted in laughter!
My roommate got mad because someone moved his stereo while they were dusting. He wrote a note telling them to keep their hands off of his stuff. He signed his name and mine to the letter. The lady kicked us both out and she did not use any bad words doing it. Just, “Be out by Friday”.
Maybe getting back to a smidgen more “Aw Shucks” and a tad less of the “F” word would make the world a ton nicer! Even when you are being kicked out of your boarding house.
© 2015 SPT
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