Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dear Aunt Gussie Plus Aunt Susie's Kittens Meet Uncle Wiggily

It's interesting how we each view our experience as normative. But to quote George Gershwin in Porgy and Bess, it ain't necessarily so. There is a Grand Canyon of differences in world view, culture, and language understanding lying (laying?) between my mouth and your ear. Or my monitor and yours.

As I may have mentioned before (wink, wink) , I grew up in Texas surrounded by two generations of the deep south (Mother and Grandmother, both Georgia gals). Their speech and that of my Dad, a native Texan, was peppered with all sorts of phrases that became commonplace to me. I used them often growing up but to this day, I must admit, I don't really know what half of them mean. If you can shed some light on this, please feel free to comment.

By the way, the comment section below is always open. Feel free to jump into the conversation anytime. I would love to hear from you. (hint, hint)

Mom's favorite phrase was a statement of commitment to a plan of action--"if it hair lips every dog in Georgia". I always figured (hmmm, I suppose the word figure is a figure of speech?) that meant there must be a passel(a whole lot) of dogs in Georgia, but as a child was uncertain that a bunch of hairy lipped dogs would matter all that much.

Grandmother was partial to (fond of) "bless your heart" and "ugly as home made sin". If someone was as ugly as home made sin, I suppose their heart needed to be blessed. Of course, because of my tender years I never was educated as to what home made sin was in particular. I could only guess. And did that mean that manufactured sin was nicer looking?

I neither had an Aunt Gussie, nor an Aunt Susie, but they were always addressed when a stressful situation arose, as in, "dear Aunt Gussie plus Aunt Susie's kittens!". If I heard "Katie bar the door", I knew someone was in BIG trouble, hopefully my sister (hi, iPodite :) and not me.

My Dad, although of kind and gentle nature, gravitated toward the more violent phrases. I wish I had a nickel for every time he said, "for Pete's sake". Even in THIS economy I would be wealthy! I asked him once who Pete was, and why Pete should be so honored. He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. When Dad was really perturbed about something he would query,"what in the Sam hill?" Again, we, or at least I, was neither acquainted with a Sam nor the location of his mystical hill.

Dad worked hard for a living repairing commercial laundry equipment and boilers. When the day's work was particularly difficult, he would describe his fatigue as "I feel like I've been rode hard and put up wet". That's a cowboy term(I think) for a well exercised, sweaty horse. If the horse is not properly cooled down, brushed, and blanketed before being stabled for the night it can develop some serious respiratory problems.

Take one imaginative child, give her a colorful language void of the raunchiness and violence of modern expletives, add a sprinkling of bedtime stories filled with Uncle Wiggily's Travels, a collection of the adventures of an elderly rabbit gentleman and the fanciful names of the creatures he encountered, and you end up with an adult that STILL thinks literally, and gently.

In case you did not have the privilege of accompanying the elderly rabbit gentleman in your youth, here is an excerpt from the end of one of his tales (no pun intended, really!)

"So that's all for the present, if you please, but in case my fur hat doesn't sleep out in the hammock all night, and catch cold in the head so that it sneezes and wakes up the alarm clock, I'll tell you next about Uncle Wiggily and the water lillies."