Sometimes in adulthood, I have said some things I regretted, but I never reached over and popped a bar of soap into my mouth.
One of those songs we learned in church was a multiverse thing that included the warning, “Be careful little tongue what you say.”
The warning was God was always watching.
I’ve always been amused at the steps people take to use a substitute or euphemism for “bad” words. Some say using the stand-in words are just as bad as using the real thing. I’ll not be the judge of that.
The book of Matthew contains a warning about swearing and taking oaths. I guess my Aunt Iris took that one to heart.
She always said, “I suwanee.”
I guess that’s how you spell it if you’re the city of Suwanee in Gwinnett County or if you’re the river that flows from the Okefenokee Swamp in South Georgia.
Some folks shortened that to just “I swan.”
I guess anything is better than that evil swearing.
Some people use the terms “cussing” or “cursing” to define “swear” words.
If someone lets it fly, we often say he “cussed him out.” I’m not sure what the victim is out of, but that’s what they say.
We use an assortment of words attached to the prefix “I’ll be.” We add endings like “danged” or “dad-gum.” Some folks just stop at I’ll be.
Others add more elaborate endings such as “I’ll be John Brown.” This is a reference to the noted abolitionist John Brown, who was made famous in a song set to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Verses in the song included “John Brown’s body lies a mouldering in the grave” and “John Brown’s baby had a cold upon his chest.”
Brown, who died in 1859, was not a popular figure in the pre-Civil War South.
I don’t know if John was related to another Brown, Cooter, who has become the measuring stick for being drunk.
“He was drunk as Cooter Brown,” folks will say.
The story is Cooter lived somewhere along the Mason-Dixon line and had family members fighting for both sides. Cooter, according to legend, decided to get drunk and stayed that way for the rest of the war.
Other euphemisms include “dog-gone,” “darned” or the more rural “durned.” We also used words like “shoot,” “flipping” and “gosh.”
Even exclamations that weren’t substitutes were interesting. “Lord have mercy” became “lordy mercy.” I knew folks who just shorted the whole thing to “law” or sometimes “lawd.”
“Law, will you look at that,” someone might exclaim.
While many of these are Southern in origin, the North is not without their euphemisms, as well.
“Jeez” is generally considered to be short for “Jesus.” I don’t know what the combination “Jeez-Louise” is supposed to mean.
Many old-time sportscasters had their sayings, too. Harry Carey, the legendary voice of the Chicago Cubs was known for saying “Holy Cow.” Milo Hamilton, who announced Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, was known for saying “Holy Toledo.”
I suwanee, I don’t know of anything holy about cows or Toledo, but they were interesting sayings.
I just hope some of you enjoyed my dog-gone story.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.