|Photo by: Kristi Milner Pfeiffer|
Dress rehearsal for the Elves and the Shoemaker is tonight!The following days will be--hectic.
So for the next few days, Husby will be taking over this blog.
With stories of his dad.
And I'll see you soon with stories of my Elves.
In Honour of Ray Lovell Tolley
My mother and father were elegant folks
They both had a liking for practical jokes
So when I was born they made up their mind
That I should possess all the names they could find:
Jonathan Joseph Jeremie, Timothy Titus Obadie,
William Henry Walter Sim, Reuben Rufus Solomon Jim,
Nathaniel Daniel Abraham, Foderick Federick Peter Sam,
Simon Timon Nicholas Pat, Christopher Dick Jehosaphat!
As long ago as I can remember, Dad used to sing this little ditty. I am sure that it was indicative of how he liked a play on words. He had many of his own that he used with great relish. Some we know he got from his mother, others we are sure he made up by himself. Many of them defy definition, but I will try:
Cornswaggle: a word to describe a friendly swindle. Example: "He really got cornswaggled on that one". Also used as an exclamation: "Well, I'll be cornswaggled!" Sometimes he was, too.
Congeal: a real word, I have since discovered, that is used to describe a thickening process in anything from ice cream to backsides. Example: "I have sat here so long I think I've congealed."
Phizzog: a synonym for 'face', but more in the sense of 'mug' than anything else. Example: "He had a phizzog that would stop a runaway locomotive".
"Well I'll Swan": an exclamation to be used just about anywhere an exclamation is needed. Example: Question: "Did you hear that Fred got hit by a bus?" Answer: "Well I'll Swan!"
Rambunctious: a regular word, much used by Dad to describe what we kids usually were.
Gourmandize: until I was 19 years old, I swore that this word was not real, a pure invention of Dad's active mind. It was used to describe what we usually did to any form of food left out, i.e. immediate and complete consumption. Dad would say: "Where's the apple cobbler? Did you kids gourmandize it all again?" A little side note: When I was 19 and went to France, I discovered that there really is a word in French, 'la gourmandise', which translates as 'gluttony' or 'piggishness'. In French, the colloquial phrase was ‘la gourmadise est un villain default’, roughly translated as ‘gluttony is a villainous fault.’ Dad knew what he was talking about. I think.
Blasted Apes: Now you must understand that Dad was not one to use profanity - except, that is, when the situation demanded it, which, fortunately, was rare. Dad's worst words usually emerged when we were trying to make some unwilling animals go where they were supposed to go, but the animals were not prepared to co-operate in the least degree. It would take some time to get Dad's dander up, and after about the fifth attempt at getting the pig to go in a gate that you could have driven a convoy of Mack trucks through, side by side, Dad would usually fling whatever it was he was holding at the pig and exclaim "Blasted apes!" It usually stopped there, though, especially if the apes saw the light and made it through the gate. If not, however, the only real profane word that I ever heard Dad use would follow, which is a four letter word synonymous with much of the stuff that lies about the barnyard. When it got to that, you knew that the pig was in trouble - the next step was that Dad usually resorted to throwing hammers, two-by-fours, or whatever else AT the animal, in hopes of sending it into the next world. Dad never called us kids "blasted apes" - at least not that I remember. And he never threw hammers at us, either.
Buggered: a word that Dad used to mean something was "really messed up", as in almost beyond help. Now don't be too shocked at my inclusion of this word here. Please realize that Dad never regarded it as profanity, in spite of the constant assurances by Mom every time he used it that it was indeed not a 'proper' term. Dad's reply was simply: "Well, there is no other word that will do; when something is ‘buggered', it's 'buggered'. It's not broken, it's not wrecked, it's just plain buggered." Case closed. Many times. Except for Mom.
"You play like a sausage": Dad enjoyed playing games, especially when he was winning, and never failed to rub it in when you were either losing, or playing as his partner and not doing too well. If you made a particularly dumb move, or were really being trounced by him, he never let the opportunity pass to let you know that you were "playing like a sausage".
"The saccharinity of the striatus muscular tissue varies proportionately according to the proximity of the osseous framework": Now we are not really sure where or when Dad picked this one up, nor am I even sure whether it is true or not; I have never checked with a physician to see if it holds true. But Dad would use this whenever he didn't have an answer - a serious one - for some question; or, whenever, out of the blue, he needed something to say. His grin that accompanied this statement always belied his real intent - to poke gentle fun.
Cogitate: to think about something, as in: "I'll have to cogitate on that one for a while." See "Pnoggin".
"Shadscale, greasewood, & sagebrush: Where snakes have to carry lunch and the rabbits carry drinking water": this phrase was used, in varying combinations, to describe any type of barren land and sparse vegetation. I was never sure if Dad used it simply because he didn't know the names of the various types of vegetation, or if he used it out of his inborn farmer's disgust at land that was marginally useful or neglected by man. We never did see any snakes carrying lunch, by the way.
A Dumb Ezzle: this is a phrase used to refer to anyone who really was not very quick of mind. It could also be used on you if you happened to be playing like a sausage.
A Brainy Think: as it implies, a good idea.
Naked Guinea: this is a phrase used to describe anyone, usually children, who tend to appear in public in less than full dress. Mom tells me that Grandma T., Dad's mom, used it too, so I am sure that that is where Dad picked it up. I seem to remember an explanation once that when Grandma used to raise guinea hens, they would sometimes lose most of their feathers when they were in a moult, resulting in a 'naked guinea'.
Full of Malarkey: a common phrase used to describe someone who really doesn't know what he is talking about, or someone who is trying to 'cornswaggle' you. Example: "You are full of malarkey". I still call my oldest son Mark, 'Markie Malarkey', just to keep the family tradition alive.
Go Soak Your Head: this was a phrase Dad used if he was trying to get rid of you, for whatever reason. Dad was an infinitely patient man; even when he was SERIOUSLY wishing you would go away and leave him alone, he would never have been rude or impolite to make you do so. More often than not, he would simply tell you to 'go soak your head' until you got the message.
To be continued . . .