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Posts Tagged ‘etymology’

Dialectable

This week’s writing challenge implores writers to analyze, discuss and otherwise blog about a word or phrase “unique to your cultural background.”

Yinz has come to the right place, doncha know.

And while my grandmother would talk about Warshington D.C. while eating feesh for dinner on Friday, my all time favorite is when my mom asked us to “red up our rooms.”

And while my sisters and I always knew what she meant, even if we didn’t want to do it, it was very strange the first time I encountered someone (probably not from Pennsylvania) who had no idea what I was talking about.

“I’ll be with you in a minute . . . I have to red up my desk.”

“Are you going to paint it red?”

“No, you silly hobknocker.  I’m going to clean up my desk!”

“So why didn’t you just say that?

“I did!”  Not in so many words.  Actually red up and clean up are the same number of words, so I’m not sure it’s a time saving convention as much as it is an etymological one.

Insects?  Really?

Etymological–not entomological.

Where was I?  I have to red up this blog or I’ll never be able to find the end.

I guess, when you think about it, it is kind of a strange phrase.  I always assumed (and you know what happens when you do that!) that it was short for ready up something or get it ready, as in clean it or neaten it.  Of course, in that vein, the proper phrase should be typed “read up” where ‘read’ is the past tense of the verb to read, as in ‘I read that book last year.’  And if next year is this year then that would make this year last year?  Capiche?

But if that is not confusing enough, the Word Detective claims that it comes from a Scottish word ‘redd’ which actually means to clean or clear, and probably is related to the origin of the word rid.  I made that last part up, but it could be true.  Another source claims it is Danish, from the words rydde op which means to clean up.  Tomato; tom-ah-to.  A Danish is something you eat at breakfast, and scotch is something you drink.  Or tape packages with.  But I digress.

In fact, I have seen the term in print as “redd up.”

Pittsburgh’s Mayor even has a “REDD UP ZONE” to clean the streets and reduce blight.

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/217726

Lamont Redd up his room–this is the Big One

But there was another phrase my mom used a lot growing up that I have not seen or heard anywhere else–and Google failed to find any hits in the first few pages I took the time to scan.

Whenever someone farted or there was a bad odor, she would say “Someone needs to go outside and scrape a leg.”

Scrape a . . . what?  Mom?  Did your auto-correct go on the fritz?  Unfortunately, I heard this before cell phones (before cordless phones!) or texting.

I have no idea what this means.  Did someone get dog poop on their leg and they need to scrape it off?  A shoe perhaps.  But a leg?

What else could they be scraping off their leg that smells so bad?  I’m afraid to find out!

I probably should have asked her what it meant.  But we all knew what she was talking about.  And since I was probably the source of the odor in most cases, I didn’t want to press the issue.

And I still hadn’t redd up my room yet.

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