Have you ever wondered as a child where all those weird things adults would say actually came from? I’m speaking of the oddities my mother and grandmother used to express which I later labeled West Virginia-isms after their home state. Things like dead in Hell with your back broke and this life, the next, and the ironworks. What do they mean?
Then there are two not suitable to be publicly blogged, but I will e-mail them to you upon your request. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience them at least once in his or her life.
Taken out of context, these phrases are rather odd. Having grown up with them, I understand that to be dead in Hell with your back broke is worse than your current situation so shut up and quit complaining.
“I don’t like cleaning the cat box.”
“Well, you could be dead in Hell with your back broke.”
On the other hand, it could be preferable to your current situation.
“I’d rather be dead in Hell with my back broke than stay at this party one minute longer.”
If you think it’s bad now, there’s this life, the next, and the ironworks. Things are pretty hopeless when you reach this state.
“Dang, I hate my job.”
“I know, but there’s this life, the next, and the ironworks.”
Not everything filtering down through the generations of my family was negative. My grandfather used to say something was prettier than a speckled dog under a red wagon. Hmmm…they were poor and lived during a simpler time. Maybe that’s the prettiest thing he had to compare.
I came across a saying close to this but was unable to determine the origin of the similar expression prettier than a specked pup in springtime. Locale probably determined which one you used, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they came from yet another comparable phrase.
I’m not crediting my family or West Virginia for the creation of these colorful sayings, but I can appreciate how realistic they make dialog sound when reading or writing. You can’t help but speak them with a slightly southern accent. Go ahead and try; I dare you.
The great thing about them is that no editor could ever claim they are clichéd!