I fall in love too easily. With words and phrases, that is. Maybe it’s because I’m a copywriter, but I don’t think so…
What I’m talking about in this post are all the words and expressions we slip slide into our everyday speech. “That guy is as dumb as a box of rocks,” when we think our Golden Retriever might be smarter than a casual acquaintance, or “Tarry awhile,” when we want someone to hang around a bit longer. In short, the things we say that add richness and color and nuance and all the other good stuff to a human interchange.
The other day, I was having lunch with a friend who thinks that all the fun is being leached out of the language. He was referring to corporate-speak, I think, which can certainly take the joy out of most everything. (Ever winced when you’ve heard someone ask, “How can we language that?”)
In the investigative spirit, I sat down with a friend and her son, Phillino, at Starbucks just a few days after this conversation. Without a huge amount of trouble, we came up with a great, if short, list. Among the entries:
• You git what you git, and you don’t throw a fit.
• Another country heard from… (Thanks to my late mom)
• You’re in a world of trouble.
• Whazzup, dude?
• He’s in deep kimchee (or doo-doo, take your pick)
• Burning the candle at both ends (Thanks to Edna St. Vincent Millay)
• No half-stepping
• Upside the head
I spent a lot of time during my formative years in Virginia and Louisiana, so I’ve got a particular love of Southernisms. One of my faves is “hissy fit,” and you don’t have one, you pitch one. As in “Mom pitched a hissy fit when she saw my new nose ring.”
O.K., your turn now. I’m fixin’ to go off and get me some lunch.
Michael Neuendorff says
Love it! Ya’all came up with a fun post here. It reminds me of the time I was in Japan teaching English. It’s these slang phrases that are the hardest to teach. Many ESL speakers never pick these up. In a special class I played the song Original Gangster from Ice T and we had a great time picking apart all the rap in there.
I still recall when he said, ‘Crack my 40 and laugh.’ I had to explain that he’s talking about opening up a jumbo can of beer. That was the easy part. Explaining why the 40 is a part of their popular culture was not so easy. Thanks for kindling these fun memories about our vibrant language!
Jeannie Shea says
Your comment about “southernisms” brought back memories. My mom’s family is from Georgia and I love the way all the relatives down there tawk. I remember watching “Crimes of the Heart” with my mom and sister, and the three of us laughing hysterically over the “southernisms”. It starred Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek, but the real gem was the underrated Tess Harper as cousin “Chick”. I believe her signature phrase was “I’m gonna snatch you baldheaded!” Mom said people used to really say that.
I moved to New Jersey about 10 years ago and was appalled by some of the language I heard (even more so when it came out of the mouths of the parents, not the kids). Now, I say New Jersey and you think “Sopranos,” I know, but it is a very diverse state characterized by 4 different regions. Anyway, not to get off-track, those who have language issues (if you look deep into their family tree) are transplants from Staten Island and Brooklyn. I thought at first when I heard someone say the word “ask” and pronounced it like the tool “axe” that it might have been street language or a pronunciation issue (like some oriental’s who have difficulty with “l’s” and “r’s”). I heard hip-hop street kids speaking like this, but then I stumbled upon adults using it this way too.
It drives me crazy when people get lazy with words. I think in some ways, industry jargon and corporate acronyms are no better than “axe.” Is it too much to ask to take the time to speak English?
What do you think?
I grew up in Northern New York state on the St. Lawrence River where every sentence ended in “eh?” Yes, Bob and Doug MacKenzie from SNL were famous Great White North “hosers.” Where I grew up, we spoke Canadien (not French). There were some doozies there too. I’ve lived in Northern New York, Rochester, NY, Milwaukee, WI (which also has its own language), Stamford, CT, Winston-Salem, NC, Cincinnati, OH, Westchester County, NY and now at the “Jersey Shore” in New Jersey. My language has been influenced by my environment. I speak English (and a little French).
Deborah Hoard says
My fathers’ 2nd wife was from the South. She was taught that no proper Southern lady ever swore. So instead of saying “I swear”, she would say “I swanee”. Just loved it!