One of my mother’s favorite expressions for denoting surprise, shock, disbelief, humor or concern was “Holy-moly.” Well, actually, she used that talking point for pretty much everything. I can still hear her saying it.

It got me thinking.

There are many old-fashioned words and phrases…they’re really “a dime a dozen,” when you think about it. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to use them over some of the new-fangled phrases of today.

And so, to beat the winter doldrums, let’s just bring a few of them home.

Was it just our family, or were you always looking for something too? While mom would be looking for “that doo-hicky” in the kitchen, another one of us might have been looking for the “thing-a-ma-jig” or the “whatcha-ma-call-it” in our room. Sometimes there was way too much “rigmarole” with the whole thing.

Old-fashioned words. Where did they come from anyway? Take rigmarole for instance. The word means “a lengthy procedure, complicated, bothersome nonsense.”  Maybe in this instance, I’m using a lot of rigmarole in my rambling story about old-fashioned words. The first known use of the word rigmarole is circa 1736 (defined by Merriam-Webster as “a set of confused and meaningless statements”).

Dad didn’t go for a lot of rigmarole when it came to getting things done. As any one of us might be looking for “the whatcha-ma-jigger” (and it was crucial that it be found for the sake and the survival of the entire family), he would bluntly say, “Get me the hammer, get me the wrench, go get the Phillips or…where’s the flathead.” We knew exactly what to look for and what was expected. Honestly, I don’t think dad ever looked for a “thing-a-ma-bob.”

And then there are the words “flabbergasted” and “bamboozled.” I don’t want to be “wishy-washy,” so I’m just going to say it. Yes, I am often flabbergasted and bamboozled. Today, I am still looking for stuff, but first I have to try to remember why I walked into a room. Sometimes, we may all just be “be-fuddled.” Period.

Meanwhile, I was never be-fuddled when my older sisters and brother called me a “knucklehead,” “numbskull” or “nincompoop.” Those terms of endearment came, quite literally, “out of the blue,” just because I was their younger sister (I think). Even if they did use those terms of endearment, I still looked for ways to be part of their “hood-winks,” even if I might get a “knuckle sandwich.” Every once in a while they scared the “bejeebers” out of me.

We all had our moments. Take for instance the times we were “having a conniption” or “blowing a gasket” or “going berserk.” All part of growing up. Using these old-fashioned words and phrases literally puts a smile on my face as I think of the many instances I had a conniption. Can we remember why we had a conniption when we were five years old, or sixteen? It was most likely not important at all.

Yes, I did “lose my head,” and I suppose we all ran around “willy-nilly” at times. In the long run though, everything was “pretty neat, groovy and right on.”

If dad thought we appeared bored, he would put the “kibosh” on that in a hurry and find a chore that we considered, quite frankly, something that was “full of baloney.” We would “skee-daddle” as soon as we could and be off on more “shenanigans.” For sure we didn’t want to “lolly-gag” just in case there was something to clean that involved manure.

We didn’t know the slang words of another language, although I am quite certain that both mom and dad used them in times of frustration. My folk’s Norwegian and Finnish-heritage slang words did occasionally slip out, not often to my recollection, but again, I had no clue. I remember saying “doggone it” once when I was about 10 years old. My father, in a very steady voice, asked me where I had heard the word and told me never to say it again. This particular childhood lesson occurred while I was happily playing on the swing down by the barn. I never said that word again. Holy cow, the whole episode seems like yesterday. 

Old lessons come in handy as we grow old. We learned to “take a leap of faith” and “venture into the unknown.” And we still do. My dad may have seemed like an old “codger” at certain moments in my life, but now I’m the old codger and I appreciate everything my folks taught me. As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

The year I turned 21 I made dad a birthday card with that very quote in it. He got tears in his eyes. That seems like yesterday too.

And so, as I encourage you to think of old-fashioned words that may inspire memories, “don’t have a cow” if you can’t remember specifics, just have fun with the thoughts. You could have a really good time reminiscing and even “go bonkers,” I suppose. It’d be “really swell” if you do. Or, this whole column this month could just be a little “poppycock” to beat the “bah-humbug” winter doldrums. On the bright side, “hang on to your britches!” Spring is right around the corner.