Thinking of my dear old Mum, and the things she used to say. As a good Catholic lady swearing was not permitted, but she managed to get a few expletives out that almost sounded like the real thing.
For instance, when shocked she would say “Cripes!” or “Jeebers” which with the right volume sounded quite authentic. Then there was “shite” which is a derivative of you know what. The strangest was when she said she looked like the “wreck of the Hesperus,” which later required a Google search and revealed a true and tragic sea-faring event.
She had strange names for our bodily functions too. For example, menstrual pain was referred to as “pinny pain” because a pinny was another name for an apron, which would cover the offending area. Our reproductive organs were called “down there”, or more daringly, our “crease”. Hmm. The front bottom and the back bottom were pretty obvious I suppose.
If somebody left a smell in the toilet it was a “stench”. If somebody broke wind she said, “did you speak?” With four daughters ranging from 5 years old to 15, she had plenty of practice in giving us lifestyle guidance encouraging us to keep men away from those forbidden areas.
A bra was a “bosom coat,” and a singlet was a “shimmy” (probably a chemise). Our undies were “drawers” and we wore “frocks”. We went on “outings” on the bus, and at the beach, we wore our “togs”.
A woman wearing a questionable get-up was a “tart”, and a very young girl of questionable morals was a “little tart”. No judgement there.
And then there were the universal ones which are still used today, “just wait till your father gets home” was well used, “because I said so” was another, “Close the door, you weren’t born in a tent”, an especially popular was “get that look off your face, the wind might change,” and the one I hated most when faced with an unappetising dinner was “well think about all the starving children in Africa,” finally if we were bored we were “mooching about”.
When I moved to Australia with my husband years ago my Mother in Law astounded me with a few obscure clangers. She was as “dry as a wooden God” (thirsty) and if an unattractive woman walked past she “had a face like a dropped pie,” I thought that was a particularly mean comment. Also if someone had a big mouth they had a “mouth like a torn pocket,” I loved that one as it was so descriptive.
Wherever we grow up, we are influenced by our parent’s communication style. I have fond memories of mum’s quaint vocabulary. She was a very creative woman who felt imprisoned by the mundane routine of her life. So when a strange word floats up in my memory, it usually brings a smile to my face (dial).
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