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Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Catchphrases

After my post "What's Your Name?" I had more conversations with family members about the funny things our family says. I was reminded of a few more.

From Len:

"I'm still laughing at mahogany." This came from an episode of The Phil Silvers Show that I never saw, but for some reason this line was spoken by the character Doberman, but what it was in reference to, I have no idea. It certainly struck a chord with my Grandad. If anyone can enlighten me, please do.

An "I Gotta Be There Boy".This was a term Len used to describe anyone driving fast, and recklessly. "He's gotta be there! He's an I Gotta Be There Boy!"

"The rubber boot, rubber boat brigade". At the intersection of Beacon Oak Road and Ashford Road (A28) in Tenterden, where Len would turn right towards St. Michaels to drive home, on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon during the summer, the road would be busy with people coming back from or going to the beach, often with surfboards, kayaks or waterskis or other watery apparatus strapped to their roof racks. These were the rubber boot rubber boat brigade. And some of them were I Gotta Be There Boys too. A kayak would also spur Len into relating the story of the Eskimo whose feet were always cold and lit a fire in his boat to warm his feet, but instead caused the canoe to sink, hence the expression "You can't have your kayak and heat it."

Anytime someone was smoking a pipe or exotic-smelling cigarette, or indeed whenever a burning smell was present, Len always wheeled out the old joke about two men, one of whom was smoking a pipe. The first, sniffing the air, inquired "What are you smoking?" to which the smoker replied sniffily, "That's my business". The first snaps back with, "Thought it was -  how d'you get it dry?"

"Exactly!" This is a hard one to explain. Len would give a woman who lived nearby a lift to work, and once described to us the annoying way in which she said "Exactly". You kinda had to be there, but to hear him tell the tale and describe the way she said it and the alarming frequency with which it was uttered, it soon became a part of the family lingua franca. "Exactly!!"

"...but it's beautifully cooked!" This was another old joke of which the punchline became a standard remark at lunches, dinners, out at restaurants, cafes, etc. when something about the food wasn't quite right. The story concerns an Army Regiment in the North African Desert who were always complaining about the food. The cook, understandably, was short on supplies and struggled daily to make enough food and still keep it edible. He was tired of the job, so he said that the next person to complain about the food could have his job. Of course, no-one did, because they didn't want the job any more than he did. One day, to make sure of getting a complaint, he mixed camel dung in with the food. Everyone ate in silence until one soldier stood up and shouted "It's shit!... but it's beautifully cooked."


"Bloody old Kennedy! Rotten old keg-meg!" This actually came from my Great-Grandmother, Elsie's Mum. Growing up in the area of South London known as Camberwell, the local butcher was Kennedy's which had 9 stores up until 2007 when they were forced to close, like a lot of High Street butchers have, due to the big supermarkets taking their business. Evidently the phrase above is one my Great-Gran would utter when the meat she bought turned out to be not of a good quality, tough, gristly, or whatever. Elsie would say this in emulation of her at our Sunday lunches and so the phrase passed down to us. What "keg-meg" actually is, no one is quite certain.

Elsie was also fond of singing while cooking. We'd be in the other room,  and she'd be busy in the kitchen, singing "Big Rock Candy Mountain" as she worked. Now, this in itself is not unusual, I suppose. Lots of people sing while they busy themselves with household chores. It was not so much her singing as the way she sang. She would sing a line... and then, about a minute later, the next line. We would hear pots and pans and chopping and slicing and water running, and then "Oh, the buzzin' of the bees, and the cigarette trees...." and then more chopping, rinsing, clanging, slicing.... thirty seconds would go by... then "...the soda water fountain....". To this day I cannot think of Elsie without picturing her in the kitchen creating a slap-up Sunday feast, and singing that song.

And on that note, I bid you goodnight.

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