Mar 1, 2013

Things My Grandma Said

The vernacular changes from decade to decade and from generation to generation. My grandmother's life spanned more than nine decades and several generations. One of our favorite ways in which this showed itself was in her colorful expressions. We got so used to hearing them over the years that I don't think any of us really gave them a whole lot of thought, they just always made us smile. 

My father recently spent some time looking up what some of them mean:
Thank you kindly. This one is pretty straightforward. In other words, thank you very much. The great thing about this one is that I've heard it said with complete sincerity and utter sarcasm. But, for the most part, this illustrates Grams soft nature and kind heart. People remember her for saying, "Thank you kindly," instead of "Thank you."
Oh my stars and garters. This, according to the interwebs, is a playful expression of astonishment. 
Gott im Himmel. This German gem means "Oh my god." Pronounced (by Grams anyways) as Goot in himmel.
The first two Grandma-isms have English roots, and this last one one is German, as noted. Grams was born in 1916 and some of these sayings could have been from her time, but also her parents, who were potentially born sometime in the mid to late 1800's. 

According to Wikipedia, between 1831 and 1840 a total of 599,000 people immigrated to the United States. This included about 207,000 Irish, about 152,000 Germans, 76,000 British, and 46,000 French. Between 1841 and 1850, immigration nearly tripled, totaling 1,713,000 immigrants, including at least 781,000 Irish, 435,000 Germans, 267,000 British and 77,000 French immigrants. Between 1850 and 1930, about 5 million Germans immigrated to the United States with a peak in the years between 1881 and 1885.

We know from diaries Grandma had of her family members, that our direct relatives came over from Ireland. So, it would seem along they way they made friends with the large numbers of English and German immigrants, and their expressions were carried down by Grams. And they continue...

Egads I tell ya. This soft expression of frustration seems to come from a shortening of "Ye gods." A sort of holy cow or oh my god or even heavens to Betsy. Which brings me to... 
Heavens to Betsy.  This mild expression of surprise seems to be somewhat untraceable in origin. The etymologist Charles Earle Funk published Heavens to Betsy! and other curious sayings in 1955, in which he posed that the origins of "Heavens to Betsy" were "completely unsolvable." Regardless, this American phrase was popular in the second half of the 19th century, all but disappearing in the 20th. Except for Grams.  
The whole kit and caboodle. A collection of things; everything available. Kind of like "everything but the kitchen sink" but including the kitchen sink.
And then there's one that Google has come up with no explanation for:
Up in Heaven sucking on oranges. This was frequently used when Grams was telling stories of the past that were before someone's time. For instance, if my Grandmother was telling a story about my Dad as a kid, as an aside she'd say, "But you were still up in Heaven sucking on oranges."
So now it's up to us to keep these sweetly unique sayings going. Miss you Grams. 

No comments: