What My Mother Said about – Dadgum! I Plum Forgot!
by Jacki Kellum
I am not the first person to talk about the richness of a Southerner’s colloquialisms, but unless I share a bit of it, I certainly cannot consider that I have represented the South. In the previous post, I told about how I grew up in the Bootheel of Missouri, but because that is as far south in the state as you can go, it was closer for me to attend college at the University of Mississippi than it would have been for me to go to the University of Missouri.
On one of the first days that I was at Ole Miss, I walked into the Ole Miss Grill and ordered a soda and a custard.
The attendant’s eyes glazed. She looked around the room and saw a pie for sale. “You mean, you want some pie and what?
Well, when I was a child, there was a little ice cream snack bar in my town, and it was about a block from my Grandma’s house. The name of the little place was The Custard Stand. I grew up believing that the soft ice cream that comes out in twirls [like Dairy Queen ice cream] is custard. By the same token, I grew up calling cokes [which now means any carbonated beverage] sodas.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do—to some extent—and part of that effort is learning to speak the language.
On a similar occasion, immediately after I moved to the Northeast, I went into a restaurant outside of New York City; and I ordered tea to drink. I was expecting Grandma’s sweet, iced tea with lemon; but they brought me a cup, a little pitcher of hot water, and a tea bag. My jaw dropped. Did they expect me to drink that?
Over the years, I have caught myself repeatedly using many of the expressions of my childhood; and one of those is that of saying Dadgum! For some people, that term means Darn! For others, the meaning is a bit stronger than that, but I grew up hearing the word Dadgum! We were Southern Baptists!
As I have also said before, I have begun a 3-Way Memoir, where I’ll record some of my mother’s responses to some questions that I asked about her life–and about my entire family.
Moments ago, I opened the notebook, where I have copies of emails that my mother sent me in 2002–the emails from which I am extracting the text for the book, What My Mother Said.
On August 18, 2002, my mother’s email began!
“Dadgum! I thought that I had already written about….If you got that one, well, this will just be a duplicate. Hope the details are the same. Ha!”
As it turns out, my mother had already shared that particular story! Dadgum! She Plum Forgot!
My mother said a great deal in that sentence. First, she affirmed for me where I learned to say the word “dadgum,” and she also alludes to the fact that my family is not above gilding the lily when we tell stories.
To both accounts, I tip my glass!
I hope to have my family’s memoir published for my mother’s 90th birthday on December 6, 2016. It will be my grandmother’s story, my mother’s story, and mine–all told about our lives in the now very dusty and boarded-shut Bootheel of Southeast Missouri.
You can find excerpts from that memoir in various places on my blog, by searching:
What My Mother Said, Calico Cotton, Cotton Child, and When Cotton Was King.
Copyright Jacki Kellum October 18, 2015
All Rights Reserved