(Editor’s note: this was my weekly newspaper column and a rehash of a previous post on the deluded diva. It’s been updated thanks to reader input, and I repeat it at the request of a friend.)
Well, Lawd ah mercy, hep my time, and land of Goshen! I’ve got to get busy directly, and try to save my grandparents expressions for future generations.
The headline refers to an old saying which dates to the last century when people dried their newly washed clothes by draping them over a bush in the yard.
My friend Jack and I took a pilgrimage to his grandmothers old home place in Shannon, Mississippi. It got us ruminating about our grandparents and some of their favorite phrases which have all but passed into obsolescence.
I hadn’t thought about those old expressions in years, and have always been puzzled about what they meant. Jack provided the “Hep my time” which his Aunt Louise used to say. I can’t say I ever heard that one, and we didn’t have a clue what the message was.
My grandmother was always going to be doing something or ‘nother “directly” which I suspect was her way of saying “I’ll do it when I damn well please,” though she would never, ever have used a four-letter word.
I grew up in a dry county, but I once overheard my Daddy say someone was drunk as Cooter Brown. Who was Cooter, and where did he get all liquored up in a dry county, I wondered. And what about cattywompus?
“Didn’t you grow up over yonder, cattywompus to the fire station,” asked someone at a class reunion recently. At first I thought he was speaking a foreign language, then I remembered cattywompus was a southern version of catty-cornered, or diagonally located.
Norma reminded me of the term “over yonder” – I still hear it used occasionally – especially by people in the generation ahead of us. The best I can determine, it means anywhere other than where you are.
I remembered my grandmother saying “Well, do tell,” or “do say” when someone offered a newsy tidbit. Why do you think certain words and expressions fade away over time, and don’t even get a proper funeral?
My mother used to say “Gadzooks and little fishes” when she was amazed or perplexed. What in tarnation did she mean by that? And what is a tarnation anyhow? She would also get “mad as a wet hen” when we used her newly planted pine trees as bases for our baseball games. You rarely even see a hen these days – much less a wet one – unless it’s on the dinner plate.
Speaking of poultry, my friend Nancy brought another to my attention. Her elderly neighbor used to say “Well now, don’t that just beat a goosie gobblin’.
Poultry figured heavily into our langauge in the 1900s. I remember a time when you couldn’t drive down the road without dodging a chicken or two trying to cross the road. My gosh, we INVENTED the concept of free-range chickens. When was the last time you saw a chicken on the side of the road?
Anyone who got “all gussied up” was referred to as “high falootin’,” and people did a lot of “gallivanting around” while engaging in a great deal of “tomfoolery.” Me? I was more inclined to dilly-dally around.
I “reckon” (my grandfather was always “reckoning” this and that) there are millions of those old sayings that have all but disappeared. If any readers can remember any others floating around in your memories, I wish you would bring them to my attention. I’m compiling a dictionary of old sayings before they are lost forever. Once my generation has faded away, there will be no one left to remember them.
I just got a call from the man who installs DISH to tell me he was running late. I surprised myself by saying “I reckon it’s gonna come a rain anyhow.” (I don’t talk like that unless I’m playing Redneck Girls with my high school classmates.) But there it was, out of the blue, I’d reverted to a 1930s farm girl.
Now don’t that just shake the rag off the bush! It must be in our genes.