Part of the wonder of a living language is reviving dead words and phrases. When I recently began to toy with the idea of doing a series of novels set in the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s, I began to wonder if my knowledge of The Little Rascals would be enough to create that period dialog that would truly zing. While doing a scant bit of research on the internet, I came across some of my favorite sayings and words from those “Old Timey” days. It was quite funny to realize many of these antiquated phrases have been used by me for some time (for instance, my favorite, For the love of Pete!, or my referring to friends or contemporaries as kids). Anyone who knows me knows my fondness for creating catch phrases and playing with words, so here’s a list of some of the best that I think should be put back into everyday use:
For the love of Pete! — a versatile exclamation that can be used in almost any situation but is often delivered as a complacent complaint.
Source: Pete, the dog from The Little Rascals.
Usage: Ethel said to Abner, “When’re you gonna cut that lawn?” To which Abner replied, “For the love of Pete, Ethel! I woulda done did it yesterday if it would get you to shut your trap!”
The Wreck of the Hesperus — a mess; a fiasco; a potentially calamitous situation.
Source: 19th century poet Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.
Usage: The apartment looked like the wreck of the Hesperus after the party.
Affrighted — to become frightened or scared.
Source: Victorian Era novels.
Usage: The sallow specter of the dead governess left me quite affrighted.
Side Note: Adding a soft “a” to the front of any verb will make the cut of your jib jive in that Old Timey way. For instance: Last Sunday I went avisiting and met a baby and a dingo. Tonight, I plan to go out adrinking.
Dinners — a woman’s bosom; visible cleavage.
Source: Old Timey grandmaws.
Usage: Oh dear, that little trollop has her dinners all ashowing in that dress!
A Real Brick — a good friend or confidant.
Source: The book and the film Atonement.
Usage: Gee, Sally, you’re a real brick for listening to me tonight.
Rather — an often sarcastic declaration of a defeatist attitude or disgruntled agreement in the wake of a long story or statement.
Source: Graham Greene novels.
Usage: Martha said to George, “Well I’d say he slipped off the wagon tonight with that old scallywag.” To which George might have replied, “Rather!”
Get out but quick — self explanatory, see?
Source: The classic noir film Double Indemnity.
Usage: Laura said to Clyde, “Suppose you get out of here before I slap you.” To which Clyde replied, “Suppose I do get out, get out but quick.”
I’d say we start using at least one of these phrases everyday! So hop to it, kids!
And we’re off…
(in a cloud of dust).
What are some of your favorite Old Timey phrases and words?
For further Old Timey fun, check out these hilarious explanations of Old Timey names:
Written By David H. Schleicher