Mesa Musings: Mom put me on straight and narrow

November 03, 2010|By Jim Carnett

This election's got me all "whoppygoggled!"

My mother hails from southeastern Kansas, a couple of miles north of the Oklahoma border.

Her mother was from Missouri and her father was from Arkansas — states near my mom's Montgomery County, Kan., birthplace.

Kansas was never part of Dixie, but accents in southeastern Kansas — at least for people who were born there in the early decades of the 20th century — can be as twangy as any you'll encounter in the Deep South.

This nation has a rich heritage of regional accents but, sadly, with the advent of convenient travel, frequent relocation and instant communication, those accents are disappearing. They may be gone in another hundred years.


My 86-year-old mom came to California as a teenager, but retains her Kansas mannerisms.

Like the other day when she said to me, "Honey, he doesn't know me from Adam's off ox!"

Excuse me? Actually, I didn't ask her to 'splain herself because I've heard her use that term many times over the years. I know exactly what she means. It's a phrase known in several parts of this country.

Essentially it means "He doesn't know me from Adam" — an old British expression. Or, simply put, "We've never met."

When she used to wash my hair when I was a youngster and I got soap in my eyes, she accused me of "hollerin' like a stuck pig."

When it was time to get busy on homework she'd warn me, "Don't just sit there like a bump on a log!"

Have you ever been told a picture on the wall is "antigogglin?" That means, of course, it's slightly askew. She used that term as well as its colorful companion expression, "whoppygoggled," to convey the concept of crookedness.

She also used "cattywampus." Cattywampus may derive from the Scottish word "wampish," which means twisted. "Lingua Kansan" has a rich vocabulary. Ancient Greek may have four distinct words for "love," but Kansan has just as many for "crooked!"

She also used to say, "I swan," the Southern equivalent of "I swear."

On bath nights, she'd implore me to "worsh" behind my ears. Never "wash." Our nation's capital is in "Worsh-ington, D.C." I used that pronunciation for two decades without being aware of it until my senior year in college when I was set right by a fellow student.

Knott's Berry Farm was in "Be-yew-na Park" not Buena Park. Orange County was OR-unge county, not ARE-ange county.

Thanks to my mother, I still pronounce this county's famous citrus product her way. I worked at Orange Coast College for 36 years and never got it right.

Mom's phraseology might have left me slightly whoppygoggled, but thank goodness she made certain I trod the straight and narrow!

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles