Sunday, April 16, 2017

Old Words

Last week I heard a word in an old movie on TCM that I hadn't heard for a long time:  piffle.

We used to say this when I was in high school, "Oh, piffle!" An expression of disgust is the way we used it. So I looked in and found out it means nonsense. As a verb it means to talk nonsense.

That made me think of other words I don't hear anymore. My mom called a boy going by on a bicycle a towhead. I thought she meant his head was shaped like a toe.  Later I discovered it meant very light blonde.

When I was a kid, I was tall and had thin legs. My dad told me I looked like a shyte poke, pronounced  to rhyme with shy. This was  a bird with long skinny legs. ( I since have shrunk in height but still have skinny legs.)

A friend (?) in high school told me I had alligator skin on my arms.

Another person kidded me and said I looked like Helen Brown. I was too dense to realize he was really meaning that I looked like hell in brown.  I wasn't too sharp. In Spanish class the Latinos called me Seca.  Dried up and thin.

Luckily, none of these things bothered me. They were harmless names and not like some terrible terms that are used more commonly now.

How did I get from old movies to calling people names? Stream of consciousness, I guess.

Later edit:  I used Google to look up shitepoke"   A common name for the bird, a heron, is shite-poke, which is an old-fashioned way of saying “bag [poke] of excrement. Used in Europe.