Whittle: Old says pass with time

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Editor's Note: Author/newspaper columnist Dan Whittle has never been accused of lacking for words. How wordy has Whittle even back as a school boy? He won a "cussing contest" out on the school yard during second grade, which earned him a paddling at school, but one at home too. "I didn't know what all those biggo dirty curse words meant, but I knew the words from going on crow hunting and rat-killing trips with Daddy Whittle and adult neighbor men back in the swampy farmland of the Bootheel of Southeast Missouri."

Our regions' Short Mountain, as the official tallest geographical point in Middle Tennessee, has never been short on sayings, including the title to a song penned by Leroy Troy and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band: "Open Up Your Mouth, And Let The Moon Shine In!"

"Revenuers" was formally a "bad word" up on that old mountain.

Surely, you've heard the saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me."

That old saying never held water, and like time, the saying has passed over the dam as far as usage in today's vernacular.

For that matter, how long has it been since you've heard "vernacular" used in everyday language?

When I was about four years old, farm neighbor A.J. Neel recognized that Little Danny Whittle had a penchant for words. That's when he began bringing me a new supply of books each month from our small farm town's library that doubled as the calaboose.

There we go again, the word "calaboose" is seldom seen or heard in normal modern-day speak.

Which brings me to the old Sears-Roebuck catalogs that served a duel purpose in our farm family's "shack-out-back" sometimes known as the "two-holer."
Young whippersnappers of today likely are not familiar with the terms "shack out back" and/or "two-holer."

It's a safe bet that they've never heard the phrase: "If it ain't in the new Sears-Roebuck catalog, it ain't worth having."

Word and picture association in those old Sears' catalogs aided me in being able to read before I got to official first grade at our farm school.
"Corn cobs" also had duel meanings back in the golden age of steam-powered locomotive trains. When train engineers of that era needed increased speed in a hurry, they would instruct the train's "fireman" to "cob it." Fast-burning corn cobs helped increase the heat that helped create more steam to make the trains "barrel it faster" down those old railroad tracks.

Like Sears-Roebuck catalogs, corn cobs had duel roles in our "out door Johnny" at the end of the "path out back."
In my early newspaper career, one of my publishers penned a a daily "Polecat Column" mostly about unsavory corrupt politicians. Skunk has largely replaced "polecat" in today's speaking world.

What are some of your favorite words or sayings that have "gone by the wayside?

Sayings that long since have passed from being heard out there in "radio land." Radio lingo of the 1930s was when the phrase "don't touch that dial" was coined alongside the saying: "You sound like a broken record."

In the 1940s, my family hosted an American Army officer who had helped direct "Uncle Sam's War Over There" against the Germans.

While visiting our farm family, the highly-decorated colonel could never "cipher" where "over yonder" was geographically located on our best "road maps," which have been largely replaced today by something called "GPS."

"Back in the olden days" was a common term used during my childhood when we thought anyone over 40 was "old and decrepit."
Back to when electricity was a "new-fangled" phenomena, back when we'd ask folks on the other end of the phone, another new-fangled contraption of the past century, "Is your refrigerator running?" If they replied "yes," then we'd say 'in jest'... "You better go catch it."

How long has it been since you heard someone being called a 'nincompoop" or "knucklehead?"

Artist/sculptor Michael Parkes is the only world-famous person to have "matriculated" at our little farm school of "advanced thinking" and "higher ciphering" back in the Bootheel farming country of Southeast Missouri.

"People over here in Europe, look at me in wonderment, especially when I use the term 'ice box' instead of refrigerator," Parkes shared from his studio/home on the coast of Spain overlooking the Rock of Gibraltar.

Parkes and I attended first and second grades together, back when "spats" meant shoes, and "pedal pushers" described female britches. "Poodle skirts" and "saddle shoes" followed fashion designs shortly thereafter.

Wife Pat recalls the era when complaining females were sometimes called "old battle axes."

A more recent term, "duh" is a personal "no no" to me, because "duh" to me was just another way of "making fun" of someone who misspoke.

"String talkers" of my youth were folks who ran their mouths full-throttle without stopping.

"After while crocodile" reached up and "bit us in the butt" in a former popular song of another "by-gone era."
Whewee, "I said all that to say this," while "I'm moving on down the line."

And I hope you're having a "hunky dory day," what ever that means?!

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