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A look back at the olden days

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

I recently got an email forwarded from a friend about “Back in the Day,” and the words we used as part of our vocabulary. Would older folks, such as myself, recognize the word ‘Murgatroyd?’ The source of ‘Heavens to Murgatroyd” was from Snagglepuss! To those growing up in a land before YouTube, he was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. Many of us used to use that phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” to show surprise.

Some old expressions have become obsolete because of the march of technology. Some phrases now outdated are “Don’t touch that dial,” referring to old TV dials; “Carbon copy,” before we had photocopies; “You sound like a broken record,” of course, refers to records that skipped and kept repeating; and finally, “Hung out to dry” referred to being left alone to face a difficult situation.

Back in the olden days, we had a lot of moxie. (character, determination, or nerve) We’d put on our best bib and tucker to straighten up and fly right – Heavens to Betsy! We used words akin to ‘wow,’ like gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley! We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley (good things) and even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill (bad things). Not for all the tea in China!

Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything’s been swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers.

We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap and when we find it was not such a short nap and we missed an appointment, we might exclaim “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! This is a fine kettle of fish!” We sadly now discover that the words we grew up with have vanished.

Poof, go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind. We blink and they’re gone. Where have all those phrases gone? The other day, a not so elderly lady said something to her son about driving a Jalopy and he looked at her quizzically and said what the heck is a Jalopy? He had never heard of the word! She knew she was old, but not that old.

Long gone: Pshaw/The milkman did it/Hey! It’s your nickel. Don’t forget to pull the chain (older toilets had the reservoir well above seat and you had to reach above to pull the chain to flush the toilet. Knee high to a grasshopper meant very small or very young. Well, fiddlesticks! Going like sixty (miles not kilometres). I’ll see you in the funny pages. Don’t take any wooden nickels.

It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter has liver pills. This can be disturbing stuff!

Haven’t seen an email like this since Hector was a pup. It now is about finding Waldo…but at one time, Kilroy was here. But he isn’t anymore.

Here are some other slang terms from the olden days:

  • Antsville – A place full of people
  • Front burner – current crisis
  • Heels on Fire – in a hurry
  • Lighting up the tilt sign – lying
  • Mushroom people – folks who came out at night to play
  • Smog in the noggin – memory loss
  • Stable the horses – park the car
  • Ankle-biter – a child
  • Are you writing a book – you are asking too many questions
  • Bash – great party
  • Big Daddy – an older person
  • Bit – an act
  • Blast – a good time
  • Bread – money
  • Cast an eyeball – to look
  • Cooties – imaginary infestations of being uncool
  • Cruisin’ for a bruisin’ – looking for trouble.

Well until next column, I hope everything is hunky dory for you and I’ll see ya later, alligator! Or you can reach me at in a while, crocodile!