All this week, my friend Melodie, bonny Irish lass that she is, has been getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day next week by quoting a series of Irish toasts and proverbs, not to be confused with limericks (there once was a man from Nantucket). She has quite a few of them, and even learned one from a relative that her grandfather always used.
I didn’t grow up in an Irish household…I grew up with a bunch of Swedes. We ate a lot of meat and potatoes, many times mixed together…like krup kaker. That’s basically a big dumpling made of grated potatoes and flour, with meat on the inside. Eating one of these babies with a little white gravy is like eating a large pepperoni pizza all by yourself in one sitting. Oy vey!
So that means that I didn’t grow up with Irish toasts and proverbs. I grew up with my dad and his brothers teaching me naughty words in Swedish, like “look at the schnootas on her,” and “he’s full of wheight-ah”…and my navel was a “mauga-peela”. My sister, who was fortunate enough to remember my grandfather, who came over on the boat and spoke a mixture of English and Swedish, would make her scrambled eggs for breakfast, and call them “eggs rur-rah”…and while he was stirring them in the skillet, he would say “rur-rah, rur-rah, rur-rah”.
My dad and my uncles also had many expressions that they would use. I don’t know if they made them up, or if they had heard them somewhere along the line…but they were the kind of expressions that would make you scatch your head and smile, even if you didn’t quite understand what you were smiling about. Some were just random observations:
-My uncle, working on a project in his shop, stopped and thought for a moment, then said to me “I’ve been sawing on this board all morning…and it’s still too short.”
-When my dad would run across a part to a machine, and he wasn’t quite sure what it was, he would say “That looks like a hootie-guy…for a threshing machine”.
-My other uncle told me a story one time about my dad scaring him when he came home late one night…according to him “hell, I was so daffy I couldn’t-ah licked a two-cent stamp”.
And let’s not forget my dear old aunt, who, upon learning that my sister’s future husband worked for General Mills (he was in the chemical division), asked if he was “a taster”.
Then there were our own kind of toasts and proverbs, which were more like little sing-song type rhymes:
“Tough titty said the kitty when the milk ran dry.”
“Shave and a haircut…two bits! I got a cow with…six tits!”
And my all-time favorite, which I just taught to my own children:
“There’s a soldier in the grass with a bullet up his ass…take it out, take it out like a good boy scout”.
That’s what I grew up with.
And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. My dad came from a large family. His parents came to America from Sweden with his two oldest sisters. My grandfather was a blacksmith by trade, but an artist at heart. I have many of his paintings and carvings, and his talent amazes me. They didn’t have much money, but they were close and always seemed to have a good time. I never knew my Swedish grandparents, and my dad and all of his brothers and sisters are gone as well. But I can still hear their voices, and all of the funny expressions they would use.
Right now, I have to hurry up and get going because I have a lot to do…so I’d better cut a fat hog in the ass.
I love that one.