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Holdernoot and other familial expressions

Virago Modern Classics

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Aug 27, 2009, 9:12am Top

As requested, here is a thread where we can offer up familial expressions, which may prove utterly unique, or may turn out to be shared! The following all come from my mother, who made ample use of these terms.

I just started things off with Holdernoot, an expression offered in previous thread, meaning "Stop," or "Hold Up" usually used as a caution or warning when one has been moving or running on in some way. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and think this might have roots in Pennsylvania "Dutch," which is actually a form of German.

Another is caddywampus. Anyone know that one?

An expression confined to my town was cunnerman. That meant shabby or poor-looking. ("Change those old tattered jeans; you look like a cunnerman.") That was also shortened to cuddy for an even shabbier effect.

One of the more off-color, not in content though in form, is my mother's expression, "Like a fart in a mitten." This is something you just can't get away from somehow.

I'll try to think of others, but please share any fun expressions you've heard, used, or enjoyed!

Aug 27, 2009, 9:50am Top

There's a girls' a capella singing group at my sons' high school called Cattywampus.

My favorite, often-used familial expression, inherited from my father-in-law, is "Golly neddlebrooks!" Sometimes shorted to "Golly neds!" Even my 18-year old son uses it as an expression of mild surprise.

Another favorite is "All right Jack," which means you've helped yourself but no one else. For example, if I pour myself a second cup of coffee, but don't pour one for my wife, she'll say I'm "all right Jack."

Aug 27, 2009, 10:30am Top

Rob - I'm all right Jack is listed in the Urban Dictionary as having originated with sailors. For me it is the Peter Sellers' movie of the same name from my childhood. It is in common usage in England.

I have spent equal amounts of time in NZ, Australia, England and America and my expressions are all over the map but one of my favorites is 'Box of birds' which NZ'ers say as a positive response to "How are you?"

Aug 27, 2009, 11:05am Top

I LOVE THIS!!!!! --- and with permission, I'll put a link to this thread at the Pedants' Corner. We have a "regionalisms" thread too, but it's not exactly like this one.
AHD has "cattywampus" which I've always heard as a variant of "catawampus" which may be related to "cattycornered," a variant of "cater-cornered." (I've never heard anybody say "catercornered" in my life!)
I'll have to think back to my old grandmama (who knew her grandfather who was born in 1798, so some really good Scots stuff may have come down) to see if we have anything that fits here.

Edited: Aug 27, 2009, 12:36pm Top

"running around like a fart in a mitt" is an expression in our family too.
"P*ss on you, Jack, I'm all right" is how it's said in these parts.

I was born in Mennonite country. Several expressions have stuck with our family as a result:
"Your hair is all strubbly" (long u sound, germanic sounding str) = all messy
"A slip of the tongue is no fault of the brain" - my Dad loved this one

But most of our family's expressions were Scottish ones, because my family is:
"bachles" = comfy old shoes or slippers
"whisht" = be quiet
"jessie" = sissy
"mithering" or "whingeing" = whining or complaining
"greet" = cry
"ower auld farrant" = things which are best left in the past
"bye the noo" = goodbye for now

ETA: "I don't give a tinker's damn about...."

Aug 27, 2009, 11:41am Top

Cattywumpus: squeejawed, out of whack, whopperjawed.

Aug 27, 2009, 12:34pm Top

Local expressions (central Ontario):
jumping around like spit on a griddle
dumb as a box of rocks
doesn't have the good sense God gave a turnip {or any vegetable}
But he can't help being {fill in the blank}, God love him.

*more to come as I remember them*

Aug 27, 2009, 12:56pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Aug 27, 2009, 1:02pm Top

#7 I know all those expressions here in NEPA, Tui. "God love him", especially, is very widely used among the Irish Catholic population.

When I first moved to coal country from a little farther north I learned many new phrases, some of which I had to have translated the first time. I remember being totally bewildered to hear one of my co-workers mention that she had to go to a "corpse house" one evening. (I didn't even grasp what words she was saying, as it was run together to sound like "corpsouse".) I learned that this term refers to a wake, which I understood, although we always called it a "viewing".

Aug 27, 2009, 2:14pm Top

A family (or possibly LyzzyBee) word is the "ponk"

A ponk is a little bit that sticks out. For example the lug on a jigsaw puzzle piece (I'm looking for one with 3 ponks to fit in this space" or the little circle on a lego brink (I need a four ponker for this chimney)

Never heard it anywhere else so assume I invented it - such a useful word, too!

Aug 27, 2009, 5:00pm Top

As my mother is wont to say when things don't go your way:

That's life in the putty knife factory.

Aug 27, 2009, 5:43pm Top

I like it, Jane!

Another local one: cold as a welldigger's belt buckle

Aug 27, 2009, 6:21pm Top

My grandmother had a word for looking or feeling ill, which I think was her own invention --not even sure I know how it should be spelled-- but for conveying the sense of what she was getting at, it couldn't be beat: Pewsly. ("That child looks kinda pewsly. I don't think she's eatin' like she should.") Now, if you asked my grandmother how SHE was feeling, her invariable response was "Oh, can't kick---no use complainin' anyway."

A bitter winter night was "cold enough to freeze a dog to death".

My Dad loved a colorful turn of phrase. Some of his favorites:

handy as a pocket in an undershirt

not worth a plugged nickel

too thin to cast a shadow

If you'd cut it any thinner you'd have missed it entirely.

Shake a leg! (hurry up)

Edited: Aug 27, 2009, 6:43pm Top

I like pewsly - it sounds like what it is. It reminds me of pawkish:

My family has a pawkish sense of humour = dry, with a deadpan delivery

ETA: if we weren't being too bright about something, Mom called us a dripsnort. A friend's mom said we were "playing at silly buggers", which I always loved.

Aug 27, 2009, 10:19pm Top

>12 tiffin:: the way I learned it, it was another part of the welldigger, lower and around the back. "cold as a welldigger's a**"

I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio where one says "Please?" instead of "Pardon me?" I'm pretty sure this is due to the city's strong German heritage, because in Germany you'd say, "Bitte?"

Aug 27, 2009, 10:28pm Top

#12 and #15

I had a great uncle who used to say "colder than a bird-dog's a**" and he would often add 'in the middle of the road' afterwards. Ah, colorful character he was!

Aug 27, 2009, 10:36pm Top

"It will be a frosty Friday in Hell before {fill in the blank}"
another localism

Laura, Canadians often say "sorry" for excuse me. I noticed it a lot in Scotland too so figure it's the Scottish influence in our speech. E.g., if you step in someone's way, you say sorry, not excuse me.

I'm really enjoying everyone's expressions, btw.

Aug 27, 2009, 10:40pm Top

Here are a couple from Grandmama (not to be confused with Grandmother).
"pyurt" - her pronunciation of "pert" ("How are you feeling, Grandmama?" ---- "Right pyurt.")

"teechus" - ("touchy?") "That bad tooth is right teechus."

(Apparently, she used "right" a lot - a fact I didn't remember until I started typing.)

(And I blush to tell you this....) When she was feeling affectionate, she was likely to call the object of her affection, "Cooter Dick."

Aug 27, 2009, 10:42pm Top

Variation of #12, 15, 16: "colder than a witch's t*t"

In a similar vein, my brother-in-law, who lived for a time in North Carolina, recently told me that something was "tighter than a gnat's a** stretched across a rain barrel."

Aug 27, 2009, 10:53pm Top

Wow, Rob, that's a picture!
Lizzie, I have so many questions to ask about "Cooter Dick" but as you are already blushing, I won't. But boy that has my curiosity piqued!

Aug 27, 2009, 11:51pm Top

My grandmother used to say that her stepmother was "a b*tch from the big toes up." To which my grandfather would often add "and uglier than a bagfull of a**holes."

Aug 28, 2009, 12:25am Top

When things go awry my mother says (still at 91) "Shit fire and save the matches!"

When asked how he is my brother always responds: "Finer than frog's hair split 4 ways."

My very colorful pop, when he banged his finger with the hammer would say (all virgin ears, please cover): "Dirty rotten mother *ucking son of a *itch!~!"

When another of my brothers was asked something he didn't know the answer to, he would always respond: "DamnifIno" and he always wore a cap that said that. When he died, we buried him in it.

That's all I can think of right now except for my little grandson who has always said for "last night": "yester-night."


Aug 28, 2009, 7:10am Top

"hotter than the ragwheels of hell"

when there's a crash in the kitchen--"Save the pieces!"

When a child suffered some minor hurt--"It'll be better before you get married"

a very persuasive person "could talk a dog off a meat wagon"

Edited: Aug 28, 2009, 10:35am Top

Hah re the crash in the kitchen (or anywhere): "it's on the floor" in our house, courtesy of Dad.

ETA: Socks, I googled some of your words to see if there was any explanation for their roots. Cunnerman is a really interesting word. I'd never heard cattywampus until now. But I love holdernoot. I've been trying to find a situation to use it.

Hell seems to have a lot of variations of the hotter than, colder than sort, doesn't it. I think every culture has its out and out swear words - I don't personally find those interesting - but I love the descriptive ones which give such a good visual (thinking of that gnat, Rob) with humour. Better stop blethering, I could talk a dog off a meat wagon.

Aug 28, 2009, 11:57am Top

I had a friend whose most explosive utterance was "Chicken lips!" I don't have any idea why. But it kept her from using more profane or vulgar outbursts and usually had a lightening effect on whatever situation caused the upset in the first place. It was always hard for me not to laugh when I heard it.

Gnats were pretty popular --- my Dad used to talk about someone sharp-eyed enough to be able to see a gnat's whiskers from 30 paces.

Aug 28, 2009, 3:33pm Top

This is a splendid thread too.

"She's the kind who wouldn't say sh*t if she had a mouthful" I think that is a general western one.

Some completely family specific phrases

"Sandpail and shovel" called out during an argument meant that you were unfairly bringing up some past wrong and was taken from the children's book A Birthday for Frances

"Banutzo" was a coinage of my own in childhood a combination of Bananas Nuts and Psycho that everyone in my family adopted

"Tough day at the toad farm" I am not sure where that one came from but we all had many tough days at the toad farm.

Aug 28, 2009, 3:36pm Top

23> in my family it was "you won't remember it on the day you get married"

Aug 28, 2009, 3:42pm Top

in our family it was: "rub some dirt on it!"
and the persuasive person: "could sell ice to eskimos!"

Aug 28, 2009, 8:04pm Top

I love "tough day on the toad farm" -- it certainly equals "that's life in the putty knife factory" !

Edited: Aug 29, 2009, 1:01am Top

It's neat how both expressions speak to the nuttiness of life, Jane and Maren. Like saying 'life's crazy...deal with it'.

ETA: LizzieD, where was your Grandma from? Her words sound like what I imagine someone from Texas would say.

Aug 29, 2009, 7:48am Top

If I tripped going upstairs my mother would say, "You won't get married this year!" Always thought that a bit odd.

Aug 29, 2009, 11:14pm Top

My family is from Poland. My father used to swear "himlhergot", which, many many years later I discovered is two German words mangled together: Himmel meaning hell, and Herr Gott meaning Good Lord, or God. So perhaps the translation is "damn it all to hell"?

And whenever there was a loud noise outside, he would say "Someone's dentures fell out again."

I sure miss him.

Edited: Aug 30, 2009, 1:54am Top

^ "Himmel" actually means "heaven." ("Hölle" is "hell"). "Lord God in Heaven" might be a little nearer the mark. I love the line about dentures.

My grandfather was from East Pomerania, close to the Polish border, I think, and whenever he gave directions (at which he did not excel) he would conclude by saying Location X was "in der Nähe von der Kirche" or "(somewhere) near the church." My siblings and I all use that phrase. Looking for a restaurant? It's "in der Nähe von der Kirche". Lose a shoe? "in der Nähe von der Kirche" and so on.

Aug 30, 2009, 2:02pm Top

Here's another one - if someone is referred to as "she" in their presence (only a woman, I think) - "who's she, the cat's mother?". My mum used to say it but I've said it in front of other people and they've not thought I'm insane so maybe it's a Britishism?

Aug 30, 2009, 3:01pm Top

Lyzzy, my mom said exactly the same thing.

Aug 30, 2009, 4:09pm Top

>34 LyzzyBee:, 35

I think that's pretty common in Britain (certainly used by my gran and my mum) - maybe less so than in the past however.

Aug 30, 2009, 4:18pm Top

In my family, in Italy, when you are talking about very stupid people, you say "La madre dei cretini e` sempre incinta", which means "The mother of idiots is always pregnant".

Aug 30, 2009, 4:31pm Top

Someone too familiar would be told, "You must think I used to help you herd the cows."

In earlier times children had to show enormous respect to their parents, calling them always by the "vous" form and whenever a child would be not respectful enough, this is what she would get.

Aug 30, 2009, 6:06pm Top

#31 My mother said that to me, too, Laura. And I was a great one for tripping up stairs. I shouldn't have been married 'til I was well into my 50's, if there were truth in that expression!

Aug 30, 2009, 9:03pm Top

>39 laytonwoman3rd:: Ha, we showed them, didn't we? I was married at 21 and I think you also married young, correct? Thus disproving the step - marriage correlation.

Aug 30, 2009, 9:23pm Top

Members of my ex-husband's family (not mine . . . of course), in moments of anger would say to one another, "Go take a flying f$ck at a doughnut." I always wondered how this particular act was accomplished. Has anyone here seen it done?

Aug 31, 2009, 9:07am Top

Let's not go there.

Aug 31, 2009, 9:19am Top


Could we resurrect the discussion in The Cucumber Room - in a discreet and genteel fashion of course? The CR was the pace we once gathered to discuss issues of this ilk.

Aug 31, 2009, 11:33am Top

Quite right, Mary. Where did that room disappear to, anyway?

Edited: Aug 31, 2009, 3:03pm Top

Mary, Mary, Mary;
That is a dandy!~!

Aug 31, 2009, 11:09pm Top

(Tiffin, Grandmama was born, lived, and died in southeastern N.C. She went to the Jamestown Exposition in 1907 when she married; that was her longest trip.)
Dear Husband's grandmother had a couple of good ones that I have never heard anywhere else.
If any child questioned a directive with "What for?" the response was, "What fur? Cat fur to make kitten britches."
The response to "What's that, Dodla?" was always "Layovers to catch meddlers." (She grew up in the Raleigh (pronounced "Rawley") area.)

Aug 31, 2009, 11:37pm Top

aha, thanks, Lizzie. Now I can imagine the Southern accent better. Do you think adding "right" in is common to that area? I do like "teechus".

Sep 1, 2009, 1:49am Top

We had one growing up that my children and theirs use to this day. Whenever someone asks: "Do you know what?" The response is always : "Yeah, what's a little green guy".
And we also had the "Cat fur to make kitten britches." one. Too cute.

Sep 1, 2009, 7:14am Top

Whenever someone says "Well.....", you must answer "That's a deep subject".

Sep 1, 2009, 9:42am Top

Shine yeah, tiffin! "Right" has a right old pedigree.

Sep 2, 2009, 3:01pm Top

Jen, I thought this was funny! My mother says that she has heard, "Holdernoot!" (That's not the funny part.) Today I remembered to ask Dear Husband and his sister. They both yelled in unison, "Hold 'er, Newt! She's goin' for the barn!" I guess this is a Southern corruption of your Pennsylvania Dutch expression???? (In fact, their great-great-grandfather grew up somewhere in Pennsylvania......is there a Strabane? Is it anywhere near you?)

Edited: Sep 2, 2009, 3:42pm Top

#51 I think it's the other way around, and that expression originated in the Southland somewhere. Now that I see the "Hold 'er, Newt" version, I can't believe I didn't recognize it myself. "Hold 'er, Newt, she's headin' for the rhubarb!" is how I've heard it.

This may be of interest.

Sep 3, 2009, 3:51pm Top

I confess I've never seen the expression written, so was creative with that, and now that I see "Hold 'er, Newt!" that does make more sense! So I guess it isn't German? I grew up in the Poconos (East Stroudsburg), but my mom had some extended family influences from southeastern PA, where more PA German settled. We always did grow rhubarb, too...

Never saw caddywampus (off-centered, awry) spelled, either, so could see it as any of the versions offered above!

Jeemus, as my gram would say!

Sep 3, 2009, 5:01pm Top

Hey, Socks! I didn't know you grew up around here! I'm a Northeastern PA girl myself. Wayne County born and bred. Sitting in beautiful downtown Scranton right now.

Sep 3, 2009, 7:19pm Top

Small World Time again! I spent a formative summer working as a counselor at Montlawn, The Christian Herald's camp for NYC inner-city kids. That's just outside of East Stroudsburg, and I wonder whether it's still a going concern since I was there in 1964. (Were you even born then, Jen?)
I don't much think Newt and Company can be too Southern because it's too hot to grow rhubarb here....but the Internet gives "a-headin' for the pea patch" too. (Thanks for the Smith rendition, Linda!) Wonder where Dear Husband & sister got "the barn"?

Sep 3, 2009, 9:20pm Top

The whole Holdernoot/Hold 'er, Newt thing is a hoot!

Sep 4, 2009, 1:31pm Top

#55 Well, as a country girl, I say "headin' for the barn" makes the most sense of any of them. A horse that has been plodding along sedately will sometimes take off like a shot when it smells home and the feed bag hanging on its stall, so you actually might need to "hold 'er" back, if you were plowing the lower 40, for instance, and the horse took a notion to head for the barn.

Edited: Sep 7, 2009, 9:49pm Top

To my fellow Cuddies (really now used proudly to mean "native" to Stroudsburg or Eastburg) --

How yous guys?

Who knew there would be so many Virago lovers out of PA (pronounced PeeAy)?

>54 laytonwoman3rd: How is "Scran 'un" these days?

>55 LizzieD: I wasn't around in '64 but will ask some family (many relatives in the area) if the camp is still around. There are a LOT of camps around.

"Purteneer" time to turn in. Nighty night. A whole nother day ahead of us......

Sep 7, 2009, 11:17pm Top

>58 outrageoussocks: Cuddies? Is that just about like cud'ns? We do purtnyeer too.

Hey! Han-yew?

We have a local TV personality who sells big lot stuff on the air. He answers his phone with "Godblessyuh 'n I epyuh?" (Mess with accents with me!)

Edited: Sep 8, 2009, 11:35pm Top

My area of Ontario has its own accent too, not so much in words as the lilt, which is distinctly Irish sounding: {the capitalised words aren't yelled, they're just said with more emphasis}
HI there, HOW ya DOIN'?
Foin, foin, JUST goin' OOT to MILK the cows. (try to sound a bit Scottish when you say cows, almost coos)

Mattress = ma'ress (said fast)
Battery = ba'ree (said fast)
the apostrophe is a kind of epiglottal stop

Sep 8, 2009, 10:22am Top

Dear Husband had a bee-keeping friend, an old man who had never been out of his corner of Robeson County except for one trip by car to Charlotte in the 30's. (He hated it. They had to stop and patch a tire about every half hour.) He spoke with a lilt that I've never heard anywhere else - not Irish although the area was populated by Scotch-Irish. (He had the original land grant for their much-reduced farm from George III.) He said, "plant-A-tion." He talked about a hurricane blowing an outhouse to "flinderation." He spoke of a distinguished local woman who came to buy vegetables from him as "the lead cow." I wish with all my heart that we had recorded him telling stories before we died.

Sep 8, 2009, 11:31am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 8, 2009, 11:33am Top

There's a town in West Virginia called Flinderation, Lizzie. Honest.
Flinderation, West Virginia

Sep 8, 2009, 3:52pm Top

Lizzie - what the heck does 'I epyuh' mean?

I am reminded of Monica Dickens (a Persephone author) coming to Australia when I was a kid to promote one of her books (One Pair of Hands). Anyway she attracted all sorts of attention because of her more famous relative and quite a crowd gathered in a Sydney bookstore for her book signing. As people approached she would say "What is your name?" and then sign the book. So a woman comes to the front of the line and she says, "What is your name?" and the woman says in a thick Australian accent, "Emma Chizzit," and Dickens writes inside the book To Emma Chizzit from Monica Dickens. And the woman says angrily, "No e'much is it?"

Sep 8, 2009, 4:07pm Top

>64 romain:

'n I epyuh
Can I help you?

Sep 8, 2009, 5:47pm Top

Spoken like a true daughter of the South, Christina! Got it in one.
Flinderation, West Virginia, eh? Good grief! ("Flinder" has a long, distinguished past and means "a tiny fragment" if I remember correctly from the OED.)
(Emma Chizzit! Love it!)
My friends and I have always collected things that folks around here say. I've posted some of these elsewhere (at least I hope it was elsewhere), but how would you translate, "I got me some brown new Terry Carter pipes to my exception tank"?
"He's eat up with roaches in his liver."
"She's eat up with that Oscar Berosus."
That's enough to be going on with.

Edited: Sep 8, 2009, 6:01pm Top

Well, let's see...we have connected brand new terra cotta pipes to the septic tank, met a dipsomaniac with cirrhosis of the liver, and a woman who, having neglected her calcium intake and weight bearing exercise, now has osteoporosis. And we're moving into the realm of Lady Mondegreen.

Sep 8, 2009, 7:51pm Top

I didn't get any of those.

Sep 8, 2009, 8:38pm Top

>67 laytonwoman3rd:: wow, well done. I'm just sitting with romain in the dunce's corner.

Sep 8, 2009, 8:53pm Top

I am very impressed, but who is Lady Mondegreen???

Sep 8, 2009, 9:42pm Top

Oh, how I was hoping someone would ask! A mondegreen is a misheard line, usually from a song or poem, but sometimes just from conversation, like the examples above. It comes from this poem:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray,
And laid him on the green.

the last line of which was misheard by someone as "And Lady Mondegreen". So...

Sep 8, 2009, 10:52pm Top

Thank you kindly, Linda, for Lady Mondegreen!
So what do you make of "Colorado pants"? (probably brown new)
And then there was our old friend who went to the Veterans' Hospital where they shoved an IBM up his arm.

Sep 8, 2009, 11:33pm Top

staring absolutely slack jawed at Linda! Exception tank - oh I'm gasping here.
I love Mondegreens (the classic: "dressed up like a douche to be a rotor in the night").
Colorado pants...tentative guess, corduroy?
This is Pennsylvania, you say? Crikey.

Sep 8, 2009, 11:40pm Top

"Colorado pants" I would say is "color of those pants" perhaps?

Edited: Sep 8, 2009, 11:53pm Top

> 64 Love the Monica Dickens story. Reminds me of when I worked for Brentano's. Jane Seymour did a signing in our store - her book was Jane Seymour's Guide to Romantic Living. A rather silly book, I must admit, but I read through it prior to the signing, and one thing that caught my eye was that although she admits that she's not much of a reader, she does like Colette. I was mad about Colette at the time and had a bit of a crush on Jane.
Back to the signing: In comes Jane, surprisingly tiny, unbelievably beautiful, in a pink silk dress with pearls and seashells sewn on it. The drill was to jot down on a post-it any special inscription you wanted her to write and put it on the front cover of your copy. Being young and silly and a bit starstruck (I wore my tux to work that day - at 2 in the afternoon!) I decided at the last minute to get an autographed copy. So I wrote "Vive Colette!" on a post-it, slapped it on the front cover, and added it to the pile to be signed for the bookstore staff. After the event, I retrieved my copy, opened it up, and read "To Viv and Colette - With love, Jane Seymour."

Sep 8, 2009, 11:55pm Top

I'm with tiffin, I think it's corduroy pants.

shoved an IBM up his arm.

IV (intravenous), I assume :)

Sep 9, 2009, 12:03am Top

Oh Andrew, that's splendid! The tux, Viv and Colette, all of it. I shall go to sleep smiling now.

Sep 9, 2009, 1:34am Top

Y'all are as bad as St. Richard!~!

Linda, that was most excellent!~!

(the classic: "dressed up like a douche to be a rotor in the night"
Good 'un Tui!~!

Good night Mrs. Calabash, where ever you are.

Sep 9, 2009, 8:00am Top

This is Pennsylvania, you say? Crikey.
Um, some parts of PA (PeeAy) speak purty good English!

Edited: Sep 9, 2009, 9:07am Top

#73 No, no...none of that can be attributed to Pennsylvania. (LizzieD is from down Sout', haina?)
The trick is to read it out loud quickly---your ear will do the work. When you say "emma chizzit" quite rapidly, you realize it's a corruption of "how much is it", and when you listen to yourself speak, you'll find you do something similar quite often. Jeet yet? No, jew? (Did you eat yet? No, did you?)

BTW, I think Christina is right---color a da pants =color of the pants. But I missed it in context -if there was one- and that's always helpful too.

We had a lot of fun mimicking accents and dialects in my house when I was a kid. My Dad could do everything from cockney to Donald Duck to a seriously tongue-tied farmer acquaintance of ours whose speech almost nobody else could understand.

Oh, "haina?"---that's Anthracite Valley for "ain't it?" the Northeastern PA equivalent of the oh-so-much- more-elegant French "n'est ce pas?".

Edited: Sep 9, 2009, 11:41am Top

Tiffin and MsDancer are right: "Colorado" = "corduroy." I can't quite explain it, but so it is. And the IBM was an I.V. And this is southeastern North Carolina (that small valley of humility between two great mountains of pride). (And most of my friends call me "P.A." by the way, but I never say, "Haina?")
The Jane Seymour story is priceless...... Thanks, Andrew!

Sep 9, 2009, 6:30pm Top

'dressed up like a douche' is from Blinded by the Light and I have always heard it like that too. But what is he REALLY saying?

Yes Andrew your Jane Seymour story takes the biscuit. I seated Julie Christie in the cinema once and she was tiny and exquisite too.

Edited: Sep 9, 2009, 6:44pm Top

The Boss is really saying "revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night".
ETA: I stand corrected---that's the Manfred Mann version. Bruce's lyrics were "cut loose like a deuce", but that didn't lead to the famous misinterpretation.

Sep 9, 2009, 8:45pm Top

Not only is it a classic Mondegreen, but it"s an ear worm as well. I"ve got it stuck in my head now!

Sep 9, 2009, 9:40pm Top

"Drunk as a lord" was a fairly common expression in my motherʻs family. A variant of it, used by a cousin of my own age was "drunk as an OWL". (!?)

My grandmotherʻs idea of the "superlative" of "drunk" was "drunk, disorderly, and refusing (sic)
to fight".

My mother didnʻt specially want to carry that
expression into her generation; she said it didnʻt "make any sense". (" ʻDrunk, disorderly, and FIGHTINGʻ would make sense." My grandmother said, "Well, I canʻt help it; thatʻs just the way they say it."

Sep 10, 2009, 10:49am Top

I'd like to see a drunk owl partying through, what?, the day, I guess....

Hope I haven't over done the PA accent....an interesting state, where culture really varies. We had "soda" where I grew up, whereas they had "pop" in Pittsburgh.

One thing I was thinking of recently was the many names for a sandwich served on long rolls. Where I grew up, it was called a hoagie. Where I live now, it's called a grinder, or sometimes a sub. Any other names for such a sandwich out there? Just curious.....

Sep 10, 2009, 11:02am Top

Hi outrageoussocks:

As I remember it:

Phiadelphia: hoagie

New York : hero

Boston: submarine

(Not limited to within the city limits of the above, ,of course, andnot ruling out other locations for any of these; and I donʻt remember where "grinder" is located).

I used the word "soda" in a long distance telephone conversation to Boston, and had to "translate" it into the local word: "tonic" -- which was the first to come to my mind, but I thought it had gone out of use, and "soda" was "standard".

Sep 10, 2009, 12:20pm Top

We have one restaurant in Scranton that sells "grinders", which are distinct from the hoagies and subs offered everywhere else in town by being baked long enough to crisp the bread, but not long enough to warm the fillings or melt the cheese.

Sep 10, 2009, 12:54pm Top

>85 rolandperkins: Roland, was your cousin German perhaps? 'Voll wie ne Eule' is a German idiom.

Sep 10, 2009, 12:55pm Top

I live on the "South Shore" in Massachusetts, which is south of Boston but north of Cape Cod. I see "grinders" more on the Cape and "subs" more in Boston, it's true! But maybe there is a subtle difference between the sandwiches and that different kinds of sandwiches are more popular in different places -- I will have to be more observant!

I confess that I don't hear "tonic" too often, though maybe as tonic water. I don't drink soda though, so I am not the best point of reference. I will listen more in that regard, too.

We do, however, have frappes instead of milkshakes! No comment on how I know that so well.......

Sep 10, 2009, 4:23pm Top

Hi outrageoussocks,

I lived briefly in Cohasset in 1973-74, but before that always North of Boston.

Thanks for the "grinder" info.

I remember frappes well -- and that non-native residents were often irked that we also had our own definition of "milk shakes" (=frappes WITHOUT the ice cream).

Sep 14, 2009, 4:59pm Top

This is reminding me of a great word usage map I had in a linguistics course. It showed how the word usage changed regionally and how border regions tended to have very specific usages of words.

For example bag and sack but in border regions one was plastic and the other was paper.

They had soda, pop, coke (used for all carbonated beverages), seltzer, cola on the map but I don't remember if tonic was on there.

It was fascinating.

Sep 14, 2009, 6:21pm Top

What's a milk shake without ice cream?? If it doesn't have ice cream in it, what does it have beside milk?

Sep 14, 2009, 7:19pm Top

That was my question, Jane.
Maren, are those isoglosses? Or does that simply refer to pronunciation. (I bet that "noot" vs. "nyewt" is an isogloss.....if the "noot" folks send their kids to Dook.)

Sep 14, 2009, 8:30pm Top

Hi Christiguc:

"Was your cousin German...?" (#89)

No, he was Irish/French Canadian, and didnʻt know any non-English language.

But thanks for the possible German connection, which I didnʻt know.

Sep 14, 2009, 10:50pm Top

Hi janeajones:
"Whatʻs a milk shake without ice cream...?"

I havenʻt made one, or a frappe-- what non-Bostonians meaning of milk shake-- either, for the past few decades,

but Iʻm pretty sure it has nothing in it besides milk -- except the flavoring (of whatever flavor "milk shake it is --so I suppose itʻs Milk + choc- olate syrup, + vanilla syrup, or + strawberry syrup, etc. (Where I worked, there wouldnʻt even be much "cetera" available.) ) I have wondered some times how such a beverage ever got started. Iʻm half Yankee, and I think only an old New England Yankee would think of basing a "new" drink on what it had subtracted from it, rather than what it had added to it. Goes back to old N.E. beliefs about the goodness of "doing without, maybe.

Sep 15, 2009, 12:31am Top

A friend of mine who grew up in Rhode Island told me that a chocolate shake is called a "cabinet" there.

Sep 15, 2009, 1:10am Top

Yes, Iʻve heard of "cabinets"; but in my shake-making years I never travelled much, I didnʻt find out exactly what a cabinet was/is.

Sep 15, 2009, 1:41am Top

that just doesn't make any sense.

Jun 27, 2011, 11:01pm Top

I see that this was a brief exhange in 2009, but for the record, the use of the word "teechus" was likely, tedious. Our folks in eastern Kentucky pronounced it "tee-jus". It means boring, but was sometimes applied to things that went on for a while. Therefore, a toothache that endured could possibly be described as "teechus"?

Jun 28, 2011, 7:11am Top

This was a good thread. Glad to see it revived. And by someone named "whozis", which seems appropriate. I love all those almost-words that stand in for the word we can't think of, or the name of something we just don't know. Whatsit. Whachamacallit. Whozeewhatsit. Thingamabob. Thingmy. (Which I see spelled "thingummy' sometimes, but do not endorse.)

Jun 28, 2011, 8:38am Top

But it's spelled 'thingummy' because that's how it's pronounced!

Jun 28, 2011, 10:47am Top

With three syllables??? Not in my world. I see that spelling and think "thin" and "gummy".

Jun 28, 2011, 11:16am Top

It's a thingummy to me.

Jun 28, 2011, 11:21am Top

But do you say it with an "uh" in the middle? I've never heard that. I'm switching to "whooznat".

Jun 28, 2011, 11:27am Top

thing uh me but said fast

Jun 28, 2011, 11:31am Top

I think of it as thing-a-me but know it isn't spelled that way. I'd also opt for thingummy. The one that has always got me is tsk tsk. There's no way to pronounce that. I presume it is supposed to be a clicking sound but most people say tisk tisk so why not write tisk tisk?

Jun 28, 2011, 11:35am Top

#106 Everyone I know must so it SO fast that the middle syllable just gets lost.

#107 It's that disapproving sound you make with your tongue against the roof of your mouth. No vocalization, so no real "pronunciation" either. It's like trying to spell the sound of someone humming or screaming without words.

Jun 28, 2011, 11:59am Top

Yes, Barbara, it is more of an 'a' sound. I've just said it out loud about 10 times. Glad there is no one here!

Jun 28, 2011, 4:36pm Top

Y'all are cracking me up!~!

Jul 8, 2011, 9:01am Top

>97 Leseratte2: - Yes, we had cabinets in Rhode Island! And grinders, too!

My family has some odd ones that are strictly ours, and nothing to do with regionality. My father once had a patient, an elderly gentleman, who used to intersperse "a thing on it" in his speech, much the same way a person might say "like" or "y'know." So we say that a lot. Nobody understands, but they don't need to. ;)

We always say "destructions" instead of "instructions," probably due to some family toddler's mispronunciation. Same with "fair coke" for "fur coat," which came from me as a toddler.

A frog is always a "flog," for some reason which nobody remembers.

Jul 8, 2011, 9:34am Top

>111 miss_read: - we say 'destructions' in my family too... I have a feeling it might be in Winnie the Pooh?

One of the expressions my friend Mel and I use is 'shrugelero' for 'I don't know' (accompanied with a shrug) - comes from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, where one character made hideous garments which were half shrug, half bolero...

And then there are endless expressions used in my family:
"More once" (more than once)
"It's always the nose"
"That's not as nice as you possibly could be, if you tried your very hardest."
"Guess you don't know 'spressions"
"heavy boots"
"It's different for cuddlies"
etc. etc.!

That was fun, reminiscing.

Jul 8, 2011, 9:40am Top

And for expletive-substitutes, I often say 'Lorcan Dempsey'. He is a notable librarian who goes around giving presentations to librarians, including us at the Bodleian in Oxford - I thought his name was too wonderful not to use repeatedly.

Jul 8, 2011, 12:48pm Top

And we have: yesternight for last night
Mount Narier for Mount Ranier
all from kiddies of course so not a true fit into this thread but fun, nontheless.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 8:59pm Top

Speaking of eves (114),I remember that my grandfather
(187_?-- 1944) said "Hallows' E'en" where we say "Halloween".
On Oct. 31, 1943, he quoted a llttle of a (Folk?)-poem, which
began, "The sleep he had on Hallows' E'en / Could* not have been so fine..."
My grandfather was from South Armagh,Northern Ireland. I'm assuming the topic was an obnoxious landlord who had a rather violent "trick" played on him. (From what I've read "trick-or-treating" was done on St. Stephen's Day (Dec. 26). But Hallowe'en, in many European countries, had its Tricks-- without the "Treat" option.
I realized, even at age 12, that Oct. 31 was the Eve of All Saints'
(aka Hallows') Day, so the arhcaic phrase didn't surprise me, but I wish I had listened more carefully for
the substance of the poem.

*pronounced "cooed"

Jul 9, 2011, 7:27pm Top

Wait! Wait!!! I'm still stuck on "us at the Bodleian in Oxford.." Really????

Jul 10, 2011, 3:42am Top

Ah, yes, I am a (very) part-time librarian there! Just finished a contract working in Rare Books, and now working ad hoc in Reader Services.

Jul 10, 2011, 4:34pm Top

I do believe that I would lick the floors (although I can't imagine anybody hiring me to do that - or sweep them for that matter) if it would get me into the place!

Jul 10, 2011, 7:09pm Top

I'll let you in without doing that ;) (actually, I don't have those powers, but... you can go on one of the official tours, if you're ever in Oxford!)

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