Things My Mother Said

Eleanor May Hastings, my Mom, grew up in south-central Missouri, a hilly backwoods area of the country known as “the Ozarks.”  Although it’s entirely unclear why “Ozarks” is plural (no one having discovered more than the one “Ozark”,) the denizens-of-the-Ozarks’ unique culture and singular ways of speechifying lend themselves to endearing and often preposterous expressions.

Growing up in my mother’s house, my two younger brothers and I were often treated to spontaneous colloquialisms whenever she felt moved to communicate emotions like exasperation or frustration, or just the urge to colorfully articulate an opinion.  Believe me; we three gave her ample occasion to express herself.  Here is my collection, the result of much recollection and soul-searching on the part of my brothers, Scott and Steve, and a nephew or two:

“Damnable damnations!!”  (Keep in mind, Mom is a “devout” Catholic, and thereby prevented from uttering any really profound blasphemies or curses…hence, the double exclamation points…)

“What a revolting development!” put a fine point on her disappointment with us.

“Heavens to Murgatroyd!”  Although I might be conflating this saying with a famous catch phrase of Snagglepuss, a 60s’ cartoon character, Mom surely heard this when it was uttered by Bert Lahr in the 1944 film, “Meet the People.”  It certainly sounds like something she’d say…

An especially chilly day in the middle of winter was usually described as “colder than a well-digger’s heinie.”  I suggest you look it up, if you’re curious.

If it was an especially dark night, or cave (Missouri is riddled with them), or movie theater, it was “darker than the inside of a well-digger’s heinie.”  Pretty dark, huh?  (Editor’s Note:  also not politically correct, but WWI was a long time ago, so you Krauts should just get over it…)

“You are slower than molasses in January” was usually combined with “will you please hurry up and get your socks and shoes on?”

“That smells to High Heaven!”  Supposedly this refers to the Third Heaven where God resides, so that is one lofty odor…

“Where in the world (did you find that; get so filthy; do you think you are going; etc.)”  Matt Lauer and Waldo should be aware of possible copyright infringement…

Where did Mother get her innate talent and deep reservoir of sayings, you may wonder?  Consider this cute expression her father was fond of saying when ticked-off at a neighbor:  “Go fry yer ass…”

…and my favorite regional sentiment regarding the pervasiveness of something in the general area (such as Starbucks coffee shops, or bass fishermen:)  “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a (fill in the blank.)”  Now back to the hilarity…

“Like trying to herd cats” was usually employed when attempting to gather we wee ones for a car trip.  If you’ve tried it, you know.

The definitive retort to a childish “I don’t like you:”  “I’m not trying to win a popularity contest!”

“People in Hell want ice water!”  One her many references to The Place Where Bad Catholics Go, this gem usually followed a complaint by me, and preceded the outburst which generated the slam-dunk “I’m not trying to win a popularity contest!”  Got that?  (See above.)

My Mom’s Dad was a good, bad driver who would careen around rural Missouri’s gravel roads at 60-plus miles per well into his “senior years.”  A car ride with Grandpa was aptly described as “hanging on for dear life!”

Mom would colorfully depict over-lengthy Sunday sermons, boring movies, and visits by long-winded acquaintances equally as “longer than a month of Sundays.”

The moonless, night sky was often termed “darker than the Black Hole of Calcutta.”  Presumably, the Black Hole was a dungeon with no windows; how Mom knows of it is anybody’s guess.  (Cross-reference: Well digger’s heinie, see above.)

Speediness has a rather randy equivalent expression:  “faster than a March hare in heat.”  Something to think about.

“He is blacker than the ace of spades.”  Not politically correct, perhaps, but descriptive.   (Recall that Missouri was a Confederate State…Go Rebs…)

“I swear you would try the patience of Job.”  Of course, this is Job of Bible fame: Job lost his sons, his livestock, and his complexion and still kept his patience with God.  Do you get some idea, now, how much we got on my mother’s nerves?

“When Hell freezes over.”  As in: “I’ll let you buy a motorcycle when…”  Similar to “It’ll be a cold day in Hell…” but, presumably, the latter is more likely given the recent shift in global weather. However, the chance of Hell actually freezing solid is fairly remote; I think we all will agree…

“Good riddance to bad rubbish” was frequently uttered within ear shot of me and my friends upon leaving the house – fondly, of course.

When faced with, for example, a questionable color choice in a friend’s clothing, Mom would opine, “There’s no accounting for taste, like the old woman who kissed the cow.”  The moral:  Taste, like selecting which farm animal to buss, is purely subjective.

“Why on God’s Green Earth…” questioned various motivations in our young lives.

In July and August in the Midwest, Mom would unfailingly state the obvious:  “It’s hotter than the Hinges of Hades.”  Hell hath no fury like an overheated woman.

“It takes all kinds to make a world!” is seemingly a paean to multiculti values, but more likely an expression of frustration at the shortcomings of another…without judgment…of course…

WARNING:  Content may be unsuitable for children and sensitive individuals.  The following naked threat came without warning, whenever I reached across the dinner table in front of her plate to pick up the ketchup (for example:)  “Do you want to draw back a bloody stump?”

“I don’t give a tinker’s damn!”  (Insert meaning here.)

Then there’s the self-explanatory, “There’s enough dirt in your ears to grow corn!”…

…and the entirely incomprehensible, “Heavenly days and catnip tea!”

And, finally:  “Life’s too short” to sweat the small stuff.

We love you, Mom.

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5 thoughts on “Things My Mother Said

  1. Such a fun thing to share! My granny always told me “people in hell want ice water” it cracked me up so much as a child. Seemed so scandalous for my granny to be saying! I find my self saying “it’s like herding cats”. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a crazy cat lady or maybe my granny said that too!

  2. Chris englander says:

    Cakes get done, boys get finished

  3. My mom used some of these too, proving the reality of cultural diffusion. She was a multi-generational New Brunswicker.

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