Monday, November 17, 2008

Big as Ike

When my parents' generation passes I'll miss the rich texture of their language. In a recent phone call with Mom she used a phrase in passing. I didn't think about it until later, when I was driving to pay the electric bill. A truck pulled out in front of me (glad my brakes work!) and I exclaimed, "Now ain't you big as Ike?"

And I smiled, thinking where I'd heard the phrase last. It's an adverb I guess. Means something like, "with an air that implies assumption of inalienable right."

If I'm ever talking to Mom and she says, "That kid drove his four-wheeler across my back yard with an air that implied assumption of some inalienable right" I'm gonna look around for Rod Serling! But it's all just as well.

When Mom says, "Big as Ike" I know exactly what she means. I can't possibly catalog the hundreds of peculiar expressions I grew up hearing. But I feel the richness of that dialect in my bones. I'm not saying the english language will become a vast arid wasteland twenty years from now.

Right now, there's a woman somewhere with hands on hips, looking down at her little jug eared kid sitting in the middle of the bedroom he's been told to clean. She may be saying, "You're so lazy you could be a Sushi chef." In years to come it will resonate, in part because of its strange, pretty logic. In part because it comforts. The grown man who'll repeat it links with a time when Momma's disapproval was his only worry.

And many of the phrases of my parents' generation will go forward as well. They will go forward because they're so artful in summing up common human experiences. The most useful of the phrases will go forward until nobody even knows why they say them. But I will miss the people who said them to me.

1 comment:

Rural Writer said...

This was an adorable, entertaining post! Thanks!