Words of wisdom have many forms

Karen Wils photo Don’t let the cat out of the bag!

ESCANABA — Did your mother ever tell you not to let the cat out of the bag?

Did Grandpa ever ask you to put a little elbow grease on it?

Words are wonderful!

Words of wisdom are a treasure. And words are very powerful things.

String a few words together and you can make people laugh, cry, think or bore them to sleep. How do our spoken words of today, 2018, measure up to the spoken words and phrases of forty or fifty years ago?

First of all, back in Great-grandpa’s day, cuss words were reserved for the barn, tool shed or back forty where mostly the cows and cold wind heard them. Swearing around women and children was taboo.

Today, that’s not the case. Sometimes, it seems like folks try to jam too many cuss words into one sentence so that it hardly makes sense.

There are trendy words, like “cool” in the ’70s, “awesome” in the ’80s, “sweet” and “bad” mean something really good nowadays.

Modern folks text and tweet and use little emoji figures to help get words across.

Our parents had to use real words. Sometimes they were harsh and sometimes they were handed down generation after generation.

Descriptive phrases could be woven into sentences to get ideas across in a very visual way. Like if old aunt Nellie was having a bad day, Mom would say “boy, she has got a bee in her bonnet.”

If a fella was out too late and maybe had too many drinks, the next morning Mom would say “his eyes look like two pee holes in a snowbank.”

Creative and descriptive phrases may be losing their power and appeal in the computer age.

It’s fun to recall some of these cool, colloquial phrases of my youth. It is even more fun to look them up online and find out the meanings behind them.

How many of you gals out there were asked in your early teens, “just who do you think you are, Lady Jane?”

Today’s preteen girls wear clothes telling them that they are princesses and are born to shop! Oh, by the way, there really was a Lady Jane.

If you were sent on an errand, Pa would say and “you better be back before the cows come home.” Milk cows had a way of keeping a family on schedule back then.

When Mom wanted you to slow down or take it easy, she’d say “I don’t want you burning the candle at both ends!”

And, finally, the most famous phrase used by all parents in north Escanaba when their teenagers were trying to do something, ” I don’t care what all the other kids are doing, if they jumped off the ore docks, would you have to do it too?”

“Hold your horses, everybody” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” but I think we are going to have a great weekend filled with some funny words.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.