Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The bellied up thingamajig

Uncle Bill was my favorite relative. He was a Navy diver back in the days of WWI and helped build many tunnels and bridges in the NY area. He also did some demolition work and other kinds of high risk diving. I guess doing that kind of work over 30 years gives you either a sense of humor or a grim demeanor - and he cultivated a sense of humor. (He announced when Armstrong was about to walk on the moon and the TV accidentally showed a simluation of the trap opening, then closing on the space capsule, that they "was throwing the garbage out of the galley".)

Uncle Bill was indeed colorful. He managed to whisper things to us, words we'd never heard and phrases that joined together like two flavors of your favorite bubblegum to kids looking for a way to secretly swear just a little so we wouldn't get into trouble. He used words like "cod face", "sonofagun", "squid neck", "whale belly", "dead bottom" and " high falutin brass" all the time, even in the same sentence in his stories. Once he called an ice cream salesman who cheated me a "dirty lowdown bum" so fast that no one could decipher what he was saying. It sounded more like "Did you buy it?" to anyone listening and then he would wink at us secretively.

Of course my Uncle Bill muttered, grunted and otherwise spit the words out in different intonations to hide their meaning. Maybe he learned to do this in the service so he could insult officers without them knowing it. It certainly worked on my parents.

When I have a day like today where I'm learning to use new equipment, my scooter is in pieces on the ground and my frustration level mounts, I think of Uncle Bill and find myself wanting to put together some phrases myself. The difficulty is that my voice is clear as a bell, so everyone can hear what I'm saying. If I spout out "You cod face bellied up thingamajig" I can never get away with saying "Oh I said Cape Cod's whales are jumping." I don't have the intonation down right.

It's really a lost art, I'm afraid. I've been trying for years to learn. However, the good news is I'm getting lots of practice these days.

1 comment:

goldchair said...

I've got a few thingamajigs around here that are bellied up now and then. Good luck with the scooter.