Mother Tongue


09 May Mother Tongue

Before children, my mother was an amateur actress. After parenthood, she poured all her dramatic skills into reading us stories. She provided distinct voices for each character, made sound effects and sometimes included flamboyant gestures. She was a tough act to follow. When my less-than-theatrical father read us Winnie the Pooh he wasn’t met with gratitude but a chorus of “That’s not how Mom reads it!”

When she wasn’t reading us poetry or classic children’s literature, she expanded our vocabulary with colourful non-curses. We knew Mom was really angry when she pulled out the phrase, “Son of a Siberian Basket Weaver!”  Silly people were dismissed as “Stoopnagles” and when someone was too scruffy for her tastes, she described them as looking like “5 cents worth of God-help-us going somewhere to happen.”

Nothing unsavory ever hit the fan, but when things got out of control, she would threaten to have “a full bore lateral panic,” which sounded so ominous we’d settle right down. And if we pushed too far? Well, you could just “Go fluff you duffer up a gum tree.”

This blog might focus on food, but it’s more than a recipe repository thanks in part to my mother’s flair for the dramatic and imaginative wordsmithing. Got any colourful family phrases you can share on a G-rated blog? Or am I barking up the wrong gum tree?

No Comments
  • Amy P
    Posted at 12:15h, 09 May Reply

    I know someone will call me a blasphemer when I say this. My mother, perhaps not as colourful as your own, did not tolerate curses either. But it was my brother and I who came up with “Anne Murray” as the most vile of profanities. Having been forcefully inflicted with Anne Murray, as children neither of us had any fondness whatsoever for the woman. So when things proved too irritating for words, “What the Anne Murray!”

    For Anne Murray fans among your readers, please forgive my childish ways. I’m still not a fan, but neither am I a blasphemer any more.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 23:53h, 09 May Reply

      @Amy P, love this story. I’ll be humming “Snowbird” for the next three days because of it, but it’ll be worth it.

      • Amy P
        Posted at 09:39h, 10 May Reply

        @Charmian Christie, The Anne Murray ghost came back to haunt me, having blasphemed her name yet again. When I write at night, I put on CBC News Network in the other room to keep me company. God bless us all, last night there was a documentary about Anne Murray, alternating with the National News all through the late night.

  • Wizzythestick
    Posted at 13:06h, 09 May Reply

    How about ” keep your supraesophogeal ganglion to yourself, and that means you…” :-) This is from my friend the scientist.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 23:54h, 09 May Reply

      @Wizzythestick, oh, if I could pronounce “supraesophogeal ganglion” without tripping I’d adopt this right away. Gotta go practice with my duffer…

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 16:35h, 10 May Reply

    I somehow missed this when I was reading up here earlier today – but I’m sure glad I dug a little deeper into my reader and found it. What a wonderful, witty, endearing tribute to a mother who sounds like all of those things and more. I’m both touched and impressed.

    It would be hard for me to share on a G-rated blog … we work pretty blue in the Diva family! LOL
    .-= The Diva on a Diet´s last blog ..Spicy Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook =-.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:09h, 18 May Reply

      @The Diva on a Diet, we can get blue, too. But when my mom gets colourful without resorting to the standard 4-letter words, she leaves me in stitches.

  • Lorraine
    Posted at 14:01h, 14 May Reply

    Instead of “What the heck!”–or worse–my children used to say “What the thing!!”

    I loved reading about your mother’s dramatic storytelling flair.

    Before my children were born, I,too, was an actress. (I still carry my frayed Actors Equity Card in my wallet.) Like your mother, I funneled much of my histrionic energy into storytelling, regaling my children with nightly performances of children’s classics–and playing all the roles with voices, dialects, stammers, etc. My kids were shocked when they first saw the animated version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”–the actors’ voiceovers seemed so very wrong

    I’ll bet your mother would agree with me that her children were her best production. Here’s to thespian mothers!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:13h, 18 May Reply

      @Lorraine, thanks so much for sharing your story. The Grinch is one of my favourites and I’m sure you did an amazing job with the telling. You know you’ve hit the right notes when Boris Karloff pales in comparison to your acting.

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