Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lost Words: Heavens to Murgatroyd! Anyone remember what this means?

We can have archaic and eat it, too.
By Richard Lederer

About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included "Don't touch that dial," "Carbon copy," "You sound like a broken record" and "Hung out to dry." A bevy of readers have asked me to shine light on more faded words and expressions, and I am happy to oblige:

Back in the olden days we had a lot of moxie. We'd put on our best bib and tucker and straighten up and fly right. Hubba-hubba! We'd cut a rug in some juke joint and then go necking and petting and smooching and spooning and billing and cooing and pitching woo in hot rods and jalopies in some passion pit or lovers lane. Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley! We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn't accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!

Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when's the last time anything was swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn't anymore.

Like Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Kurt Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, we have become unstuck in time. We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, I'll be a monkey's uncle! or This is a fine kettle of fish! we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.

Poof, poof, poof go the words of our youth, the words we've left behind. We blink, and they're gone, evanesced from the landscape and wordscape of our perception, like Mickey Mouse wristwatches, hula hoops, skate keys, candy cigarettes, little wax bottles of colored sugar water and an organ grinders monkey.

Where have all those phrases gone? Long time passing. Where have all those phrases gone? Long time ago: Pshaw. The milkman did it. Think about the starving Armenians. Bigger than a bread box. Banned in Boston. The very idea! It's your nickel. Don't forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Turn-of-the-century. Iron curtain. Domino theory. Fail safe. Civil defense. Fiddlesticks! You look like the wreck of the Hesperus. Cooties. Going like sixty. I'll see you in the funny papers. Don't take any wooden nickels. Heavens to Murgatroyd! And awa-a-ay we go! Oh, my stars and garters!

It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter had liver pills. This can be disturbing stuff, this winking out of the words of our youth, these words that lodge in our heart's deep core. But just as one never steps into the same river twice, one cannot step into the same language twice. Even as one enters, words are swept downstream into the past, forever making a different river.

We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeful times. For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It's one of the greatest advantages of aging. We can have archaic and eat it, too.

See ya later, alligator!
__________________

Richard Lederer is an American author, speaker, and teacher. He is best known for his books on the English language and on word play such as puns, oxymorons, and anagrams. 

[With thanks to Judy Mezen]


Monday, November 2, 2015

AISODONOLAH ~ another Manglish poem by Antares


Aitelyu ah, every year laif getting harder,
Not like lastaim so seemple one.
You remember ornot dat taim we all in skool
Honda Cub five hundred dollar can buy.
Now how much oridi? Five tausend over!
Becos of INGFLATION wat, dey say…
So whatever happen to INFLASI SIFAR hah?
Dis mins debladigarmen’s kempen for “Zero Ingflation”
Only add up to NUTTING pulak…
But aisodonolah…

De udder day my son come home from skool,
Say he nid computer.
Defler form one only, man,
Oridi want to so high-teck!
He say, nowdays got standard six buggers
Using word plocessor – Oi! Mamasan 2020, yutingwat!
So like a bladifoo I take de rascal to the IT Expo
And buy him two tausend linggit computer,
Summore got "Intel Inside" one.
Now defler as soon as he back from tiewshun
Oridi sitting like hunchback wid new video game: Taa-taaaa-taaaaaaang! Zoop-zooooop!
Waaah, got STEREO sound one, pulak:
CIA, James Bond and Mossad versus Al-Qaeda and Al Gore!
Arfturds I go and see how de bladi ting work...
And de ungratefoo chap, ah,
He tell me to go away!
Never gif his old man chan to play…
Aiyoh, chewren dese days ah, watusay,
Aisodonolah…

Hweeyoh, doan tok to me about TRAFFIC JAM, brudder,
See my blood pressure oridi shoot up!
Lemme arsk you ah: got so many so-call iconomicks expert,
How come dey kennot add up how much
Taim, petrol, energy and payshuns wasted
In de bladi name of Progress, hah?
And how come de Otorities seemply allow
Dose gawdam devilopers to build high-rice condo
Even where got only kampong road?
Tingking of da FUTURE, da tick-skin flers say.
WHOSE FUTURE, I arsk you? Their own lah!
Two, tree housing projek oridi can retire,
Get free condo summore…
Cheh! Aisodonolah…

You want to hear a good joke ah?
Why garmen awfis orways got Piles of Work?
Becos dose buggers sit on their fat backside all day long
Till dey all kena PILES pulak –
So dey say PILES OF WORK is Ockupayshunal Hazard lah, haha!

But now ah, I hear dey will be UPGRADED, man:
Every seevil servant will get computer and internet
Under da Smart Awfis Plan -
Mins da furniture smarter than deflers who work there lah!
Dat’s wat MULTIMEDIO SUPER CURRYPUFF is all about lah:
From Mediocracy to Mediacrazy – waffor, man?
We only arsk dem to bekum NICER HOOMIN BEANS –
No nid for all sorts of ackspensif e-kwipment lah.
Aiyoh, so many kampong steel got no paip water
Or letrickcity; nearly half da bladi pawpoolayshun
Kennot read or rait (nemmain their speling lah)…
Steel sumflers want to ackshun only,
Awfer Bill Gates CON-SULTAN JOB IN POOTRAJAYA.
Yuting we kennot awford ah?
Twenty million a month oso no ploblem, man!
But where de heck da money coming from?
Oso, where de fuck de money going?
Aisodonolah.

Tok tok tok tokkok only!
ISO dis and ISO dat,
Aisodono wat.
Everywan and Kompeni going GREEN nowdays,
Mins wat? Learn to PLAY GOLF ah?
SARS-TAIN-ABLE EVERYTING…
Including GREED.
Watudu, booshit is manure - and manure good for growth wat,
You better shurrup and main your own affairs.
Any ploblem call Gurmit or Karpal Singh lah!
But who will do our Dirty Work for us, hah,
Wen dose flers retire or die?
Aisodonolah.
Oridi everyting PRIVATIZED and PIRATIZED,
Now no more Public Sektor lor!
Survival of the Fattest, yutingwat –
Dontch know your Charles Darwin ah, brudder?
“Aiyah, CARI MAKAN lah,” some say,
But ackchwurly ah, CURI MAKAN only.
Sneak around wid bags full of LOOT,
When caught REDHANDED wid pants down
Like dat oso never get de BOOT!
Ackshun spik lauder than words, dey say,
But in dis kiasu-kiasi so-sigh-ty ah,
You tok too laud you get DETAINED;
Kip quiet only, you bin DEBRAINED…
So waffor I tok to YOU ah?
Aisodonolah.


[Written 29 January 1997; revised 4 March 2007 and 13 October 2011; doodles by Antares]