Tennessee Mountain Stories

When your Lost for Words

I am so thankful that I didn’t grow up around profane and filthy-talk.  I well remember picking up from a girl in elementary school the use of God’s name in vain and I tried it out on Mama while she was washing my hair (back in the day we’d stick our head under the faucet in the sink you know and sometimes it maybe felt a little like torture) well I let out that holy name and thought for all the world Mama would drowned me as she declared we do NOT talk that way.  I don’t think I’ve ever said it again.

I do find myself repeating phrases long held in my memory.  Sometimes I don’t remember who I learned them from and others are treasures from long lost family or friends.  Now I get a lot of grief for these sometimes but my family all says the same things and my friends are used to me by now.

“Great Day in the Morning” was the closest I ever heard my paternal grandfather come to cussing and he used it often – no doubt because we were always underfoot and he was always flabbergasted by us.  If we broke something, “Great Day in the Morning”.  If we were arguing – and we were often arguing, “Great Day in the Morning.”  If someone dis something that was just unbelievable, “Great Day in the Morning.”  My neice never knew the man on account of he went home to heaven a decade before she came into this world but guess what I hear her saying all the time… well actually she often gets it a little wrong but that’s just part of her charm.  I think she’ll say “Great Day at Night” or something like that which if maybe funnier than the way Grandpa said it.

Now I never knew my Mother’s paternal Grandfather but his memory lives on in stories.  And some of those stories helped to inspire a character in one of my books; he always said, “By Jingo”.  One reader commented on that phrase after reading Replacing Ann and thought it made the story realistic.  Well I think that old man was realistic but I’m afraid his by-word was a pseudonym for using our savior’s name in vain.  We usually only say this when we tell the stories of that particular ancestor.

I guess what got me thinking along these lines was another of my familiar phrases, “You’re not long for this world.”  Now I confess this one is usually something of a threat, usually to my husband who pesters the living daylights out of me sometimes and when I’ve had enough I tell him, “You’re not long for this world” and I puncutate that with bucko and he knows it’s time to back off.  But it’s quite a worthwhile phrase as we sometimes just know someone ain’t long for this world.  Well I’m sure you can imagine how validating it was when recently a sister in church asked for prayer for a loved one who’d been battling cancer for a long time and she said, “I just don’t think she’s long for this world”.  It was not polite that my husband elbowed me just then.

I know we keep comin’ back to this topic of mountain jargon and Appalachian English  - you’ve got to admit though, there’s a wealth of worthy subject matter there!

By the way, if you weren’t quite so blessed as me in your upbringing and you had to hear ugly talk, I do hope you’re doin’ a little better by your own children, grandchildren, cousins, neighbors, pets, pests…


Psalm 19:14       Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.