Even though I have been a part of the education establishment all my life, there are certain things that I did not learn there as a student.
As a teacher, there were many things I realize now that I should have taught my students. Most of these words, ideas, names and scientific data were learned outside of a classroom.
In fact I came upon most of these things while fishing, hunting or playing golf with gentlemen whose wisdom and expertise in linguistics far exceeded my own. People like Porkchop, Shooter, Boom Boom, Moonshine and Big Al helped me along the way and provided a cultural awakening that I never knew existed.
I often use these words and expressions in my writing. It is only fitting that an explanation of them be given so you might better understand some of my future offerings to you.
Here are some common terms you might see. A number of these are found in Mr. Webster’s dictionary, but some were inexplicably left out.
— Guttersnipe: A person with no morals or manners.
“Did you know that Aunt Pickle Bottom was seen riding in a truck with Sparky Ledbetter and he has the reputation of a guttersnipe.”
— Cankered: Food that is spoiled.
“Honey, the tofu smells cankered so I’m going to give it to the dog.”
— Cattywampus: Something that is grossly out of shape.
“Old Snaggletooth Tom’s face looks a little cattywampus since he got all that work done at the dentist.”
— Spackle: To add more of something.
“Don’t you think Aunt Edna needs to add another spackle of makeup to cover up that wart?”
— Caterwaul: To make a shrill, discordant sound as a cat in heat might make.
“If you don’t stop that caterwauling I’m gonna whomp you.”
— Bodacious: Something that is remarkable or noteworthy.
“Land sakes that woman has a bodacious temper when she don’t get her 5 o'clock martini.”
I was also lucky enough to learn about some diseases that were not discussed in biology class at school.
— The Collywobbles: A state of intestinal disorder usually accompanied by a rumbling of the stomach and an inability to stand upright.
“I think Uncle Hooch got the collywobbles last night after he and the guys went outside for a post-dinner snort.”
— Rhinotillexomania: A psychological disorder that leads to obsessive nose picking.
“That new kid at school must have rhinotillexomania too. That’s the same thing mama was getting on me about at the supper table yesterday.”
— Parrot Fever: Infectious disease contracted by inhaling bird feces. Symptoms include vomiting, bad breath and an uncontrollable urge to eat sunflower seeds.
“Shooter’s got parrot fever again. We’re going to have to get someone else to clean out the chicken house until he gets better.”
— Fissure: An unnatural crack or tear.
“We need to get some of that extra soft tissue paper again. Jo Jo’s got another fissure.”
The guys I hung out with also gave me some tidbits of wisdom to pass on to future generations. I didn’t know about these things until I got out of school.
— They taught me that if you drop a quarter in the coin slot (when the concrete guy is bent over) he’ll work even harder for you.
— They taught me that some women are “as big a Buick” and others are “pretty as a blue dog.”
— They taught me how to go “gallivanting” that they defined as “going from one place to another looking for mischief to get into.”
— They taught me not to become a “scofflaw” (one who is constantly in trouble with the authorities) or do anything that would get me thrown into the “hoosegow” (jail).
— They taught me that spandex is a privilege and not a right because of the wide variety of body shapes and sizes we encounter.
I try to hang out with people who will continue to enhance my vocabulary as well as my scientific and worldly knowledge. If you catch me using a word or phrase that is over your head just give us a call and I’ll pass along the meaning. You too could become a master of the upper echelons of vocabulary use.
There’s no charge for the service and you won’t have to attend a single class.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.