What-Cha-Ma-Call-It ?

It’s a ‘doo-hicky

       TV changes and forms our language. A word used in some manner today, and liked, will be world wide tomorrow, and if not liked, dropped just as swiftly.

We forget how powerful TV is. At one time everyone in the USA spoke the same language, but did it differently. The Western Twang; the Latino of the Southwest, and soft, smooth words of the Southern States, were all unique, and used only in their own areas.

Some so beautiful they were like music to us, but once TV brought those differences right into every home and office, they were criticized, ridiculed, called hillbilly (or worse), and soon, within a blink of an eye were gone and, sadly, within but a few years all regional personality of our language was lost.

But the words and phrases hung on with that generation and my sister, Bernice Ursenbach and I started remembering the ones Mom and Dad used, and I betcha you heard these in your childhood homes, too.

When Mom was preparing a meal, she was fixing dinner, or, if just a snack, she was fixing a bite or two. And when the meal was over, did your mother ask you to side up the table? Meaning to clear off the used dishes? Ours did.

There was always a what-cha-ma-call-it, a hoot-en-nanny, or a ‘doo-hicky around, and they’d ask one of us to go fetch one of them. And when some overweight person dieted and lost some of the poundage, did your parents say that the person had fallen off? Yes, and everyone knew what was meant, too.

If someone or something was middling it meant they were someplace between the worst and the best. Just middling, they’d say. And if someone were playing Possum they were acting as if asleep, and usually to get out of doing some task they didn’t like. And piddling around meant they were wasting their time, and someone who was frugal was called tight.

To tote meant to carry; to wait on meant to assist, and just might be the basis, or derivative, of Waiter. Being feisty meant one was ready to fight; and one who was laid up was sick and unable to work. And I can still hear my mother saying so and so had been laid up for a week, (month, year). I betcha all these were familiar to you, heard as a kid, but not in use today.

       Caught with their pants down meant they were utterly surprised over some unexpected event. Barking up the wrong tree meant someone was trying to do something that was never going to work; and dying or dead on the vine meant some idea had had a good start, but was never to be completed.

If you were told you better go plow new ground it meant that what you’re doing isn’t working and you might as well stop it, and try something else. Scarce as hen’s teeth meant non-existent; and came with your tail a-dragging meant you were utterly beaten and worn out.

Ready to Talk Turkey meant you were ready to bargain; to go hog wild meant to have a great celebration; to go off half-cocked meant you knew only part of the situation; and if someone were three sheets to the wind‘ it meant they were drunk.

If someone were too big for their britches it meant that person had a big ego and thought he was more important than he really was; and, to finish the thought, needed to be whittled down to size.

And then there are two, and I think they’re saying the same thing, about some hoped-for event, but voiced their thoughts from 180 degree different angle. One was if the good Lord’s willing, and the creeks don’t rise and the other, come hell or high water. See??? Same thoughts, but my oh, my, in what different ways.

Maybe you’ll recall some of the above differently, but I hope they make you smile, for as casually as we use the lingo of today, these were the lingo of theirs.


Feel free to Leave a Reply (just below), or email Ethel at ethelbrad@comcast.net


5 thoughts on “What-Cha-Ma-Call-It ?

  1. This is old but still in use:

    ‘Put out to pasture’, meaning someone or something is no longer of any use animals, machery, Tools, clothing, cars,

    It was a synonym for ‘ Retirement for animals’ Cows and horses were put out to pastu re when no longer c apable of giving milk or the horse no long strong enough to do farm work. Mom and Dad it used for anything that was worn out and couldn’t be fixed. A new one was needed. tools ,cars, clothing, in fact anything that was worn out and a new one needed. And when men quit or were ‘let go’ from their regular job, they were ‘ put out to pasture’.

    This post was so, so simplistic,

  2. So Crazy Edith, Put Out To Pasture . . .

    is that like “Hold Your Horses?”

    as in “Wait a minute”

  3. Ethel, you forgot or never knew about ‘barking up the wrong tree;
    and ‘batten up the hatches’ . The Hatches had to do with ships, and my grandparents used to say that when they thought a storm was coming. Keep up your weekly column. Don’t a lways agree w ith you, but what the heck? Keith from Kansas

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