11/26/2014

Dumb Kansas Expressions

I have a terrible admission to make and it appears to be something I am stuck with for life, which at 66 probably won't be all that long. I first tried to put this apology/admission on Facebook, but Facebook's crap editor defeated me. So, it's here. I grew up in a place and time where the phrase "boy howdy" was as common as "please," "thank you," "can I help with that," "you're welcome," and "if you need anything, please call." Unfortunately, for me and my father and brother "boy howdy" shortened to "boy" by the time I was an adolescent. It is an expression I've used reflexively for at least 60 years. As in "Boy! That's awful." Or "Boy! I wish I'd thought of that." Or "Boy! That tastes like crap." It probably looks worse in print than it sounds, but I can't say that since I'm usually wishing, once more, I'd kept my hillbilly Kansas mouth shut when "boy" introduces yet another sentence. If I'd have been from New York or California, I'd start every thought with "um" or "you know" or "you know what I mean" or "like." But, nope. I'm from 1950's western Kansas and I'm stuck with "boy."

According to the Word Detective, "It’s pretty hard to think of a single aspect of modern life that isn’t connected to Howdy Doody in some way. To those of you born after 1960, 'Howdy Doody' may have been just a wildly popular 1950s kiddie TV show, but the rest of us know that time and space began with Buffalo Bob and Clarabell the Clown. Someone should tell those physicists that they’re wasting their time searching for that Grand Unified Theory of Everything. It’s Howdy Doody all the way down." And I grew up with that freaky little ginger puppet as big part of my childhood, my hometown culture (I won a Ralph Edwards-sponsored contest when I was a kid), and we never missed a show, even when I had to hang out with neighbor kids to see it since my father didn't buy a television until I was 13.

Continuing with the Word Detective's analysis, "The original lexical function of the phrase was simply to catch the listener’s attention, equivalent to saying 'Hey, mister…', but today 'boy' used this way signals that the speaker considers what follows to be important or surprising ('Boy, I never thought they’d actually fire me')."

Yeah, all that is true. But in some social situations it doesn't feel right. If feels like I've slapped someone in the face and I don't mean to do that. Stupid as it may sound, I am not calling anyone "boy." I'm just a hick stuck with a stupid word for practically every moment that mildly deserves an exclamation mark. At this point in my life, I wouldn't mind replacing "boy" with "like," as much as I hate that word for any It's not gonna happen, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment