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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 54
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

Many of you have mailed me – or called me on the phone – or come by my office with old-timey phrases. All of them are interesting and fun.

One of the more interesting that I had never heard before was the use of the phrase "plime blank" to mean exactly or precisely.

Where did something like that come from? It turns out that it likely began from the old nautical term that designated when a ship was fully loaded. There is still today a mark called the "Plimsol Line" that marks the water level on the side of the ship. When there is so much weight in the ship that the line is blanked out, it means the ship is fully loaded. That’s where our old-timey phrase of "plime blank" came from!

Lots of folks used to farm in our area. We have many expressions and sayings that come from the work that was done in the fields such as, "In the short rows." That meant when the job was almost done.

If a job was really difficult, folks said, "It was a rough row to hoe."

If a person was working really, really hard, he was said to be "Picking two rows at the time."

Around here, if someone fell into the Okapilco, he was said to have "Wet his pipe, matches and tobacco!"

Long ago when itinerant artists traveled the country roads painting portraits, they charged by the body part painted. There were no cameras and one’s image was either sculpted or painted.

For example, there are paintings of George Washington showing him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms.

Prices were not charged by how many people in a painting, but by how many limbs were to be painted.

There were separate charges for feet, legs, arms, hands…which is where we get our expression today, "OK, but it will cost you an arm and a leg!"

Guns were expensive. Most common folk went to the gunsmith and purchased whatever part of the gun they could afford at the time…accumulating parts until a complete firearm could be assembled. You won’t, I don’t think, be surprised to learn that is where our expression, "Lock, stock and barrel," comes from.

One of my personal favorites is – when someone is smiling BIG – he or she is said to be "Grinning like a mule eating briars through a barbed wire fence."

Of course, barbed wire was pronounced "bob war."

When something happened that was totally unexpected and hard to believe, the comment was often, "If that don’t beat a hog a’flying!"

It is a shame that "sopping" has gone out of fashion! My grandma always "sopped" her gravy with her biscuit. For those who don’t know, the old-timers would take their biscuit and "sop" up the delicious drippings in your plate when the meat was finished. In the days when food was hard to come by, it was expected that you would not waste anything and was in no way considered impolite.

Most of us, at one time or another, have said, "Let’s get our bearings."

What a strange phrase to use meaning, "Let’s find out where we are…"

It’s not so strange when you think that the phrase comes from The Bear Constellation which points to the North Star…that beacon that has guided man from the beginnings of time.

We’ll do a few of these next week too.

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