I Thought My Dad’s Old Sayings Were Just ‘Kentucky-Isms’ But I Was Wrong
I'm not writing this on a particularly typical December day; with the sun having set, at this writing, it is 67 degrees.
I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST KENTUCKY SLANG
So it wouldn't be appropriate for me to trot out "it's colder than a well digger's butt in December," something my dad used to say all the time when it was cold outside. And it got a laugh out of me every single time. I suspect he used ANOTHER word for "butt" around his buddies and cleaned it up around us kids. It never occurred to me to feel bad for well diggers; they must have really cold butts.
And now on to an expression of exasperation that my sister and I NEVER understood until we just asked him one day well into our adulthood. What on EARTH does "for garden seed" mean? I'll give you some context. If he messed up something while he was doing the bills, let's say, he'd exclaim, "Well, for garden seed!" We found out that was merely a synonym for "for God's sake." Mom didn't like us using "God" that way, so Dad took the first letters of the last two words in the phrase and came up with a substitute. I appreciate the cleverness.
SOUTHERN COLLOQUIALISMS AND THE FUNERAL BUSINESS
Another one my dad used a lot was he/she/that/it moved "faster than a dose of salts through a widow woman." I did some digging and learned that "salts" means "laxative" and that "widow woman" was used as a reference to a much older lady. That one was a big hit among my friends in the dorm at Western Kentucky University.
How about "gag a maggot on a gut wagon?" That's pretty gross, right? Well, in a way, it's kind of surprising my DAD said it because he had a fairly strong stomach; he was a licensed undertaker and embalmed bodies. Not much made his stomach turn. But in another way, it's not at all surprising. He was always about EMPHASIS and, well, it's funny. Good combination. By the way, you use it in exactly the way you're probably thinking--whenever you see something really disgusting.
SOUTHERN IDIOM FOR WHEN YOU'RE REALLY IRRITATED
And then there's our favorite, used whenever we'd correct him about something or disagree with him, which NEVER happened when we were children. If we heard this in our youth it's probably because of something MOM said. But in his irritation, Dad would utter, "Well, excuse me for livin', I fell off the hearse." My sister and still use it today, but only for laughs. And again, his career in the funeral business informs his choice of idioms.
I think I've hit the highlights. But, as you can see with links that I've provided, they AREN'T just old Kentucky sayings. They do have a history, except for that last one. That's just some guy responding to an old Facebook post. But he KNEW it, didn't he?
I like to use these old phrases from time to time, but neither my sister nor I will EVER be able to stick the delivery like Dad did.