After I put the coffee pot on to perk this morning, I started to unload the dishwasher. Since I hate unloading the flatware basket, I always do it first. I carefully removed it from its slots in the machine’s front door and started to lay it on the cabinet when the latch abruptly opened and dumped all the clean spoons, forks, knives, peelers, spatulas, and God only knows what else into the floor. Immediately from somewhere deep in the remotest recesses of my brain, I thought, “Man, I sure am fumble-fisted this morning.”
Laughter gurgled up from my belly. Where on earth did that expression come from? I hadn’t heard anyone say that in decades, probably not since it came from Grandpa Hayes’ mouth, and he died when I was 19 years old. That was a while back.
“Fumble-fisted!” What on earth is going on in my brain? I shudder to think.
Recently, a student was speaking to me about his C- grade.
“Mrs. Ellis, I just don’t see how I could possibly have a 71 average,” he moaned. “My mama is going to kill me.”
I’ve noticed that students rarely worry about grades until taking them home to mama is imminent.
“Well, John, I don’t understand myself,” I replied. “It seems to me that it should be somewhere in the 50’s.”
“Oh, no, ma’am,” he said. “I’ve worked a little bit. You know I’ve learned something in here, even if my grades don’t show it.”
“Well, John, I’m sure your mama will understand when you explain that to her. You’d have learned a lot more and your grades would show it if you weren’t so dad-blamed lazy,” I replied.
“Dad-blamed?” He asked. “What does that mean? Is that a bad word?”
He started laughing. “Mrs. Ellis, I think you just said a bad word.”
What I had said had dated me for sure. My mama used to say that when she was really frustrated.
“Dad-blame it, Mary Ann. I told you to wash them dishes. Why ain’t they done yet?”
I even heard it come from my daddy’s mouth a few times when a tire blew out, but I haven’t heard it from anyone in quite a long time until it tumbled out of my mouth. My parents would never have uttered society’s BAD words, but they had quite a variety of synonyms that were just as effective.
John and I both started laughing, his deplorable grade temporarily forgotten.
“You told us the only bad words were linking verbs,” John said. “At least, ‘dad-blamed’ isn’t a linking verb. It’s pretty graphic.”
I haven’t been able to figure out why these archaic expressions from my deep, dark past keep popping up and popping out. I am befuddled, to say the least. I like to consider myself a wordsmith. I love language, enjoy new words and old ones. Language enriches my life, so why am I slipping backward to my roots? Those language roots are the ones I worked so hard to eradicate.
I haven’t slipped all the way into the abyss yet though. All the Sundays of my childhood we visited my grandparents, placed our fannies on wooden benches, and feasted at my grandma’s long handmade wooden table. We’d sop our gravy with her biscuits hot from the belly of her giant woodstove and eat streak-o-lean and ham from grandpa’s smokehouse. Then, especially if the weather were nice, Grandpa invariably invited us to sot on the porch with him. Now sot was an interesting verb, all tenses. You didn’t have to put a lot of thought into it.
“Let’s sot on the porch right now,” he’d say, beckoning us toward the front of his shotgun house. “Yore ma and me sot out here shelling peas most of the day yestiddy,” he told my mother. “We’ll most likely sot out here tomar, too.”
The verb sot is my ultimate gage. If I’m talking to you and invite you to sot with me, please do me a favor and call the nice young men in their clean white coats. You can bet I will have finally lost it and lapsed into the language of another age entirely. Maybe they can find some of my peers who speak that language, too.