Minden Press-Herald

Tuesday
Sep 30th

‘Use the basement’ and other sayings

Juanita Agan-1In the old (1910) High School Building (it was located on the site of the present Minden High School Building) that also housed the elementary grades, the bathrooms were in the basement. Children learned to say that they had to use the basement instead of using the word "bathroom". That hung over to the time we used the new (1925) high school building. The bathrooms were not in the basement there but on the first floor. We still said "use the basement." My son asked me why we used the word "basement" instead of saying "bathroom" and then I remembered that the bathrooms were in the basement in the old 1910 building which was where the elementary grades were back in the thirties.

Each generation has its own terminology, and when that is added to what they learned from their parents' generation it produces quite a strange vocabulary.

The Ice Box

So much of the terminology today of people my age is a carry -over from our childhood. For instance I often say "put it in the ice box" to differentiate from my two freezers, or even the freezer in my refrigerator. You can imagine the looks on my grandsons' faces. They have not had an "ice box" in their lifetimes and they are not sure what I am talking about. My son said he had never seen an icebox in use in a home, either. Southern

Living in their April 2004 issue has a recipe for Ice Box Rolls. The editor knew that most of the readers did not know what an "Icebox" was so he defined it. I quote: "What's In a Name?" "Icebox rolls got their name from a large container used for cooling many years before the advent of the electric refrigerator. Similar to today's ice chests. this insulated unit held a huge block of ice to keep foods cool. The modern refrigerator is sometimes nostalgically referred to as an icebox."

Light and Sweet

I say "light" bread, and that is a hangover from my childhood. My children just say "bread" but I cannot break the habit. I suppose that was to differentiate it from cornbread. And I also say "sweet" milk. Don't know why unless I do not want buttermilk. Guess I just should say milk.

My father-in-law was used to the big mowers used on farms to cut and bale hay and so on. He never used the word "lawn mower" but called them all "mowing machines."

There are many phrases that we use in my generation that the present group of young people are not familiar with. My mother always said something was "free gratis" which, of course, is redundant since both words mean free. I have told you of her calling those who peeped in open windows as "Tom Peepers." She referred to a recipe as "cush" and I think she had heard the word "cous cous" and had simply changed the ending and made it cush.

She had other words that I was not sure what the dish really was. I later learned that many of them were really recipes such as "Lost Bread". I discounted that as being the name of a recipe but in the last few years I have found it listed. The French term is "Pain Perdu" which is the same as French Toast, and it is also called "Lost Bread.". So she was not wrong there

Other Phrases

Those old phrases that my mother used seem to slip off my tongue with little thought until someone asks me what it means. Such as I say "ugly as a mud fence" and my son asked what was a mud fence. I have no idea but I bet it is ugly!! And another was "ugly as homemade sin." Or "it's as cold as a chunk" and I wonder "a chunk of what?"

She would say he was "Pure-dee mean" and according to Merriam-Webster New Book of Word History it means unmitigated. She meant that man was unmitigated mean.

Another word she used was "spizzerinctum". I knew she meant to put some spirit into whatever you were doing. Put your energy and your enthusiasm into the job at hand.

I had a friend that would say "well, that's the cat's pajamas" and even I wondered what that meant.

Whistlin' Dixie

Mother often said that she was juberous about a person. In Hendrikson's book "Whistlin' Dixie": he says that is the same as the word dubious. Sometimes she would say that a person put a quietus to some activity.

That same book said it means to put an abrupt halt to some activity.

She referred to the revivals of her childhood as "protracted" meetings, and they were because they lasted three or more weeks.

Even though she loved to read, she constantly reminded me that she did not read "friction" (as she called it) but only read biographies and the Bible. She made one concession to the fiction bit when Margaret Mitchell's

"Gone with the Wind" was published. She had heard so much publicity about that book that she read it. Her comment about the book was "humph" and that indicated to me that she did not like it. She never read another novel that I ever knew about.

My son-in-law, Bob, was in service in Virginia. His commanding officer told him that some of his sayings sounded just like his parents' sayings back home in Mississippi and asked if he had learned these from his parents. Bob told him that he had picked up these old sayings from his mother-in-law (me).

I know that you are not familiar with most of my old sayings so I'll close with a conglomeration of them. I guess I will put a quietus to this before you get a burr under your saddle or even get your tail over the dashboard!!!!

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan's Cameos column every Wednesday.

 

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