Sunday, June 28, 2015

Heavens to Murgatroyd

My father had a saying for everything. In fact, even after his passing, his daughters still repeat his quips. It got me to thinking about the source of these thing he said. Here you have some common and perhaps uncommon phrases/idioms that might be part of your life. Enjoy.

Heavens to Murgatroyd (the phrase that brought this all on): Well, this one originated in a movie in 1944. The movie was Meet the People with the phrase said by Bert Lahr. It was later a common phrase often spoken by Snaggletooth on the Yogi Bear Show. The name Murgatroyd came from the surname of a long line of English aristocracy.

Stitch in time saves nine:  An early English proverb that has been around since 1732. It has to do with mending. Mending a little hole will be more efficient than waiting to stich up a big rip. Hm. Not hard to reason that one out.

Cat out of the bag:  First in print in England (again) in 1760. Two possibilities on this one. It could actually have meant to tell a secret or as some scholars (if there are such scholars) think it came from the use of the nine of tails which were kept in bags on ships. I prefer to go with the secret.

That's all she wrote:  (American) Probably originated in WWII having to do with the Dear John Letter. Yep, that's all she wrote.

Tail wagging the dog: (American)  From The Daily Republican paper regarding in 1872, dealing with the Cincinnati Convention thinking it could control the entire Democratic Party. Woof.

I'll be a monkey's uncle: Came into use in sometime after 1926. It was used in the Scopes Trials. Hm.

Hold your horses (Dad used this one on me a lot):  (American) Originally hold your hosses. That was back in 1844. Sometime later, diction took over and hosses turned into horses. Pretty much self-explanatory.

Kick the bucket:  (English) In 1785 the link between bucket and death was defined in Grose's Dictionary of Vulgar Tongue: to kick the bucket, to die. Obviously, it had to do with kicking the bucket out from under someone who just happened to have a noose around the neck. 

Till the cows come home: (Scottish) It has no real discovery time. It was probably some farmer's wife asking when her husband would return from the field. He stated the obvious, "Not till the cows come home."

Barking up the wrong tree:  (American) First seen in  James Kirke Paulding's Westward Ho! in 1832. I can just imagine some silly dog barking up a tree while the prey sits in the next tree watching. It's right up there with our dog having a heart attack when dad took him hunting.

Whoops a daisy: (American) Began as ups-a-daisy. First recorded as 'whoops' in The New Yorker in 1925. However, I think of Ups-a-daisy as picking up a fallen child versus 'whoops-daisy' when the child falls down. No matter which it is, there is a daisy involved. 

So how did this column topic come into being today? Well, I find that my grandchildren look at me strangely when I say something like "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!' So I asked my sister June just exactly who was Jehoshaphat? After which ensued a long conversation about Dad and his predictable sayings. I seem to be the keeper of my dad's sayings as well as my own sayings. My three-year-old grandson says 'cool' just about as much as does his grandma. We pick up phrases and just carry them along with us.

Now you just might be called accountable for some random phrase that pops out of your mouth by a grandchild who doesn't miss a thing. Might want to get online and check The Phrase Finder. Better safe than sorry.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The little engine and the thief

It sat on a shelf in the garage of our house on Teagues South Road. A newly married couple. Their first house. Family friends lived across the road and Mom and Dad a few miles away. A dream home for this young couple. The toy sat upon a shelf in the garage.

Most of the time I felt safe living back the lane on Neff Road, except for the times when Dad grabbed the shotgun and dashed out the door. An invisible hand clinched my stomach until Dad came back in again. Usually some varmint was trying to get eggs or the fat hen who laid them. A fox. A raccoon. An old barn owl. I like chicken and eggs, and so did they. Dad wasn't about to share. There were times, however, when Dad thought that the varmint might just have two legs. Once in a while someone would dump something in the creek. A couple of times someone had stolen gasoline out of the gas tank that sat back by the chicken house. Pretty nervy if you ask me. Dad was ready.

We didn't lock the house back then. Everyone trusted everyone else in the community. It was a thing called respect. Trust that a neighbor wouldn't cheat you. And, for the most part, life continued that way peacefully. The keys were in the ignition in the car in the driveway. No tools were locked away. And, by the same token, it was a time when no one talked about problems or bad things that happened in their families. We never knew if a wife and children were beaten. We never knew if a child was molested. It was a time of  'never airing your laundry'.

Sometimes if a young man got into trouble, perhaps stealing something, he was given the choice between jail and the military. Often to compensate a farmer, he would be made to work for that same farmer. More than likely he got a pretty good 'lickin' when he got home.

Trust. It was a thing I was brought up to believe in. It kept me a little naive. Moving to the city showed me a new side to humanity. It showed me what was lurking outside of Neff Road and probably often in that same community. I was just 18 when my new co-worker bought dead bolts for my door. I learned the rules of driving alone at night. I learned that not everything is as safe as it seems.

Then I married. We moved into our sweet, first house. A house that rambled with backrooms, coal room and attached garage. We could lock the house but not the coal room and backroom. Since my new husband was a town boy who knew the ropes, we locked the house. Stored in the old garage were things we had to still unpack. On a shelf sat three cast iron train cars. Only one engine was complete. It was a treasure. My husband and I both worked and came home late in the day. Weekends were the only times we went to the garage. And, as you have probably guessed, someone had stolen the little engine. I lost my trust in the neighborhood that came and went around our house.

My little grandson loves to play with the two broken cars. He always notices that the wheels are missing, yet he still lines them up and plays choo-choo. Each time my heart aches that I cannot give him the little engine that we loved. I wonder at the person who took it, thinking it sat on that shelf for his or her taking. Somewhere it sits on a shelf or in the hands of another child....a stolen toy.

Life was not always as it seemed on Neff Road as with any neighborhood. Yet we try to think the best of people.  I know that no community is immune. I don't live in fear, but I live with an awareness of my surroundings and the safety of my home and family.  We teach children about strangers, and by our example, we show them how to be safe. The little engine and the thief taught me a life lesson. They taught me that not everything was safe on Neff Road.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A little elbow grease

Despite the ease of pushing buttons, digitally doing most everything, the little thrills of the past are missing. The spin of a phone dial, the fountain pen, the pop of the percolator, cold water in an aluminum cup, squeezing a flour sifter. All of the sounds and simplicity of another day.

Someone posted a picture asking if anyone knew the use of the pictured item. These things are posted all the time, but this one was my own personal favorite. When I was small, I could not work it. Just did not have the 'elbow grease'. The day finally came when I could give it a mighty try. I put all my energy into it, pulled the lever and crackle, crack and I had ice cubes. Yes, we had to wait for the cubes in the tray to freeze. It wasn't as easy as pushing a button on the frig and getting a glass of ice. It was an experience. Those cubes were waited for and yanked free from their icy bed. Well, that might be a bit dramatic, but I loved it when at last I could pull that lever and make ice cubes.

Relics of the not-so-long-ago past: The rotary egg beater that made egg fly if you cranked it fast enough. Cranking flour from the bin in the cabinet. The insulated Thermos cooler with the nifty little spigot. The sound of those first kernels of corn popping as you turn the handle on top of the popper. Bottle cap trivets made by every female in the community. The fun things that made life a little more interesting.

We didn't have clothespins that clipped. Ours just pushed down over the clothesline. My grandfather had the clip-type. I could not wait until I was old enough to get married and have clip clothespins. My aspirations evidently were not very high. The ringer washer, the egg washer, even the rabbit ears on the TV were all things that entertained a silly girl back the lane on Neff Road. Those were days when I was a kid.

The next generations said good-bye to ghetto blasters, record players, transistor radios and tape decks. Records gave way to tapes which just gave way. The blender stepped aside for the food processor. Manual typewriters moved over for the electric. The day and age of savoring a process was erased by instant gratification.

The refrigerator now spits ice out into my glass offering cubed or crushed. Even a child can do it. I miss those steps it took to accomplish a task yet must confess that I have given over to the 'new' with great gusto. Instant hot water, purified water, baked potatoes in minutes and a phone that does everything but dress me in the morning. I guess we just progress and remember fondly those little things that make our memories so special. Things like ice cube trays.