Monday, September 12, 2005

The Language of My 20th Century

“Her skirt was so short, you could see all the way to her breakfast.”

I didn’t think about it in the way that kids don’t think about things. Kids sort of extrapolate their own situation to cover everything. Tonight I’m missing the colorful language that surrounded me, the language before satellite TV. The culture was slower, and things were less open certainly. But sometimes the back roads are more scenic. That’s also true linguistically. The language I heard when George Carlin spoke of the seven words you can’t say on TV was filled with music and metaphor and a slight subterfuge. It’s missing in a world of condom ads and ED.

“Hey grandma, where you going?”

“Off to see a man about a horse.”

“No really. Where are you going?”

“Fishin’ or maybe crazy. I’m at loose ends. Just let me be.”

Communication was in full, living color, vibrant with tonal qualities. If a young lady’s slip hung a little too low, she’d hear about the snow that was falling down south. If a boy was nervous or shy, he was as shaky as a three-legged TV. A mouse found a bag of candy once and worried that poor bag to death. My own brother, who enjoyed picking on me, was told to stop “aggravating her with stupidity.” When both brothers wrestled in mom's living room, mom ordered them to take the nonsensical nonsense down in the hole.

If you went somewhere you followed your nose, often in the direction the crow flies. You might be cautioned not to act one slice short of a loaf or two cards less than deck. If you did your best and didn’t quite make it, that was close but no cigar.

How many times was I told to hold my horses, when I was as patient as I could be? After all, I was the apple of my father’s eye, which meant I was a peach. Whereas my brothers were full of beans, full of baloney, and had potatoes in their ears. I’m sure I remember that as plain as day.

Though my dad might say, “You aren’t giving me that old huckle buckle?”

No worries. Don’t get a bee in your bonnet. I’d never sell you a pig in a poke. Sure as I’m sitting here, I’m talking turkey.

Look at these blue eyes. Would they ever twist the truth?
—me strauss Letting me be
Idiom Links
ESL Idioms Click for a random idiom and its definition
Web English Teacher
The Idiom Connection

The Wayabroad sites are taken from the Idiom Connection,


Anonymous said...

And on top of all this we have to learn the idioms and slang of the 21st century. We are all multi-lingual.

I can relate to this. Did you find as a child that you often didn't even understand what they meant by some phrases? My family was particularly bad at speaking clear English.

I had a similarly themed article back here that you may find interesting.

Something Hogeous

Anonymous said...

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle, Liz. That article was sweeter than a hot fudge sundae.

{Couldn't resist, lol}

Fun read!

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Don't apologize. Those were great contributions. I had forgotten how uniquely southern the sountern idioms are. I can hear your accent in them.

WAY Cool.


Anonymous said...

Well I'll swan to my soul. I could read this kind o'stuff till the cows came home.

Yes em, you are as right as rain about the de-evolution of language, darn tooting.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hey there, Mark,
I know you don't cotton no disagreement and I don't got none. It tickles me that you got a kick out of it.


"ME" Liz Strauss said...

I wrote you this long comment, then I went read your article without posting it--which makes about as smart as breaking a bottle over your own head.

Yeah I had time with some. For the longest time I thought SOL was a word spelled essoel, probably French in my mind, not three letters that stood for sh** out of luck.


Anonymous said...

Language is a funny thing
Sometimes balm and sometimes sting...


"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Gone is a cheerful, shining lad,
must be the schooling that he had.



Anonymous said...

Well shoot fire and two is eight--what ever that means, my grandma used to say it frequently--I haven’t heard some of those sayings in a coon’s age. I must, admit when I was young, most of them went in one ear and out the other. Or so I was told repeatedly. Their usage used to make me go insane, granted that is a short walk at my ranch, but now they are a sight for sore eyes.

Before I open my mouth and insert my foot, I am going to run outa hear like a scalded dog, and if the good Lord’s willing, and the creek don’t rise, I will be back for more tomorrow.

BTW, I loved this post Liz!

Anonymous said...

It was a great post, I agree. :)

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Thanks Gone!
That's a nice turn of phrase itself.