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.