August Column Winner

Signs our language is becoming drab

Jeff Kaley, Waurika News-Democrat

One of the interesting things about being a Gemini is that we never have a problem finding someone to talk to. Since it's the nature of Gemini to see both sides of issues, even if we're marooned on an uninhabited Pacific atoll we can have lively conversations — with ourselves.
Psychiatric types might call this ability “schizophrenia,” but head shrinkers have to label everything; Gemini just call it normal.
Why, just the other night, after arriving home late from putting out an edition of the News-Democrat I was having the following chat with myself:
Me: Man. it's been an 18-hour day and I’m plumb tuckered out.
Myself: I feel your pain, bro.
The distance between both ends of the candle gets shorter every year, doesn't it?
Me: No doubt. Not sure how much wick I have left.
Myself: Same here. But in describing your weariness, did you just revive the old chestnut plumb tuckered out'? Makes you sound like a hick
Me: Well, Mr. Sophisticated, as you well know, I’m country born and bred. I’ve always relished the phrases, euphemisms and colloquialisms of the Great Unwashed.
Myself: Yeah, that's a trait you have that's often embarrassed me.
Me: Ah. go soak your head.
But before you do. where do you think the phrase “plumb tuckered out" came from?
What resulted was a trip to consult the Great and Powerful Google, where me and myself looked up the derivation of “plumb tuckered out.” We discovered: Tucker is a New England colloquialism from the early 19th century that means “to tire” or “to become weary.” Plumb is just an intensifier that’s akin to “clear" or “well-nigh" or the hoity toity word “prodigiously." Having caught a second wind, me and myself began to think of other old-time expressions that, unfortunately, are falling out of fashion, thus robbing our lingo of its charm and uniqueness.
As I’ve proposed in previous columns, our language is sadly deteriorating and getting dagnab boring the further we plunge into the 21st century.
When I was a kid, if I was feeling ill it could be diagnosed in so many ways: “poorly." “puny," “punk,” “peaked" (pee-kid), “not up to snuff,” “stoved up," “off your feed," “a hitch in your giddy-up," “green around the gills,” just to name a few.
These days, we re pretty much stuck with “not feeling well" or “I feel like (insert your own descriptive word).”
How vanilla.
In describing my weary condition that evening, I could have said I’d “worn myself down to the nubbins." That’s a wonderful phrase that should remain in the language, even if many of us aren’t sure what a “nubbin” is or how worn you have to become to reach it.
You don’t hear folks using the phrase “Land o' Goshen" much these days, as in, “Land o’ Goshen, our economy is really in a pickle.”
The phrase was common when I was young, but today’s techno children seldom — if ever — use the expression. And if they do, are they aware Land o’
Goshen is a Biblical reference to a land protected by God or a place of peace?
Some aging euphemisms are still in our language, but they've gotten mangled.
The other day, I heard a guy say he had “a long road to hoe." Well, sakes alive, hoeing a road would be a challenge; more so than hoeing a “row," which is correct.
Watching an interview on TV recently, the guy being interviewed was wondering. “What in the Sam Hell is going on?" What the script-writer really meant was to invoke the name of our ol’ bud “Sam Hill." Samuel W. Hill was a well known surveyor in Michigan in the 18th century copper boom.
His propensity for profanity was legendary, and eventually Sam Hill became a polite substitute for “h-e-double toothpicks.”
After expending the last of our energy coming up with examples of the further erosion of colorful American phrases, me and myself finally hit the wall. We were too pooped to pop. Wiped cleaner than a blackboard. We felt like we’d been rode hard n' put up wet.
So, me and myself decided the language — however bland, unexciting and incorrectly used it’s becoming — would have to take care of itself.
We were a Gemini who needed to saw some logs and catch some Z’s.


No comments (Add your own)

Add a New Comment


Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.