“Lawsey Mercy” and More of my Grandmother’s Favorite Sayings
Folks from the area known as Appalachia have their own language. Since my mom's mother and dad were born in western West Virginia and moved to Kentucky, they were heavily influenced by customs and language from the mountains. Yes--that's the same grandmother that had me paint the front porch light blue to keep bugs and haints away. She also had her favorite sayings and words.
My grandmother was always know by the name "Gigi." They say I gave that name to her when I was first learning to talk. Evidently I was trying to say "Grandma" and Gigi was the best I could do.
"Lawsey mercy" - This was the closest Gigi ever came to cursing. I believe it was her way of saying, "Lord Have Mercy," which in itself is not really cursing but she was not taking any chances with the Lord's name.
"Well, I swan" - I believe this was a slightly lighter version of her cursing. The word "swan" replaced "swear". She would use this phrase if she was amazed at something that just happened. It was used like, "Can you believe they did that--well, I swan".
"Talking ugly" - If Gigi actually heard someone cursing, this is how she described what they were doing. Talking ugly was not allowed in her presence at all.
"Running around like a chicken with its head cut off" - Her way of saying "you have no idea what you're doing". I actually saw chickens on her farm doing this when she had wrung their neck to prepare them for dinner. One time when I was about ten, she sent me to the back yard to kill a chicken for a meal. "Just grab it and wring its neck," she said. DO WHAT? I gave it a try but the darn bird kept trying to peck me so I got grandpa's .22 rifle and shot it thru the chicken fence. Right through both breasts.
"A penny saved is a penny earned" - Gigi must have told me this when I was very young because every time we visited her and grandpa's farm, I slipped a couple of pennies into a little torn hole in an old hassock in their living room. This went on for many years and I never told anyone. Finally when I was a teenager, I looked for the hassock to claim my savings and, of course, it had been thrown away. Lawsey Mercy!
"It's raining cats and dogs" - This means a heavy rain. There always seemed to be a lot of kittens under her back porch when I was a little kid so I figured it must have rained a lot on their farm.
"It's coming a gully washer" - Same as the last one without the animals.
"Good night and don't let the bedbugs bite" - She said this every night before I went to bed. The assumption is that there ARE bedbugs in my bed and there must be something I could do to keep them from biting. I really could have used that information for a better night's sleep.
"Fixin' to" - this means "I am getting prepared ". Usually this was used like, "I am fixin' to paint the front porch and I'll bet you'd like help me."
"Pop" - A bottle of soft drink. It could be any flavor or brand. It was never called "soda". Soda was the little box of white stuff that she mixed with water for me to drink when I got a "stummacake".
"A mess of" - this indicates a food item that has many parts such as "a mess of greens" or "a mess of biscuits". An alternate use was "You made a mess of painting the porch".
'Founder" - I'm not sure where this came from but it was used to mean if you keep eating those cookies, you'll founder on them. I did.
"Pon my word and honor" - This meant that what she just said or was going to say was the absolute truth. I think it meant "upon my honor" with the letter "U" just left off. If Gigi said this, it was as if she had her hand on a bible.
And the last one is something the whole family used. I did not understand this until I was an adult but for many meals we ate...
"Arsh Potatoes" - It was actually "Irish" potatoes but I knew when Gigi or my mother fixed them, they were big baked potatoes. Served with lots of farm fresh butter. Evidently the Irish folks lived on them and when they came to America during the potato famine, they brought along their love for them. I still refer to baked potatoes as "Irish" but I load mine down with sour cream, bacon bits, chives and cheddar and cottage cheese. Gigi would probably say,
"I swan-you're fixin' to founder on that mess of arsh potatoes."