10 Old Words and Phrases We Need to Start Using More

by Ken Mueller on September 13, 2013 · 25 comments

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The other day my friend Amber referred to her kids as “the bee’s knees” on Facebook, and I just happened to see this at the time that I was trying to figure out what to write about for today’s Friday Blogging Experience post. It got me thinking about a lot of the older and more antiquated phrases that we no longer use. Obviously, if someone is the bee’s knees, they might also be the cat’s pajamas. Using some of these “dead” words and phrases might serve to make our language and conversations more colorful and interesting.

Yeah, I have no idea what that means either.

Anyway, here is my list of ten words and phrases (in no particular order) that we need to start using more. You know, because they’re from the “good ol’ days”” when men were men, and all kids seemed to be born in a barn.

1. Zounds!

Not to be confused with the similar, “Zoinks” of Scooby Doo fame, Zounds is one of those words you use when something startles and surprises you, but usually in a good way. So next time someone surprises or astounds you with that supercool YouTube video of kittens doing crazy and amazing things, you can respond with, “Zounds!” Gadzooks also works in a pinch.

2. Fiddle sticks

I remember my one grandmother using this phrase when she was accusing us of lying or saying something that was just not true. Often it was probably when we were accusing her of cheating at her own personal blood sport: Monopoly. Closely related to this is another word she used, and I remember my father saying often, “horse feathers” when we would state some sort of fact, and he would dispute it.  Because, you know, my dad was always right…

3. For the love of Pete!

This is a phrase that we utter when we can’t believe what just happened. The car breaks down, the dishwasher leaks, the kids eat the last piece of bacon…you know what I mean. A variation of this is, “For Pete’s Sake!”

But this has me wondering: who the heck is Pete, and how did he end up having his name used in this particular context, in not one, but two different phrases. Perhaps it’s Pete Best, the Beatle who left the band before they made it big. No, the phrases must predate him. Shoot, now I’m gonna be on the internet all day Googling this. Anyone know who Pete is?

4. There’s more than one way to skin a cat

I guess I’m just fascinated by this phrase because I’m trying to wrap my mind around the whole idea of skinning cats. Who was skinning them, and why? (Maybe it was Pete!) And seriously, is there more than one way to do it? And do we really want to ponder what those ways might be?

We can use this phrase when we have trouble doing something and we need to look for an alternate solution.  Like, when you can’t get a jar open. If the traditional manly way of twisting doesn’t work, you can get out that circular rubber jar opener thingy that your local insurance salesman/bank/funeral home gave you. Or you can purchase some fancy mechanical doohickey from Amazon that does the job. Or, you can just whack away at it with a hammer. Yeah that’s it…and I wonder if Amazon has any cat-skinning doohickies…

4. Tally ho!

We could learn a lot from the Brits. Everything already sounds much happier and fun when said with a British accent. I’m convinced that Monty Python wouldn’t have been nearly as funny if it had been done by Americans. This phrase came from the world of foxhunting, and the hunters would yell this out when they spotted the fox and the chase was on. Well, I’m not sure if foxhunting is a thing anymore, and I can’t remember the last time I spotted a fox in my back yard, so I think that whenever I get in the car to go somewhere, I’m just going to smile and loudly exclaim, “Tally ho!” I’ll then stand there silently for a few seconds, for dramatic purposes, and so the cameras can get the right closeups, then hop into the car, start it up, and zoom off.

Of course, the whole thing will be ruined if for some reason the car won’t start. So anti-climactic.

5. Exit Stage Left

This is the first cousin once removed to “tally ho,” and while I’m not sure where this originally came from (a theater reference, I’m sure), my point of reference is that great American icon Snagglepuss. Some of you might be too young to remember Snagglepuss, but he was a pink cartoon mountain lion who wore nothing but a shirt collar, shirt cuffs, and a string tie. Yeah. Wow. Kind of odd and creepy now that I think about it. In his animated exploits, our hero would often find himself in a pickle (ooh, another good one!) and in order to get out it, he would utter, “Exit, stage left!” and then, whooosh, he ran off the screen, accompanied by cartoon sound effects.

Snagglepuss wasn’t a one trick pony, mind you, he was also the one who made popular the phrase, “Heavens to Murgatroyd,” a more upscale version of, “Heavens to Betsy.” Yeah, Murgatroyd trumps Betsy every time.

6. Groovy

This one comes out of the jazz culture of the 1920’s, but was popularized in the mid 1960’s and into the 1970’s by those dang hippies. But what sealed it for me were Greg, Marsha, Jan, Peter (not Pete, mind you), Bobby, and Cindy. Yeah, if it’s good enough for the Brady kids, it’s good enough for me. It’s totes a much hipper phrase than cool, def, bad, or rad.

Now, please hand me that groovy jar opening doohickey.

7. Swell

Golly gee, let’s move back to a simpler time when things were “swell.” I think the Brady’s might have uttered this one as well, but in my mind it’s more closely associated with Dennis the Menace. Or even back further in those black and white movies from the first half of the 20th century. You know, the ones where the male lead (probably a detective) would say, “Gee, she’s a swell dame,” when what he really wanted to say was, “Get a load of the gams on that tomato!”

Yeah, swell is a pretty groovy word.

8. When Pigs Fly

This one is designed to show your disbelief that something will ever happen. It’s very similar to other more popular phrases, like “When hell freezes over,” or, “When the Eagles win a Super Bowl.” With the political situation in Washington, D.C. the way it is, I’m surprised we don’t hear this phrase a lot more.

“When will Congress ever give us a really balanced budget?”

Yeah, you know the answer to that one…

9. Ye Olde

Remember when stores used to have Ye Olde in their names? Ye Olde Apothecary. Ye Olde Tavern. I miss those places. I think we need to start referring to places in this way again.

“I’m headed to Ye Olde DMV to renew my license.”

“How fast is the wireless at Ye Olde Internet Cafe?”

“I’m getting that spinning disc thing, I better head down to meet the geniuses at Ye Olde Apple Store.”

Just adding “Ye Olde” in front of any business name makes it seem that much more pleasant and homey, don’t you think?

10. Muelleriffic

OK, so technically this isn’t an old word, but it IS a word we should all start using. Muelleriffic is like groovy and swell and all those other rad words rolled into one. It’s the uber-groovy; the mega-swell.

New words and catchphrases are created every day. Heck, Letterman did it back in the eighties with, “They pelted us with rocks and garbage,” so I can certainly do it with my own name!

Now don’t you think that this is the most Muelleriffic post you’ve ever read? If so, feel free to use those share buttons below or off to the left, and share it, before you exit stage left.

Now go out there and start throwing these into your conversations, both online and in person. Let’s see if we can start a real movement here!

What phrases and word from yesteryear would you like to see make a return to our every day language?

 

 10 Old Words and Phrases We Need to Start Using More
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25 comments
natbar
natbar

Pretty sure "for the love of Pete!" and "for Pete's sake" are both references to Simon Peter, the Christian Apostle. I have no idea if they are also considered mild blasphemies (him being an Apostle and all), or if they developed precisely as a non-blasphemous replacement for "Jesus Christ!" and "for Christ's sake!"

vmschmidt
vmschmidt

I don't know about Dennis the Menace, but The Beaver from Leave it to Beaver used "swell" quite a bit.  My kids went to a play with me, and one of the actors said "Exit, Stage Left" and I laughed, knowing where it was from but not quite remembering who said it.  It was on my mind all night, and suddenly on the way home, I got it and shouted "SNAGGLEPUSS!"  My kids will now randomly say Snagglepuss! and it gets a laugh out of me every time.

wonderoftech
wonderoftech

Uh oh. What if I had never stopped using these?

KateHeyhoe
KateHeyhoe

Sweetheart. We were living together 7 years before marriage, and the terms "boyfriend' or 'significant other' or 'partner' didn't work for me. Sweetheart was perfect: I introduced Thomas as my sweetheart, a term warmer and more endearing than the others. And he still is my sweetheart, decades later : )

jmcnamee
jmcnamee

Love this article. Haven't come across Zounds or Muellerific before but it may be because I'm a brit.

How about:

Bob's your uncle 

Load of old cobblers 

Gordon bennett!

:o)

stockwell
stockwell

Let's add "sharp" and "spiffy" to that list. 

LizJostes
LizJostes

The "skin a cat" one has always been alive and well south of the Mason-Dixon. #JustSaying

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

HAh love this! I use 9 & 6 regularly, will start on 10! I am personally working on bringing back "no guff". It's not all that old, but sadly out of vogue. 

amberdegrace
amberdegrace

Zounds! This post is more than groovy and better than swell, it's downright Muelleriffic! 

I'm happy to inspire such fun posts like this. 

RyanKBiddulph
RyanKBiddulph

Hi Ken,

Snagglepuss. Wow! lol....I watched him quite a bit as a kid and, wouldn't you know it, I use the "exit stage left" phrase frequently on my blog. Subconscious conditioning? I think so.

As for the other ones I have no idea who skins cats or how but the phrase has helped me think my way out of some dicey online business situations.

Thanks for the fun share Ken!

Ryan

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@dbvickery Ooooh. I like "what in tarnation"...I'm also thinking I should have included "Great Caesar's Ghost!"

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@stockwell and yes, you ARE looking rather sharp and spiffy today, Mr. Stockwell.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes So either you southerners are ahead of the game, or really behind the times. Hmmm.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@RebeccaTodd oh wow, we used to use guff in high school a lot. Yes, we need to bring that one back, too.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@amberdegrace Seriously, you end up inspiring about a post every other month or so. And keep using Muelleriffic. We'll make it happen!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@RyanKBiddulph Thanks for stopping by, Ryan. Glad you enjoyed it. Lots of fond memories of those old cartoons, that's for sure.

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