Thursday, February 2, 2012

Trash talking back in the forties

I was the oldest of four siblings. We weren't allowed to say any naughty words like "Heck or Darn".  In fact, we couldn't even say "butt". The buttock area was referred to as the "seater". I found this to be very confusing because our mother had a cedar chest.

Since we were average kids, however, the prohibition on cussing didn't stop us from calling each other names. We got away with Stinkpot, Snot, Dumb-bell, Dope and Big Baby.

Going to the bathroom (or outhouse) was either Number 1 or Number 2.  Words like "pee" and body (as in naked) were very edgy language in our young minds. Incredibly, there was a character on the Fibber Magee and Molly radio show named Mr. Peabody. We happily incorporated this name into our lexicon of alternative cussing. As a result, our escalating cuss-progression became: Dummy, Dumb-Dope, and finally, Dumb-Dope-Peabody! This was the worst possible thing we could call a sibling.

The beauty of it was that even if the offended sibling tattled, Mom was oblivious of the foul-mouthed implications of "Peabody" so we got away with it for years.

Mom, being of Norwegian descent, would often say Ufta (whoops) or Ishta (gross). She was also fond of using "ofers"; you know: "Oh fer dumb!" or "Oh fer cute!".  Her favorite expressions when she was really exasperated were, "Oh for Pete's sake!" or "Hon-est-ly!". Dad would poke fun at Mom by doodling goofy pictures of men with prominent adam's apples and titling them Pete or Honest Lee.

My dad's cussing consisted of. "Blame it!" or "Son of a gun!" or "Bunch'a hooey" or "Holy smut!" This was really tame stuff by today's standards. I guess society as a whole keeps functioning as we did as kids--always pushing the envelope for ever-worse ways of trash talking.

Where will it all end!?

11 comments:

The Owl Wood said...

I think it's a bit of a sad process now - the joy of (even) mild swearing seems to be completely lost on the younger generations. As far as I can work out they'll never have that feeling of getting away with a really desperately needed cuss!

No-one's invented any new swear words and all of the old ones are so overused and commonplace now that they can't have the same juicy quality that they used to...

Elaine said...

I really enjoyed this post - such echoes of my own childhood. I had quite forgotten that my older brother (not Owl) tried to blackmail me when I was about 6/7 because I had written the word 'bottom' on a piece of paper! Different days.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I like Ufta, i might start using that!

After the writing class i attended last night, we were discussing inventing new swear words and we couldn't come up with any good ones!

Joanne said...

We were so much worse than you. We called each other boogers with cooties. But at a neighbor's house the names were all different. There is no imagination or intensity left. Just escalation.

Ms Sparrow said...

Owl: I saw a mug online that was covered with insults from the works of Shakespeare. Now that's some high-class swearing!

Elaine: How sad that the horror of the word "bottom" has been surpassed by a nasty version of every body part name.

Poet: A lot of Norwegian immigrants settled in Minnesota so we still hear Ufta sometimes but it's dying out. I can't think of a new swear work either. Maybe we have to go back to Shakespeare!

Joanne: Huh! "Dumb-dope Peabody" was waaay worse than booger or cootie any day!

^..^Corgidogmama said...

This was SO much fun to read~! It was almost like a NPR skit by Garrison Keillor. Loved it!

Ms Sparrow said...

Corgi Mom: Garrison Keillor and I are about the same age and grew up a couple hundred miles apart. I grew up believing that we were bland and average people. Keillor grew up and saw that we were bland and unique!
I see him once in a while here in St Paul.

Sparrow chic said...

So , I called home this morning and no ne would answer the phone. So the answering machine came on and I said " OH, for petes sake, pick up the phone. Echos from my childhood. The chain continues ! I hear the granddaughters say some of the things I heard from my mom.

Ms Sparrow said...

To my little chic: Thanks for the laugh! I suspect the women of your grandma's lineage will be invoking Pete's sake for a long time to come!

Mitch Block said...

What heart-warming and hilarious memories. Ufta! I had a friend from Sicily whose uncle's favorite "English" expression was Solomon Bitchaan Basta (but he wasn't intending to watch his language).

I grew up in NY. I can assure you my father did NOT say "son of a gun"!

Ms Sparrow said...

Mitch: Your friend's uncle's Sicilian cussing reminds me of a character in the 1984 film "Johnny Dangerously" with Michael Keaton. For some stupid reason, it's one of my favorites and has some great quotes..."Mom, why don't you give up taking in people's ironing now?"..."What? And give up me career?!"