What’s It Mean?


I’ve picked up a few stock phrases that my dad always used to use when I was a kid. I’ve done the same thing with my some of my grandpa’s phrases. I never thought twice about what some of those phrases meant. They just sounded cool and it spewed them out with pride.

When I was a teenager, I realized that some phrases that people say all the time are offensive. Like my grandpa used to say,

“Wait a cotton-picking moment.”

This is a racist slur. It goes back to the slaves working in the fields. Fortunately this phrase has fallen out of common usage and I only used it a few times when I was younger before I realized that it was not appropriate.

My dad used to say.

“For crying out loud!”

I still say this one all the time. I don’t even know what it really means. So I just looked it up.

This is what I found,

“for crying out loud: An ejaculation,usually indicating complaint or astonishment. Many of the users of this expression would be shocked to learn that it is in the category known as a minced oath; that is,a substitute based on, but slightly different from a profanity.”

– from the book “Heavens to Betsy” that has curious sayings in them.

It seems that this saying is also based on a bad word.

I think that there is a place for euphemisms, but not all of them. We need to understand when a phrase is hurtful of based on something hurtful. We should try to stop using these phrases.

I know that I try not to swear. I don’t take the Lords name in vain. I don’t say cotton-picking anymore but I still say for crying out loud. I think that one is tame and harmless these days, but maybe I am wrong there too.

How about you, what phrases do you find yourself saying that you don’t really know what they mean. Please share them in the comments. I will try to find the etymology of them for all of us.

5 thoughts on “What’s It Mean?

  1. I do swear.. but I think I would rather use any phrase you mentioned. less harmless. but stop using them at all? how will one get quick rid off the buble of energy that is inside at that specific moment?
    I know it would be better not to have a burst of energy but this is more likely impossible, we all get boiled-up sometimes and this is better then making a hole in the wall.

    english is my second language so I can’t share any phrases, but something like ‘oh, for pits sake’. I don’t even know the spelling of it.

  2. Hi Ela,

    You’re right; swearing does seem to have a purpose. It releases energy and gives us an outlet that we need.

    My point is that we can do this without offending someone. We could make up a new word like “Frizyak” or something instead. We could say “Shoot!” or something equally harmless.

    I’m not sure exactly where that phrase came from but it sounds like another religious euphemism.

    Hi Silverfish,

    Thanks for the link.

  3. Now you’ve done it. Darn and shoot are easy enough to decipher, but what naughty phrase can possibly lie behind “for crying out loud?”

    Ela’s phrase, BTW, is actually “for Pete’s sake,” and no doubt has something to do with old Saint Peter.

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