August 24, 2008

"Sore eyes for meddlers"

That's how my maternal grandparents (and occasionally my mother) would often answer when I'd ask, "What's that?" Apparently other people say "layover for meddlers" in the same circumstances.

The other day my daughter came in to report that she'd seen a grinny on the front porch, and it kind of cracked me up. A grinny, of course, is a chipmunk. I was pleased to learn that this was not merely a piece of family linguistic weirdness but is an honest to god regionalism, like "red up," which I won't waste your time with. I'm no linguist, mind you, but I thought I'd do a lazy Google search on some of my favorite grandpa-isms to see what else I could come up with:

Gornick: A fist-sized rock. Googling "gornick rock Pittsburgh dialect" turned up among other things the resume of an actor/model whose credits include "physically remove accountant." I'm not linking to it because I don't want him to think I'm making fun of him. Even though I'm not an accountant! The word feels like it ought have an origin in English coal country, Scottish, or Scotch-Irish dialects, but I don't know.

Board's a-play!
: This was my grandfather's way of crying shenanigans during a card game or board game. My grandparents were great players of games ... I think it was a generational thing. But if you got around my grandfather in a game, or if you miscounted something, he'd say "board's a-play." We still say it, but I don't know what origin, if any, it has. He's been gone going on 23 years, but this phrase more than any of the others, more than anything I think, reminds me of him. I always looked forward to him coming over for a visit because I was an only child with a great store of board games I never got to play (cue violins ...).

More to follow as they occur to me.


Michael said...

My favorite mom-ism, which I use all the time and which my mom still uses at the tender age of 79: when the living room is a mess, she exclaims, "This place looks like a whorehouse in distress!"

BTW, Don reds up around here quite frequently.

Rosemary said...

Cool, Jim: my grandmother also used to use that saying, but my mother always translated it as "LAIRS to catch meddlers"--with the implication that if you poked around any further, you might get your finger snapped by a mousetrap or something (at least, that's what I always imagined).

I love Mike's mom's description of a messy room; may have to use that one myself. Around our house, such a room looked like it had been "stirred with a stick," or was "a hoo-rah's nest."

I don't even want to know how Mike's interpreting "red up." But I hope they share the redding-up equally.

Michael said...

Truth to tell, I red up more often than Don, but when he does, he goes whole hog.

Tom said...

Whenever we asked my dad why something was built the way it was, or why it worked that way, he'd say "To make little boys ask questions." And if we complained, he'd say "You'd complain if they hanged you with a gold rope." To which I always wanted to point out that, yes, I'd complain about being hanged with any rope!

JB said...

My dad's favorite line for when you're looking for something that's in plain sight is, "If it was a snake it would have bit you."

The first time he said this to my wife was the first time they met. Her response, "If it was a snake I wouldn't have been looking for it," earned her some serious family "cred."

I promise never again to use the word "cred."

Tom said...

More from the Bredehoft family: "You make a better door than a window." Always said when someone blocks your view of the tv. And courtesy of my Grandpa Schmidt, a shirt or a shoe with a hole in it was always "air-conditioned."

Unknown said...

My favorite from my grandmother is "there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians". I belong to a family of very bossy people.