Tuesday, January 31, 2017

TIP TUESDAY: WHAT'S A PHYSIC?

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

When I first started working at the nursing home, I loved going into Mr. A's room. He was a favorite of mine among the patients. Anytime I took something to him, he tapped his cheek and said, Give me a kiss right here, baby doll.

I was glad to oblige.

But one day he said, I need a physic.

I left the room puzzled. Physic? I asked the nearest nurse. What's a physic?

She said, It's an old-fashioned way of saying laxative.

I tell you this anecdote because it's important for your characters to use dialog appropriate for their time period. Word choice can also indicate a character's age.

F. Scott Fitzgerald referred to his alcoholism as "dipsomania." Writer Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House book series) once asked her father about sayings used when he was young, which would have been in the 1880s. One of his responses was that if they thought someone was a good fellow, they would say that man was "all wool and a yard wide."

My parents called margarine "oleo." My children wore cloth diapers and my mother called the plastic pants they wore over the diaper "rubber pants." When disposable diapers were new, I often heard them called "paper diapers."

This Web site has a dictionary of words commonly used in the 1920s and '30s: http://www.1929anupperclassaffair.com/Flapperspeak.pdf

Do you remember some words and phrases that you used to hear regularly that have fallen out of fashion but would be indicative of a time period?


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


32 comments:

  1. My mom still calls margarine oleo. Of course my sons think I am a fossil because of some of the things I say. One day my granddaughter will laugh at some of the things her dad says, and I will laugh with her.

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  2. Hi Janie - fitting right into character era mode is essential ... modern words don't always match. I have to say I can't think of anything off the top of my head - I'm sure there are some ... so cheers for now - Hilary

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  3. I bookmarked the site. Thanks Janie.
    R

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  4. "Nice gams!" Just the other day, I left that comment on a blog and my archaic word usage was (quite rightly) mocked. I responded that my parents were young during WW2 and that's where I had learned it.

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    1. I know what it means, and I wish someone would say it to me.

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  5. It's funny you bring this up. I was writing a story, and I caught myself saying, "dial the phone number." We don't "dial" phones anymore. If I asked my kids to "dial" a number, they would have no idea of what I was talking about.

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    1. What DO we say now when we tell someone to make a phone call?

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  6. When we were kids a common saying for something good was, "It's boss!" Don't hear that anymore.

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    1. You're right. That's gone. It wasn't part of my time period.

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  7. Apologises if it sounds a bit rude but "How's it hanging?" was very in about 10 years ago, but I glad to say you don't hear it anymore! Oh and Ace!

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    1. I always thought "How's it hanging" was funny, and I still say it sometimes.

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  8. I tried to think of some old sayings, it hurt my head, now if one of my daughters was here they would rattle off a bunch of things I say that they think are old fashioned out of date sayings. You mentioned rubber pants we would have called them plichers we don't have diapers we have nappies, I know my daughters don't know what a deadly treadly is which I found strange or what Shanks pony was either

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    1. You've stumped me with deadly treadly and Shanks pony. I've heard nappies on many British TV shows.

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  9. You raised an important dialogue point, Janie! One I'm always thinking about. Words used can also very regionally. Of course, right now I'm drawing a blank! Have a great day!

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    1. I learned a lot about localisms when we lived in Western Maryland. Sloppy Joes were "steamers" and peppers on a sub were "hots."

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  10. My father was born in 1922. He used to always take a "physic" Friday night at bedtime so Saturday morning he was good as new. I haven't heard that in such a long time. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Well, it's good to know your dad kept himself regular.

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  11. What a great example of time period language!

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    1. That which does not change, dies. So language has to change, too.

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  12. So many things sound funny to my kids when I say them because they're outdated/no longer in use. We joke that I'm showing my age. That being said, I've caught the previous generation using some terms that are taboo because they are now racist terms! I tell you, it makes me so uncomfortable when I hear one of them say something...inappropriate!

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    1. When I was a child, my mother used some racist terms that I knew were wrong. In later years, thank God, she stopped.

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  13. I can't think of any old-fashioned words or phrases at the moment. But when I returned to the US after having lived in Europe for almost 30 years, I found that folks where I live had changed (or forgotten) how to pronounce lots of common words. Examples: asked = axed and the adjective "blessed" is pronounced like the verb "blessed." Lord have mercy😉Linda@Wetcreek Blog

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  14. Yes, word choice can indicate a character's age. Which is why I never say, "Swell!" or "Grrrrrrooovy!"

    Next time I see that cute neighbor of mine, I'll wink and say, "Give me a kiss right here, baby doll." I wonder if she'll slap me in the face or kick me in the nuts.

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    1. Mr. A. was about ninety years old. I think you have to reach at least eighty to demand kisses. Another male patient asked for a goodnight kiss one evening. He puckered up and I agreed to one little peck on the lips. He tried to stick his tongue in my mouth! He never got a goodnight kiss again.

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  15. Every generation seems to have it's buzz words. Besides the words that are allocated to particular time periods such as "groovy" was in the 60s there are also regional words that come into our lexicons because of geographical practices. When I lived in the South carbonated beverages were called soda or Coke but in Chicago it was called pop or soda pop. Neither of those words are common where I live now. (Kansas City).

    As far as words that give hints to the time of a story, the technology references would be a give away. Records, 8 tracks,cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and downloads are all references that give a timeline marker.

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    1. When I was growing up in Kansas and then moved to Indiana followed by Washington state, we said pop. When I got to Maryland, it was soda. Here in Florida I still say soda.

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