10 Old-Timey Exclamations From Across the U.S.


While swear words are awesome, there’s something to be said for old-fashioned exclamations—the more colorful the better. The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) delivers, and then some. Here are 10 particularly lively and old-timey exclamations from across the U.S.


The next time you can’t find your keys, you can yell, “Hot spit and monkey vomit!” This rather disgusting expression is from Texas.


If you prefer your oaths on the the more delicate side, misery me (also miserable me and misery) might be for you. Similar to “Dear me!” the saying has origins in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and West Virginia.


If someone gives you surprising news, surprise them by saying, “Well carry me out with the tongs!”


If you're surprised or skeptical in Indiana, you might say, "I'll be hog wallered!" What the heck’s a hog waller? A place where hogs make their beds and, figuratively, a poor or out-of-the-way place.


I’ll be go-to-hell!” you can holler when you’re surprised or annoyed, whether in New York, Utah, Pennsylvania, Vermont, or Alabama.


This “often jocular” substitute for I’ll be damned is chiefly used in the North, according to DARE. You can liven up the euphemism by adding by a jackass, mule, or grasshopper.


Say you’ve whacked your shin on the coffee table but can’t swear: Cussadang to the rescue. The blend of cuss and dang is native to Arizona.


Uff-da!” you can proclaim to the puzzlement of your friends the next time you’re surprised, disgusted, or in pain. This equivalent of Ay caramba! or Oy vey! is Norwegian in origin, and its usage has been recorded in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Alaska, Maryland, Iowa, and Minnesota. One quote in DARE describes the rough translation as “Oh my goodness” or “Oh no,” and says the expression “can be used when things go wrong or in disgust.” Uff-da is also described as “an expression of weariness or exertion,” and “an all-purpose exclamation of frustration” or amazement. And if you want to be a little more forceful, you can say, “Uff-day fyda!”


Surprised? Annoyed? Disgusted? Just shout “Murderation!” This euphemistic take on damnation is from West Virginia, and in Indiana is the even more colorful variation “Murderin’ infants!”


While you might have already heard of thunderation, consider also adding thunder and Tom Walker to your bag of exclamations. This Alabama expression might be related to another intensive, the devil and Tom Walker, used in New England and the South Midland. As for Tom Walker, he’s the titular character in Washington Irving’s short story, "The Devil and Tom Walker," in which he makes an ill-fated deal with the devil. At least he left us with some colorful expressions.

The Ohio State University Is Trying to Trademark the ‘The’ in Its Name

As any good Ohioan knows, there’s a big difference between an Ohio state university and The Ohio State University. But with countless other public colleges across the state, including the similarly named Ohio University, it’s not hard for out-of-towners or prospective students to get confused. To further distinguish themselves from other institutions (and to capitalize on merchandise opportunities, no doubt), The Ohio State University is pursuing a trademark for the The in its name.

According to Smithsonian.com, trademark lawyer Josh Gerben first broke the news on Twitter, where he shared a short video that included the trademark application itself, as well as examples of how the university plans to use the word on apparel. One is a white hat emblazoned with a red THE, and the other is a red scoop-necked T-shirt with a white THE and the Ohio State logo beneath it. Gerben predicts that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will initially deny the trademark request on the basis that those examples aren’t sufficient trademark use, but the university would have an opportunity to try again.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that university spokesperson Chris Davey confirmed the trademark application, saying that “Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks.” He’s not exaggerating; the university has secured trademarks for legendary coaches Urban Meyer and Woody Hayes, plus more than 150 trademarks and pending applications across an impressive 17 countries.

The school's 2017 request to trademark the initials "OSU" provoked an objection from Oklahoma State University, which is also known as OSU, but the two schools eventually decided that they could both use it, as long as each refrained from producing clothing or content that could cause confusion about which school was being referenced.

The Ohio State University, perhaps most famous for its marching band, public research endeavors, and legendary athletic teams, is not impervious to social media mockery, however.

Ohio University responded with this:

And the University of Michigan, OSU’s longtime sports rival, suggested that it should trademark of:

However bizarre this trademark may seem, it's far from the weirdest request th Patent and Trademark Office has ever received. Check out these colors and scents that are also trademarked.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

Where Did the Term Brownie Points Come From?

bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

In a Los Angeles Times column published on March 15, 1951, writer Marvin Miles observed a peculiar phrase spreading throughout his circle of friends and the social scene at large. While standing in an elevator, he overheard the man next to him lamenting “lost brownie points.” Later, in a bar, a friend of Miles's who had stayed out too late said he would never “catch up” on his brownie points.

Miles was perplexed. “What esoteric cult was this that immersed men in pixie mathematics?” he wrote. It was, his colleagues explained, a way of keeping “score” with their spouses, of tallying the goodwill they had accrued with the “little woman.”

Over the decades, the phrase brownie points has become synonymous with currying favor, often with authority figures such as teachers or employers. So where exactly did the term come from, and what happens when you “earn” them?

The most pervasive explanation is that the phrase originated with the Brownies, a subsect of the Girl Scouts who were encouraged to perform good deeds in their communities. The Brownies were often too young to be official Girl Scouts and were sometimes the siblings of older members. Originally called Rosebuds in the UK, they were renamed Brownies when the first troops were being organized in 1916. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had formed the Boy Scouts and was asked to name this new Girl Scout division, dubbed them Brownies after the magical creatures of Scottish folklore that materialized to selflessly help with household chores.

But the Brownies are not the only potential source. In the 1930s, kids who signed up to deliver magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies' Home Journal from Curtis Publishing were eligible for vouchers labeled greenies and brownies that they could redeem for merchandise. They were not explicitly dubbed brownie points, but it’s not hard to imagine kids applying a points system to the brownies they earned.

The term could also have been the result of wartime rationing in the 1940s, where red and brown ration points could be redeemed for meats.

The phrase didn’t really seem to pick up steam until Miles's column was published. In this context, the married men speaking to Miles believed brownie points could be collected by husbands who remembered birthdays and anniversaries, stopped to pick up the dry cleaning, mailed letters, and didn’t spend long nights in pubs speaking to newspaper columnists. The goal, these husbands explained, was never to get ahead; they merely wanted to be considered somewhat respectable in the eyes of their wives.

Later, possibly as a result of its usage in print, grade school students took the phrase to mean an unnecessary devotion to teachers in order to win them over. At a family and faculty meeting at Leon High in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1956, earning brownie points was said to be a serious problem. Also called apple polishing, it prompted other students in class to shame their peers for being friendly to teachers. As a result, some were “reluctant to be civil” for fear they would be harassed for sucking up.

In the decades since that time, the idiom has become attached to any act where goodwill can be expected in return, particularly if it’s from someone in a position to reward the act with good grades or a promotion. As for Miles: the columnist declared his understanding of brownie points came only after a long night of investigation. Arriving home late, he said, rendered him “pointless.”

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