You talk funny (*I* have a special way with words)

I totally stole this from the BARDROOM poets/bards FidoNet mailing list. Do you still hear any of these turns of phrase? If you live in a small town, you are more likely to know what these things mean, even if people don’t use them much any more.

Our Language: We Ain’t A-Changin’ It

“I’ll just give this a lick and a promise,” said Mama, mopping up a quart of spilled milk without moving the furniture or breaking out the Swiffer.

“What?? You’re not licking it at all!”

“I mean I’m in a hurry. Because we’re busy canning tomatoes, I’ll just give this a lick with the mop, and promise to come back and do the job right later.”

“A lick and a promise” was just one of the many picturesque phrases that our mothers, grandmothers, and many others had learned from the generations before them. With the passing of time, many old phrases become obsolete or even disappear. This is unfortunate because some of them are apt, ever so appropriate, and funny as heck if you analyze them.

Some of those memorable old phrases:

1. A Bone to Pick (someone who wants to discuss a disagreement)
2. An Axe to Grind (Someone who has a hidden agenda/motive. This phrase is said to have originated with Benjamin Franklin, who told a story about a devious man who asked how a grinding wheel worked. He ended up walking away with his axe sharpened free of charge.)
3. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel (one corrupt person can cause all the others to go bad)
4. At sea (lost or not understanding something)
5. Bad Egg (Someone who is NOT a good person)
6. Barking at a knot (meaning that your efforts were as useless as a dog barking at a knot)
7. Barking up the wrong tree (going the wrong direction, discussion of the wrong issue with the wrong person)
8. [To have a] Bee in your bonnet (To have an idea that won’t let loose)
9. Been through the mill (had a rough time of it)
10. Between hay and grass (Not a child or an adult)
11. Blinky (Between sweet and sour, as in milk)
12. Preaching to the choir (I’m already a convert)
13. Cattywampus/cat-a-wampus (Something that sits crookedly, such as a piece of furniture sitting at an angle)
14. Dicker (To barter or trade)
15. Feather in Your Cap (to accomplish a goal. This came from years ago in wartime when warriors might receive a feather they would put in their caps for defeating an enemy)
16. Hold your horses (Be patient!)
17. Hoosegow (a jail)
18. I reckon (I suppose)
19. Jawing/Jawboning (Talking or arguing)
20. Kit and caboodle (The whole thing, whole 9 yards)
21. Madder than an wet hen (really angry)
22. Needs to be taken down a notch or two (like notches in a belt–usually about a young person who thinks too highly of himself and needs a lesson)
23. No Spring Chicken (Not young anymore)
24. Persnickety (overly particular or snobbish)
25. Pert-near (short for pretty near)
26. Pretty is as pretty does (your actions are more important than your looks)
27. Red up (clean the house)
28. Scalawag (a rascal or unprincipled person)
29. Scarce as hen’s teeth (something difficult to obtain)
30. Skedaddle (Get out of here quickly)
31. Sparking (courting)
32. Straight From the Horse’s Mouth (privileged information from the one concerned)
33. Stringing around, gallivanting around, or piddling (Not doing anything of value)
34. Sunday go to meetin’ dress (The best dress you had)
35. We clean up good/you wash up real fine (hey, the mechanic took a bath and put on a dress. . . .)
36. Tie the Knot (to get married)
37. Too many irons in the fire (to be involved in too many things)
38. Tuckered out (tired and all worn out)
39. Under the weather (not feeling well; this term came from going below deck on ships due to sea sickness: thus you go below, or under the weather)
40. Wearing your ‘best bib and tucker’ (Being all dressed up) (“Bibbentucker” cleaners hasn’t forgotten this)
41. You ain’t the only duck in the pond (It’s not all about you) or the only fish in the sea (generally used to speak of potential suitors/beaux/booty-calls)
42. On a wing and a prayer (without the resources that are probably needed, but with the faith that you can accomplish the goal anyway)

Well, if you’ll hold your horses, I reckon I’ll get this whole kit and caboodle done posted up. Please don’t be too persnickety and get a bee in your bonnet, because I’ve been purt-near tuckered out and at sea lately because I’m no spring chicken. I haven’t been just a-stringin’ around and I know I’m not the only duck in the pond, but I do have too many irons in the fire. I might just be barkin’ at a knot, but I have tried to give this article more than just a lick and a promise.


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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