A lot of buncombe from my uncles

Opinion: Columns

January 8th, 2019 3:19 PM

By John Stanger


All of the slang words I heard when I was a kid came from my two uncles. I can't remember hearing any slang from any other family member.

Whenever we watched a boxing bout on television, the loser was called either a palooka or a canvas-kisser, and many times the boxer who was knocked out was described as having a glass jaw.

However if one of the boxers was a great one like Rocky Marciano or Ezzard Charles, my uncles would say that this type of boxer could put his opponent to sleep with a one-two in an early round.

My uncles had a few favorite baseball players like Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Hank Sauer, and Bob Feller.

All of the sluggers could make a pitched ball fade away when they hit a home run, or in the case of Bob Feller by throwing an aspirin tablet pitch, which would cause a batter to wifferoo (swing and miss).

One time my uncle Hubert made a bad stock investment, and my uncle Gene told him that he had been bamboozled by a four-flusher of a stock broker who was interested in his own wallet and cared little for his clients'.

Gene had a friend who was a police officer and who often worked undercover, so Gene dubbed him shoo-fly, which was a person who worked in secret.

Gene always worried, though, that his friend would have his cover blown and be bumped off.

Whenever someone needed to make an apology, Hubert would say that the apologizer should say it with flowers, which to me was a sarcastic remark, and he probably meant it that way.

In the boxing world, the phrase hitting below the belt means to jab an opponent in the kidneys, which is a paralyzing blow, but when it was said by my uncles, it meant to make a nasty remark or to take unfair advantage of someone.

Richie Schu lived two houses north of us, and neither one of my uncles liked him because he was a smooth-acting guy who tried to manipulate people and get them in trouble, so my uncles would refer to him as a guy who was full of buncombe (B.S.).

They also referred to Richie as a hugger-mugger, one who creates chaos, confusion and disaster.

My friend Charlie Mack was the kind of guy who told exaggerated stories, making himself the hero of every story he told. He would usually get caught because most of his facts contradicted each other, so he was known to my uncles as a poor fish (dullard) and a windie (blowhard).

My uncles always reminded me to fess up to any misdeeds and to always toe the line.

This was good advice, but sometimes hard to do.

I got a kick out of the slang I heard from my uncles, but I never uttered any of their slang to my friends because I knew I would have sounded weird if I'd said a word like hubba-hubba whenever my buddies and I saw a pretty girl.

John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and a retired English professor  (Elmhurst College). Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn't gotten far in 78 years.

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