Writing My Life

Now and Then


… a time to ramble … around and through “safe” subjects

I still like to read newspapers – not as avidly as my husband – but if there are sections strewn throughout the living room or kitchen, it will take me 30 minutes to pick ’em up, stack ’em up, and throw ’em out recycle ’em. Why so long? Because I can’t go through that process without scanning headlines, skimming 3 or 4 articles, and pouring over at least one story, commentary, or feature.

This morning, I delved into Ann Cannon’s column – “You’re a Pill; Old-fashioned words sought.” I enjoy reading Ann; it’s a lot like reading a blog – but I can tote her words with me into the bathroom. And if I spill diet A&W Rootbeer all over her weekly wisdom, the mess won’t forever end access to future Ann Cannon columns like it would if I dumped a beverage onto my laptop. (It just occurred to me that Ann must also host a blogsite. Wait here, while I check it out. — Hey, she DOES! The Writer’s Corner (and also what I ate today). It’s nearly as fun as her column!)

Although I’m older than Ann, I’m younger than her parents – BYU’s Lavell and Patti Edwards. Still I relate to her experiences and agree with most of her opinions, especially about raising boys. (She has 4 boys, no girls; I birthed 4 boys and no girls but now claim 3 daughters-in-law and 5 grand daughters! )

The other thing I like about Ann’s columns/postings is that she pretty much avoids controversy. I’m not sure why she does, but I know I am scared spitless of topics that raise hackles and inspire cantankerous comments. Look what happened to poor Scott Pierce when he stuck his neck out and wrote about the David Letterman/Sarah Palin battle. The last time I checked, 146 comments were listed! And many of them were nasty, Nasty, NASTY! Scott claimed to be cowardly because he didn’t approach the topic sooner. I don’t know WHY he thought it was safe to plunge in today, but it wasn’t! The sharks were just hidin’ in the reef waiting for him to dip his big toe into the cesspool.

On the other hand, Ann’s “call-to-action” (send in old-fashioned words) has only pulled in 9 comments, but could there be a safer subject? While I have weighed in on controversial issues like bad and good mothers, I usually don’t because I feel uncomfortable even COMMENTING about debates. I fret enough over sounding intelligent when I post a comment, so I don’t want to start looking over my shoulder for conservative/liberal, Republican/Democrat, BYU/Utah, traditionalists/feminists aiming poison pens at my unsuspecting back, too! VERY SCARY!

Today, however, I rallied to Ann’s cry for old-fashioned words. And here’s a revised version – revised because on MY blogsite, I can write more than the 200-word limit required by the Deseret News website! So the following is what I WOULD have submitted had Joe Cannon allowed me a sufficient number of words!

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Another rather archaic term – besides the old-fashioned word “pill,” that refers to sulky children – is “Good night, Nurse!” – always uttered in exasperation. Perhaps patients frustrated at being awakened for yet ANOTHER shot or pill, originally growled the farewell in a thinnly veiled attempt to articulate their irritation to the attending medic. (As the nurse exited, she probably mumbled under her breath, “What a pill!!!” And yes, I am assuming that the nurse was female because in the hey-day of “good night, nurse,” the majority of nurses were women.)

“Punk” was one of my Grandma Barrett’s favorite terms, used to describe her state of mind. Before you imagine a little old lady with a 10-inch blue-haired Mohawk, wearing a leather vest, I must explain that Grandma was communicating that she was feeling under the weather. “I’m feelin’ a little ‘punk’ today,” she’d whisper as we dropped by for the first time in a week. (Grandma sometimes felt a little “punk” when she needed to lay on a little guilt, too.)

Then there were “Mormon” slang terms like “flip,” which has now been replaced by “Omiheck.” Missionaries often returned from the near-east or Far West with that classy expression embedded in their vocabularies! (“Flip! I can’t believe how every girl on campus wants her M.R.S. degree!”)


Worn by Elvis, James Dean, and Tony Curtis

Descriptive terms have changed, too, but so have the objects they described. A “D.A.” (short for duck’s a**) or “ducktail,” worn by “greasers,” was a long, greasy haircut that swirled into a curl in the middle of the forehead and an up-sweep in the back. Of course, there was a girl’s version of the ducktail, too.

Summer Dee & Donahue

Troy's Sexy Beta Haircut!

The “beta” haircut was a precursor to the Beatle haircut and featured long, swooping bangs, but was cut short above the ears. I could not find a reference to this early ’60s cut, but I think it originated on college campuses, and fraternities spawned the “beta” reference. The best beta cut belonged to teen matinĂ©e idol Troy Donahue. Sigh.

Before ending this rather random post, I need to tell you I searched for a few sources for old words beyond what my memory could provide, and found one to be Ann’s own blog. This is just a little ironic because she indirectly mocked her husband for calling their Newfoundland a “pill,” but in The Writer’s Corner, she asked “WHAT IN THE SAM HILL ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?” (You don’t hear that reference everyday, and just who in the Sam Hill is Sam Hill?) In another entry, she proclaimed, “That would be a grand gift.” (My Grandpa Barrett was the last person who regularly used “grand,” and he’s been gone for 25 years.)

Let’s face it, Ann likes those old-fashioned words enough to use them. And so do I – most of them anyway. They take me back to a place or a person, an incident or a dream – grand times I can retrieve in memory only.