There is a Word for It

  • Sunday, September 23, 2018 4:25am
  • Life

Visiting with my friend the other day, she used the word “slumgullion” to describe what she had fixed to eat when her granddaughters called and said they were on their way out to visit She then described a thrown together soup from whatever she had handy. Sounded good to me and I’m sure the kids loved it.

My family used that word much the same way. Anything we threw together in a hurry was “slumgullion”, not only soups, but cottage cheese mixed with grape jelly, or ice cream with several toppings all at once. “Slumgullion” originally meant a less that pleasant mixture not necessarily food. It had its beginnings with early sailors and progressed to the California miners, then graduated into local vernacular to mean any unlikely mixture.

I hadn’t heard that word for a long time and it made me think about other good words we no longer hear, or use. “Flabbergasted” for instance. That is such a perfect word for what it means. Little kids love it. They giggle and say it over and over the first time they hear it (better than some first time pronouncements out of the mouths of babes). My mom used it often but it has gone out of favor now and instead we say ‘blown away’.

And then there is ‘Hell’s Bells!” used by everybody’s mom if they needed an expletive. If it was a really serious frustration she might add “and little fishes”. I’m not sure what the modern equivalent is. I’m afraid to speculate because it probably has four letters and begins with ‘F‘.

Also “dunderhead”. That is the name my dad used to call someone (usually me) who did something really dumb, but also funny, like grab the electric fence, or back the John Deere into the watering trough. Some of his ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch, and that word always sounded like it came from them. I never heard anyone else use it, and now it would be birdbrain, I suppose, or knot-head (another old one) or something really insulting considering the social milieu these days.

My mother-in-law and her sister often used the word ‘copacetic’, meaning ‘all right’ or ‘in good order’. I wondered why they just didn’t say ‘Okay!’ but apparently it was a term they were taught or picked up as children and it just carried into their lifetime vocabulary. I used it in an email recently and my friend replied “I love that word ‘copacetic’…” so I guess other people have heard it once or twice, too, but not in conversation these days.

How about ”hoosegow” for jail, or ‘britches’ for pants. “Galoot” for a male klutz (as opposed to ‘Blonde’ for female?). Today he’d probably be called a ‘red-neck’. Then there is ’doo-dad’ and ‘poppycock’, such neat words we don’t hear any longer that are also fun to say. Vocalize “hum-dinger”; then say ‘winner’ or ‘hit’. The meaning is the same but just voicing ‘hum-dinger’ make the subject seem more outstanding.

Another term that has gone by the wayside is ‘supper’. When I was a kid, supper was the evening meal. We ate ‘dinner’ at noon. It was usually a substantial meal, as opposed to ‘lunch’ which we carried to school and was normally a sandwich and fruit, or carrot sticks and maybe a cookie. I’m not sure when we began interchanging ‘dinner’ for ‘supper’ or when supper dropped out of common usage. These days no one eats supper and dinner is the evening meal. Lunch usually takes care of noon time. Incidentally, just the opposite of good health practice according to nutritionists. One’s big meal should be at noon: Dinner, and a smaller repast in the evening: Supper.

Words change as society changes, I guess. My grandmother used the word ‘shirtwaist’ instead of ‘blouse’. It was a word that came into use during her young years, and was common in the Anne of Green Gables books, so I DID know what it meant, but found it quaint (to say the least). Currently, “shirt’ has again almost taken over from blouse and I often have to correct myself when talking fashion with the granddaughters. They don’t understand ‘slacks’ either (that term is described as ‘dated’ in the definition), And that is not to mention ‘saddle oxfords’ or ’underskirt‘ and if I say ‘tenny-runners’ I really get the look. Of course this is from women who wear crocs and hoodies. I‘d like to be there when they try to talk to their grand kids. Fiddlesticks! It’s hard enough being a dinosaur grandma; I probably shouldn’t speak the language, too.

So I asked a group of like-minded people, all over 50, about words they remembered , and they came up with “jitney” for jalopy, (then we remembered we hadn’t heard that one for awhile either) in place of ‘old car‘. And some self-explanatory ones: “knuckle head”, “dad-blame it”, “young-uns”, ‘gallivant’,’undershirt’. “My stars and garters!“ we had fun speaking our language again and being understood.

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