Mighty Life List
Oct 16 2006

Good Night, Nurse!

Alice, over at Finslippy, just posted about one of my very favorite prompts fromNo One Cares What You Had for Lunch. It’s about bringing back beloved words that no one uses any more. A few of my favorites pulled from her comments section:

Cinchy, meaning easy to do.
Fie as a curse word.
“I’m all sixes and sevens,” meaning “off my game.”
Poppycock, as an expression of disbelief.
“I’ve got a hitch in my git-along,” meaning “I feel stiff.”
Zozzled, meaning drunk.

What words do you adore?

88 Responses to “Good Night, Nurse!”

  • sarah Says:


  • mike Says:

    Dungarees, for jeans.
    Going jukin’ (to hit the town).
    Glad rags, the clothes you go jukin’ in.

  • Di Says:

    It used to CRACK ME UP when my mother would say “dungarees” when I was a child. I’d beg her to keep saying it. I frequently use “poppycock”, which is either met with a laugh or an eyebrow.

  • Cameron Says:

    1. Cat’s Ass – as in, “Check her out. Doesn’t she think she’s the cat’s ass!” I think it originated as someone’s own take on Cat’s Pajamas. It’s also going to be the name of my own blog when I finally get out of the edit suite long enough to set it up.
    2. Paint the Town Red – aka Going Jukin’

    P.S. Loved your book.
    P.P.S. Sent the link to your radio interview to a few of my clients who don’t understand the popularity, and therefore the need, of blogs.

  • Hannah Says:

    Two Texas phrases:
    Right-quick – meaning quickly.
    Fixin’ To – meaning getting ready to do something.

  • gwendomama Says:

    golly, sarah – you’ve pilfered my fave – gobsmacked it is!
    And lately a good friend mocked me for taking to exclaiming ‘good heavens’ much in the same way I once exclaimed, ‘fuckin A!’. My children are loud and indiscreet, what can I say – oh mother of invention??
    Oh yeah. My point.
    Also-hooch…it’s a great word all-around.
    Anyone remember (70’s, I think)
    I do.

  • gwendomama Says:

    oh-oh-oh!!! I forgot!
    ‘less sense than a wooden nickel’ – a pop-pop classic.
    get it?
    it’s nearly perfect.

  • keri Says:

    personally, i adore, and am often taunted fo saying,”heavens to betsy”, “goodness!”, and “holy kamoley”. i think i may be 80 years old and stuck in the body of a 33-year-old. oh well.

  • amyk Says:

    I have the habit of uttering the phrase “Peachy keen, jelly bean” entirely too often. But I just can’t help myself!

    Oh, and I say “prolly” a lot, instead of probably.

  • Samilja Says:

    After a recent trip to PA, I introduced my husband to “I don’t cotton to” (as in,”I don’t cotton to no polyester bell bottoms”). Now we frequently shock our friends with our utter lack of hipness and poor grammar.

    I am also partial to “lands!” as an excited utterance a la “good heavens”. And to steal a fave of a friend of mine from NC, it’s always good to say one is “seein’ rats” when angry.

  • Daniel Says:

    I meant to comment over at finslippy, but I didn’t quite get around to it. I’ve always liked “tight” for drunk.

    I’m living in NC and just today I heard a local friend of mine say “I’d be all over that like a drunk on free peanuts!”

  • Tina Says:

    My favorites:

    “It’s like chasin’ a rat through hell for an ear of corn!” — long winded one from my father, meaning an exercise in futility.

    “Red up your room!” — A peculiar one from my mother meaning to clean your room… I didn’t realize this one wasn’t ordinary ’till I got to college and realized that I was raised by rednecks, albeit highly intelligent ones.

  • jen Says:

    Swell and schnazzy. Whenever I hear them, I smile.

  • Kate Says:

    Strumpet! as in did you see Sally with those guys at the party? What a strumpet!

  • AmyD Says:

    My father-in-law uses “Good night, nurse!” on a regular basis. Love it.
    I also like “It’s tits!” for when something is really great.

  • StampyDurst Says:

    Um, Hannah…I grew up in Alabama. Despite the fact that I am an educated professional, I still say “right quick” and “fixin’ to” on a regular basis. Usually to the great entertainment of my co-workers. Another favorite of mine (which usually pops out when I am exhausted and irritated and can’t cuss) is “Y’all quit!” To get the appropriate effect, “quit” should have at least two syllables and be REALLY dragged out.

    As for my favorite out-of-favor words, “knickers” would have to be it. As in, “don’t get your knickers in a twist.”

  • danioz Says:

    I am Australian so there are tons that you would just not get (unless of course you can catch Kath and Kim which is well worth it), but my favourites are:
    Parlarva – as in a hassle/mess
    Dogs Breakfast – as in mess
    “Not Happy Jan” – when something annoys you (from a long running ad on TV)
    Goog – as in “as full as a goog” meaning as full as an egg)(cannot get anything else into an egg)

  • linda Says:

    “on the fritz,” meaning broken. As in “My TV is on the fritz.”

  • lisa Says:

    “duh!”, and it’s 4th-grade-cousin “doy!”

    Preferably said while waving finger at head in a circular motion.

  • TJ Says:

    and “not fit to poor whiskey on a dog” for being no good.

  • Elly Says:

    A few favorites…

    Davenport: what my grandma calls a sofa
    Gridlock: it’s so 22nd century!
    Harpy: a handy word to describe a few choice people
    Kakistocracy: a government of the worst men

  • Leah Says:

    I asked my mother if she remembered the famous movie star, Rock Hudson, who died of AIDS.

    She said, “Oh yeah. He could put his slippers under my bed anyday!”

  • MarkDM Says:

    When I remember – while frustrated or angry – that I’m trying to curse less, I say, “For the luvva mud” or “Judas!”

    “Well, harrumph” (actually saying the word, not just making the noise) is a good expression of minor-league disgust.

    I prefer to call idiot drivers clowns, rather than dumbshits.

    This one I picked up from my dad: “Well, that’s just grand” means exactly the opposite.

    When I’m walking the dog and in a bit of a hurry, I frequently tell her, “Cezanne, I have no time for your canine lollygaggin’.” Almost as good is “canine foolishness.”

  • Karen Says:

    I like saying:

    “Like Fudge” (as in, not bloody likely). I thank The Simpsons for that quote.

    I’m Australian too, so I use the word “Tukker” for ‘food’. Basically, anything Steve Irwin said; I probably have too.

  • zahava Says:

    My grandfather used to keep us in line by reminding us if we misbehaved we’d get a “lickin’.” He’d also correct himself if caught in the act of “cussin'” in front of us by drawling out “sugar” in place of sh!t.” Not to give the wrong impression, or anything, because he was really a soft-spoken person not given to “hollering.”

    My Grandmother once “felled” me in laughter by using the word “boner” in a sentence. She was a child of the great depression, and during her youth this rendition of the slang apparently meant “mistake” rather than the current usage — interesting entymological evolution, THAT!

    It’s not that my family was so folksy — on the contrary, but as children of immigrants they were both “keen” on having grandkids whose use of the language was “super-duper.” They thought that improper speech reflected a “numbskull” education, and though they never did actually “smack us upside the head” they did threaten to “knock us into next week” if we didn’t apply ourselves.

    Of course, “duh!,” if you “figure in” all the Yiddish that peppered their speech, you can pretty much imagine how “dopey” my brother and I sounded! We were like half “squeeky-clean” Leave-it-to-Beaver types (a few decades after it was “mod”) and half “rumpled” little old “noodniks” who hadn’t a clue that none of our peers had any concept of what a “shmata” was. Of course, today, “shmata” is universal, and pluralism has put the “kibbosh” on “nixing” anything vaguely ethnic.

    Wow, Maggie! This exercise was certainly “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!” I know I “got a kick” out of the other comments! Think your idea is all “nines!”

  • Kirs Says:

    What about kitty corner?
    Or completely unrelated, how about hussy?
    And for that matter, two-bit. What ever happened to two-bit?
    WOAH and maybe PSYCH! should come back, as well.

  • doug Says:

    In place of ‘not as stupid as you look’:
    “Not as green as you’re cabbage-looking”

    For full effect, must use a Scottish accent!

  • caramaena Says:

    I’ve never heard the phrase ‘I’ve got a hitch in my git-along’ before. That’s hilarious.

    That one definitely needs to make a comeback (or perhaps an introduction in my part of the world)

  • Stef Says:

    My all time favourite is “lollygagging” meaning to dawdle.

  • Marielle Says:

    If I had my druthers…
    When things go pear-shaped…
    Holy Toledo (or Mergatroid, sp?)!
    I’m a huge fan of “bitchin'”, “far out”, and “knackered” as well.
    However, I am so glad people don’t say “random” anymore. It seems like there was a day when all of a sudden people started to say, “you’re so random” and “that was random” as though they had been saying it all along.

  • jen Says:

    “Fiddlesticks” is a good one…I picked that up when I got in trouble for cussing around younger kids.

    I also fancy “gobsmacked.” And “fancy.”

  • jocelyn Says:

    If you’ve spent enough time in Wisconsin you may note people end statements with “and, so.”
    “heavens to betsy” was a grandmother thing.
    If you can look back at the 80’s as the olden days, then ‘Gaylord’ still does it for me. A friend of mine worked in an office where the IT guy had named the 2 server printers “Dorkus” and “Malorkus”.

  • Kim Says:

    Having lived all over the south, I have heard and used too many to mention here, but a few favorites are:

    Nabs – Any nabisco cracker or the crackers you get in packages out of vending machines

    Shit and fall back in it – As in “If he doesn’t like it, he can shit and fall back in it”.

    Sons of Bitches – with emphasis on the extra “s”

  • Kim at allconsuming Says:

    The current favourite?

    “Going off like a frog in a sock” – meaning something is fantastic, the place was packed, it was ‘going off’.

    “Far out brussel sprout”

    “Having a Barry” (as in having a shocker – playing on a bit of an Australian icon Barry Crocker – i.e. – having a Barry Crocker shocker.)

    “Mutton dressed as lamb” – for older women trying to look young

    …to list just a few!

  • Lisa Says:

    I like to say “easy on the eyes” about highly attractive people.

    My dear, departed friend Mickey used to use 2 old-fashioned expressions which always cracked me up, because he abbreviated them. He would say “I wouldn’t give him the t.o.d.” Time of Day.

    Or he would motion with his head toward someone and say “g.h.!” meaning “Get Her!” meaning “Check her out, she thinks she’s all that and a side of fries!”

    I miss him.

  • B Says:

    “… if the gods are willin’ and the creek don’t rise.”

  • Keetha Says:

    “Fair to middlin,” – As in, How are you? Oh, I’m fair to middlin’, meaning just okay or so-so.

  • Megan Says:

    ‘duck soup’ to describe something that’s easy

  • Jaimie Says:

    I love some of the old slang from old Looney Tunes cartoons:

    “What a maroon!” (I inferred from the context that a maroon is a fool/rube of some sort)
    “You MASHER!” (said to a gentleman trying to get fresh with a woman)

    I’d love to see “jalopy” come back as slang for old beater cars, too! I remember that Archie in the Archie comics drove a jalopy.

  • Dave Says:

    I started a campaign a couple years back to bring back the monikers “muttonhead” and “lunkhead.” I had a modicum of success for a while at work, but the campaign fizzled….

    Can you imagine what a wonderful world it would be if we all used the word muttonhead in a sentence each and every day?

  • mimi Says:

    My very best friend says the following, which I like very much…

    “Yea, verily…”, as in, “That was a good dinner.”
    “Yea, verily.”

    And, “I don’t know, but I’ve been told, the streets of heaven are paved with gold.” That’s more than one word, but nice to say when you actually don’t know something.

    Personally I use, “Okey dokey” a lot. And I do miss being able to the word “gay”, as in meaning happy or fun.

  • AmethystGreye Says:

    “How’s the haps?”, as in, “What’s going on in your life?”.

  • Mimi Says:

    Oh… “persnickety” – I love that word.

    Also, my little southern belle grandmother used to call me “Sookie” when I was misbehaving, as in “Listen, Sookie…”

  • Leah Says:


  • Mariam Says:

    My grandmother will say, “Boy, she’s a real swinger!” And no, she does not mean a swinger swinger. It just means that she’s “wild”.

    My 68 y.o. MIL law used the expression “rode hard and put away wet” to describe someone. It just sounds so dirty.

  • Kim Says:

    Corker – an adopted term from the Irish side of the family. Used to describe someone when they’re being mischievous.

  • Jen C Says:

    “I’m all stove up.” Meaning “My bones hurt/I’m feeling sore.” Alabama. ;)

  • Kim Says:

    Thought of another one,
    my grandmother used to use the word “rounder” to describe someone who is wild, or gets around.

  • Natalie Says:

    higgledy-piggledy = disarray, a mess

  • stelawho Says:

    I still use “yowza!” when something surprises me, and have accused my kids of “lollygagging” more than once.

  • Virg Says:

    I’m fond of the word gubernatorial, just because. My wife says “Effenheimer!” as an exclamation instead of the “F” word since we now have three boys who are excellent mimicks.

    My grandfather always used to say Dag-nabbit! Reminds me of Yosemite Sam

  • mhoneybee Says:

    I use “DRATS” a lot when something goes wrong
    I love “EGAD!” – as in “what a horror!
    Also “fercryinoutloud!”

  • sjer Says:

    Obligatory is my very favorite, followed closely by perfunctory, and I refuse to call undergarments anything but Skivvies.

  • Lin Says:

    flippin’ ‘enry (the nicer form of effing hell) and sweet fanny adams (the nicer version of sweet fuck all). Both common in England, but not here. Here they are used in a sentence:

    Me: Look at this giant pimple on my face.
    Her: FLIPPIN’ ‘ENRY, that IS huge.

    Me: Okay, who ate the last piece of chocolate cake?
    Him: I know sweet fanny adams about your choccie cake

  • Jim Says:

    What about “the deuce you say!”, to show incredulity or as a substitute for “bullshit”. Sorta 19th century, but successfully used by Peter Weller in Buckaroo Banzai!

  • marn Says:

    My great uncle would liberally pepper his conversation with “confound it,” because he “wouldn’t say sh!t if he had a mouthful.”

  • el Says:

    We always said “hitch in my (or his) giddy-yup” but it meant something like having “a spring in your step” which is also a good one.

    My grandma always said “purt near” meanning “close to”.

    My personal favorite is “he’s a swell joe”.

  • Sherman & Luka's dogma Says:

    How about my husband’s favorite: higgledy-piggledy

    or mine:

    Both mean:
    all mixed up or confused

    We’re also fans of the exclamation “Great GooglyMoogly!” as a stronger substitute for “Oh for crying out loud!”

  • Kate Says:

    I will find any available opportunity to use old-timey words for jail/prison. The sound of the words “hoosegow,” “pokey,” and “the clink” fill me with perverse delight.

  • Weremonkey Says:

    My grandparents would use the phrases

    “Well, for Pete’s Sake” in exasperation

    “Once in a blue moon” for anything that ocurred very infrequently

    And once, when describing how a very irritable cat had sat on my uncle’s lap – until he tried to pet her “and that broke the spell” meaning that the charmed moment/mood of the cat had ended.

  • Kris Says:

    Heard my dad use the word ‘dusty’ in reference to his feeling a little hungover one morning. It just stuck.

  • Piper Says:

    My boyfriend has a couple that make me grin:
    mudandes (pronounced moo-dawndys), the Italian word for underwear.

    Well, F!@#-a-doodle-doo! (said sarcastically, particularly if someone is bragging).

    I also like to say “the bee’s knees”, which is used when you think something is great – that shirt is the bee’s knees!!

    I also like “tart” “harlot” and “hussy” for disreputable women.

    Being from the Northeast, there are a bunch of regional expressions :
    Ayuh (used in the place of yes). However, that is shortened to “hyuh”, which is said 3 times in a row on an intake of breath.

    Dinnah – the mid day meal

    Suppah – the meal after dinnah

    Wicked – used in the place of very (that chocolate cake was wicked good).

    Cunnin’ – meaning smart or cute (Ain’t she cunnin’!)

    I could go on and on…

  • Billy Bligh Says:

    I love Words that are common in England, making American phrases so pedestrian. For example, things that are “totally super funny” in the US are “uproariously hilarious” in the UK. Sounds so much more intellectual. One exception is “bits” My friend is always fixing the small bits on his laptop, or picking out the nasty bits from his pizza. I hate the word “bits”. I know, I know, hate is a strong word. But not strong enough.

  • MarkDM Says:

    >> Comment by Kim | October 17th, 2006 at 8:39 am
    Thought of another one,
    my grandmother used to use the word “rounder” to describe someone who is wild, or gets around.

    Your grandmother was probably using a shortened version of “roundheel,” a flapper-era synonym for “slut.” A girl with round heels was easily pushed over backward – onto a bed, for example. That’s my favorite term from that time.

    If someone mock-insults me, I’m liable to reply with, “Thank you. And the horse you rode in on.”

  • dc Says:

    I prefer “lady of the night” and “tart” as they seem more complimentary than derogatory.
    Also, “I’ll give you the what-for!” is my favorite threat when my sweetums has hidden my whosiwhatsit.

  • Trasi Says:

    “Jumpin’ Jehosephat!”
    And here are a few classic sayings…
    “Hungrier than a pole cat in the wintertime”
    “Colder than a whore’s heart” or, alternatively, “Colder than a well digger’s ass.”
    “Fuller than a tick on a black dog.”

    And I like to call underwear either “knickers” or “skivvies”.

  • Trasi Says:

    Oh, and calling lil’ kids “Shavers” as in, “Look at those two little shavers, taggin’ along behind their dad.”

  • Daniel Says:

    @markdm rounder is older than that.
    From etymonline: Rounder 1624, “a sentinel,” from round (n.) on notion of “one who makes the rounds.” Sense of “chronic drunkard or criminal” is from 1854, on notion of one who is habitually in and out of jails or bars.

  • nadarine Says:

    my best friend’s mother says she’s “sweating like a whore in church” when it’s hot out. I love her.

  • Amy Says:

    I happen to love love the words

  • margaret Says:

    “A lick and a promise” — said of a hastily and/or poorly done job, as in: The house was a mess but I could only give it a lick and a promise before the in-laws arrived. It sounds naughty, lol, but I think the “lick” here means a try or attempt.

  • jenny betty Says:

    Criminy (or Cripes)

    “Foot!” and “Spit!” (my mother’s favorite expletives)

    “It’s rainin’ like a cow peein’ on a flat rock.” (I heard my father say this when I was a child. I’ll never forget it.)



    “Doy Hickey” (yet another “duh” alternative, circa 1981)

    “Shazam!” and “O Mighty Isis!” (Superhero phrases from two ancient TV shows)

    “My pleasure” (instead of “you’re welcome”)

  • Courtney Says:

    Just this afternoon while on the phone with my mom, I used the phrase “don’t know shit from shinola” and immediately thought of this post. I can’t possibly think that I’ve ever uttered that phrase before in my life.

  • Velle Says:

    One old-fashioned Australian phrase that really tickles me is “chuck a nana”. It means to throw a tantrum.

  • lauren Says:

    ” ’round the corner with both oars leaking ..” is what my grandpa would answer when i’d ask him where he was going and he wasn’t going anywhere.

    “going to visit mary” is what my great-grandmother would say when she had to use the bathroom.

  • Skylar Says:

    Instead of asswipe my mom calls stupid drivers “tissue”. That is quite funny to her yelled at other drivers.

    I say “Good job Bob” alot or “smooth move ex-lax”.


  • Jennifer Says:

    I’ve always been especially fond of:

    “Well, butter my butt and call me biscuit!”

    Meant to express, you know, surprise.

  • Angeerah Says:

    My 75 y.o. dad in Vermont does not swear and so I love:
    “Son of a gun!”
    and my mom also says davenport and “dressy pants” instead of dress pants.
    My favorite Vermont phrase/swear?
    “Jeezum Crow!”

  • Lin Says:

    One Anne Lamott line from an early book of hers, “Joe Jones,” is “lighten up, Francis.” It’s just one ole lady talking to another…but it’s become a catch-phrase in our home for any over-reaction to anything.

  • Beth Says:

    Hairdo – How do you like my new hairdo?

  • Jennifer Says:

    My Catholic grandmother would not be caught dead cursing THE LORD, so she’d say, “For cry eye!” instead of “for Christ’s sake!” Cracks me up to this day.

  • MsShad Says:

    I could give a rat’s ass. Meaning I could care less.

  • John Says:

    I’m personally promoting the American adoption of the British “cheers”, for either for “thanks” or “goodbye”.

    And there’s always “Oh my stars!”, which goes over well at my office.

    I’d forgotten about “at sixes and sevens,” which I think I shall adopt forthwith.

  • Belle Says:

    “Whilst”, “randy”, “dawdle”, and “cunning” are some of my most favorite words.

  • Alena Says:

    I love language and I love playing with it, using words ironically or using words people don’t say often. Some of the things I say frequently that haven’t been mentioned above..

    “Lawdy” or “Lawd” (kind of drawn out and Southern-y)
    “Oh, for Pete’s sake”
    “Oh, for the love of..”
    “It’s colder than a witch’s tit”

  • Andria Says:

    I adore the word “fiddlesticks”.
    Which basically means, “Well, crap.”
    I also use the word y’all quite a bit. I love it!
    A favorite phrase: “Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room fulla rockin’ chairs!” I heard that for the first time when I was a wee bairn, and the imagary Still give me a giggle.

  • suzyn Says:

    Kerfuffle: n., a crisis or confusion.

    Rode hard and hung up wet: phr., looking rough around the edges. Orig., Grandpa.

    Dwaddle: v., procrastinate. Orig., my mother. Usage: What I’m doing now.

    Whore’s bath: phr., quick bath washing primarily privates. Orig., Mom.

    Colder than a witch’s tit: phr., brrr. Orig., unknown.

    Smuggling raisins: phr., erect nipples. Orig., some guy in college who said it to me; I didn’t figure it out until weeks later and then still blushed that he was looking at my chestal area.

    Chestal area: phr., that where strange boys should not look nor comment about. Orig., 7th grade.

  • lydia Says:

    “Cheese it! The cops!” is something I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to say.