Most of my adult1 life, I traveled for work, usually in desolate late-night or early-morning hours. That was because off-hours flights were cheaper or seats only then available, or interstates congestion-free. Breaks between insanely pressing projects and fires to be peed-on allowed no downtime, no luxury for planning.
Before that I was a Navy brat. Our family moved frequently. As a teenager, it seemed we moved too often. Important youthful social attachments – sports, school activities, favorite fishing-holes, blossoming love-interests, and just hanging-out with buds were sacrificed with each relocation.
To adapt, I became something of a chameleon. Wherever I found myself, I quickly learned local language, salacious slang, and sometimes now mockable mannerisms. I became one with the people who accepted this odd duck, the ‘new kid’ who’d just arrived.
It’s been a while, but I’d bet if I returned to Oklahoma City, within twenty minutes, I’d sound like an Okie. Dallas, Texas would take maybe half an hour. Boston, Maine or Ro-di-lan2 might take an hour. If I went to the US west coast, I’d probably develop a speech impediment. It’s a shortcoming of mine, but I don’t understand left-coast thinking, mannerisms, or priorities. Don’t really want to either.
The subcultures I experienced stained my personality, my thinking, speaking, and writing, expanded my sense of humor, helped define my priorities and politics, and despite what you might think, taught me tolerance for things “different.” Odd phrases, and goofy word meanings to this day are part of my everyday vocabulary and manner of speaking, and thus my manner of writing.
Folks living in the US don’t have difficulty understanding me. They might know and use the same words and phrases. If not, they understand something I say or write contextually. Should that fail, by the time I’ve used a phrase a few times, they’re onto it like aroma on a Holstein field patty.3
People not from the US might not easily understand. Only slowly learning my audience is not always comfortable with US idiom, certainly not the warped way I bandy words about, I recognize clarification is sometimes needed. Occasionally, I experience the same reading my British mentors. Whether I (painfully) translate, ask help from Google, or an author accommodates, I bump into the same issue reading posts in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, or French.
What follows then, are explanations of some obscure phrases I’ve tossed at unsuspecting readers. If it turns out useful, I may set it as a page on spwilcenwrites for readers’ later reference, adding to it occasionally. If there’s a word or phrase unclear to you, scribble a note in a comment. I’ll address it, adding it to the “glossary.”
Espie4 declared a return to M-W-F posts. Espie has shamefully avoided serious writing endeavors this week – this is his third post. Unless he once again makes excuses not to be doing what he’s supposed to be doing, this might be his last post for the year. Espie is reaching expert level in procrastination.
1 Adult – The jury is still out.
2 Ro-di-lan – Rhode Island, the way citizens of Rhode Island, Rhodies, pronounce their state name. Say what you want about Bahstin (Boston) folk, Rhodies are a more fascinating study. More so even than Jersey boys.
3 Aroma on a Holstein field patty – Holstein cattle are a milking breed. A cow patty is spent milk-making fuel. Aroma is obvious. That suggests something sure as sunshine, certain, absolute.
4 Espie – SPWilcen, or S.P., which if you pronounce it, becomes Espie. This alter ego came about in May or June as Clutch’s foil. Clutch himself, a canine of unspecified pedigree but clearly male, has a dim but accommodating view of human imperfections. Not to say Clutch doesn’t have a flaw or two himself.
Espie’s euphemisms, colloquialisms, and fabrications as of 12-29-2020
Blue (language): Swearing, or vulgar talk. Common, I don’t care what you think, in every walk of life, unless you live in a Tibetan Monastery. It’s a matter of degree. You may “gee” or “golly” or “dag nabbit” but that only says you are blessed with more self-control than others. Don’t tell me Aunt Laura is pure as snow saying, “Oh, fiddle!” after burning the crepes. We understand. Yes, we do.
Booger’s Bend, Mississippi: A fictitious place (gee, I sure hope so) in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia or anywhere, really. Drawing on the ridiculous (and erroneous) deep south stereotype of a different brand of sophistication, NASCAR, and um, unusual hygiene practices. Could just as well be Kneejerk Kansas, Warthog Washington, Cretin California, or Flatbutt Florida. Implies backward, backwoods, or back-forty attitudes and lifestyles. If ever you assume there is more than a little bit of truth there, understand you are wrong.
Buckle up: Not mainstream. I use it often. It occurred to me years ago when obnoxious seat-belt laws and the accompanying slogan, “Buckle-up; it’s the law!” were introduced. “Buckle up” suggests there may be some bumpy road ahead, so you want to take precautions, be prepared. Properly vocalized in south Georgian, it would really confuse. Not expert in IPA and not intending ever to be so, we’ll let it go at that. I have enough trouble with English.
Flying rat’s ass: See “No one gives a fig.”
Jury is still out: Suggesting the jury is still deliberating. The question of the matter remains unresolved. All the Democrats have not risen from the dead to vote. The argument rages. Whatever “it” is, is undecided, and usually but not necessarily, no one gives a fig.
Little white pills: Or “time for my meds,” or “need stronger meds” or some such. An allusion to my being off my nut (crazy, or at least imbalanced) requiring medications to be rendered harmless to society. When used, the implication is that either you or I, or the person or group we discuss are loony tunes (crazy). Easy enough to just say, “crazy” or “insane” but self-deprecation softens the blow.
No one gives a fig: The matter at hand is unimportant to most. In other words, please pardon me, no one gives a (flying or otherwise) rat’s ass. A rodent’s “bum” assumed less than valueless.
Nose to grindstone: Diligently working at something.
Peed-on: You’ve heard the expression, “rained on my parade”? that’s the idea, but instead of rain, well, less appealing than a spring shower. Ruined your joy. Spoiled an event. Wet your matches.
Piece of cake: Easy.
Ripsnorter: A blowout party. Rarely, to mean someone is more than a handful of trouble, rambunctious, or unstoppable.
Sawtooth Gap, Michigan: See Booger’s Bend, Mississippi.
Set-to: argument, disagreement, discord.
Socioscape: Social landscape. An obscure, hardly mainstream word.
Toilet-mouth: Obvious in context, but language and insinuation impolite or improper at best, vulgar or obscene at worst. Suggestive of little men talking in what they assume is the manner of adults in the school restroom, bathroom, or loo.
Twist your shorts: anger or upset you. Get your panties in a wad. Get your goat. Set you off. Torque your jaws.
YewPee: Michiganders call the Upper Peninsula the U.P. or YewPee. Residents there are Yoopers.