Saturday, April 27, 2002

Old time expressions

Much of my family goes a long time between generations. I'm a trailing end Baby Boomer/leading edge Gen X, but my father was about the right age for WWII, and his father was about right for the Spanish American War. Another generation back fought on the Yankee side of the Civil War, and there's only two more before you get to the Revolution when a forebear showed up from Wales.

One result of this is that the family has some fairly ancient expressions. Older uncles and aunts used to listen to Amos 'n' Andy or saw Al Jolson, and they would make reference to old pop culture like Fibber McGee's closet. But best of all were the folksier things I'd hear from my grandmother.

Consider "your tongue runs like the clatterbone in a goose's ass". Sometimes it was a duck, but the idea was that the person in question was loquacious. (she was right about the geese - you can look, I won't tell)

She had 8 kids at the time of the Depression, and most were still at home. Times were tough, but she always had an ace in the hole - "we can all get tin bills and pick shit with the chickens".

She usually lived in small towns where everything was everybody else's business. So I learned that, with respect to babies, "the first one can come anytime, and the rest take 9 months".

I was the youngest grandchild and lived nearby, so I spent a lot of time with her while I was little and she was still competent and mobile. She taught me how to play cards, like Dirty 8, rummy and canasta. She never gave up, either - I could be way ahead, but she'd say "I've seen sicker dogs get well". Little wonder the tough old girl lived to be 100.

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