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Words I Remember
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My grandparents were born in the 1890s of parents who had emigrated from Germany. I don't know which of these factors, if any, contributed to the colorful expressions I heard in their house and nowhere else.

One mysterious term my grandfather frequently used, and with which I was totally unfamiliar as a child, was "bugger." When my friends and I got to racing around on the porch that surrounded the house on three sides and stomping and shrieking, my grandfather would open a window and holler, "You little buggers had better stop that or I'll take my razor strap after you."

I knew only too well what the razer strap (strop) was since it hung ominously from the towel rack in the bathroom. He never actually got around to taking it after us but it wasn't hard to imagine the horror that would ensue when leather met backside.

My friends and I used to puzzle over what a "bugger" was. I know today that sounds impossible, but it's true. We figured maybe it derived from the expression being "bugged" as in annoyed. Years later, when I was old enough to know the definition, my father explained to me that "Grampy didn't mean what the word really means." He reckoned my grandfather hadn't known what it meant either.

My father also took me aside once when I was still a kid to excuse another of my grandfather's usages. I could tell he was embarrassed, but apparently he felt he needed to set me straight.

"Your grampy is a smart man but he left school early and he doesn't always use words correctly. He says your'n when he means yours. Now, you don't want to copy your Grampy. Your'n is what you make when you use the toilet. You don't want to be telling people that something is their urine do you?"

Of course not. Except in jest....

"Hey Johnnie, this Root Beer Fizzie's mine and that's your'n."

"Ewwww. It doesn't look like pee."

"No. I said it's your'n."

Well, you get the idea.

My grandmother's vocabulary was less fraught. Her strongest expletive was "Oh Lordy!"

She also employed some words and constructions which may be common somewhere but which I found odd. Something that was expensive, for instance was "dear." "I didn't buy any apples, they were too dear."

"Mind" was another favorite, for "be careful." "Mind you don't touch that hot pan."

An odder expression, to me, was the way she used "powerful" as an adjective. For instance, "Mind you don't touch the pan, it's powerful hot."

"Powerful" could be used to modify practically anything. A person could be powerful hungry, or it might be powerful windy out. However nothing was ever "powerful sour." You wouldn't think the quality of being sour would require its own expression but I suppose in a household where my grandmother practically lived at the stove and pies, jellies, jams, and home canned delicacies of all sorts appeared at nearly every meal, sour was as useful a term as "snow" is to the eskimos. Thus, if an apple pie, say, or a batch of canned rhubarb, was overly tart, my grandmother would exclaim, "That's sour as pig swill!"

Needless to say all the kids in the area would race around at the drop of a lemon candy or a glass of inadequately sugared Kool Ade, screaming "Arrghhh. It's sour as pig swill!!!"

The origin of my favorite expression, however, was clear. Although my grandparents' house had modern plumbing they both grew up on farms where the call of nature necessitated that one commune with nature on the way to the outhouse in the back yard. So it was no mystery to me why my grandparents referred to any serious intestinal difficulties as "the backdoor trots."

Sounds almost like the name of a band.

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