Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, ed., Books and Culture. / New at patreon.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Georgia cussing

Photograph credit:  Justyna Furmanczy (UK) and sxc.hu
My father was born in 1926 and grew up on a little sharecropper's farm west of Savannah. I was trying to remember the Lexsy cussing of my childhood--it was nothing like swearing today. Even after he ran away and became a teenage tailgunner and then eventually a professor of analytical chemistry--a sample of the American-dream rise that I still think a remarkable one--he still would come out with one of these curious, Depression-era words.

cotton-picking
dadblameit
dadgum
dagnabit
dang
darn
darnit
sapsucker*
shoot

*I do not remember this one, but my cousin Mike Davis says it was in regular use, particularly by my Uncle Aubrey--so I slap it in the list.

Seems to me there were lots of mule and jackass comparisons... days behind the plow.

10 comments:

  1. I used never to be good at cursing (or the lighter cussin' either) when I was younger. Well, forty, anyway.

    I remember my mother being most impressed on one particular occasion. We were driving along country lanes late one winter night and there was precious little light. A cloudy night. A car ran into us at speed and we lurched forward in our seats pulling hard upon our seat-belts. It was a nasty collision that could very easily have been horrendous.
    In the heat of the moment (and much to my shame) I exclaimed......
    "Gosh!"
    She remembered that mostly.

    Now I live in America and the language is rich and lively. I rather like it (the non-sexual, non-religious cussin'!)

    Dadblameit is rather a fun one. I wonder if he did?

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Gosh!"

    How under-whelming a response! Comic.

    Of course, we are attracted to English cussing!

    He probably did! Though of course it comes from something else entirely...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Strung all together like that they make the perfect curse, and I fear I'm already in the process of learning them! They will save me from the more explosive expletives that you, my dear Marly, have occasionally... and much to my embarrassment... heard from my lips!

    (Though I'm given to the less offensive Bertie Wooster-ish 'Crikey!' from time to time.)

    ReplyDelete
  4. My favorite Wodehouse put-down is "the great steaming radish!"

    ReplyDelete
  5. My grandmother, who never to my knowledge ever swore, even once, could get extraordinary mileage out of an outraged "Well!"

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dale,

    She was a good woman and a fine minimalist, no doubt!

    Then there are those who simply lift one eyebrow...

    ReplyDelete
  7. I gather that Yiddish has some choice curses, but my parents didn't speak it (after they began school, anyhow) so I never learned them.
    These are fine, all-American expletives!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I like the "steaming radish" one. I assume it's an oblique reference to horse manure.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Robbi,

    That is a loss!

    About the radish: well, it's applied to a person, obviously one who has just committed some piece of Wodehousian idiocy. Steaming does suggest manure. Though it's just one radish: less so.

    Maybe Paul or Clive will know...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I grew up using these words. I'm 38 so I think some held on a while. The stronger words were saved for times when adults were not around. I've always found it ironic that kids don't cuss around adults and adults don't cuss around kids. Both are trying to protect the other I guess:)

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.