Weird Words, Part 9

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Oopsy-daisy

I don’t use this much in its entirety, but I have been heard to say oops or whoops in polite company. When I’m alone, I might be a bit more colorful. A while back, while buying a new battery for my husband’s car, the handle broke as I was picking it up. I slammed my left hand into the bottom of the upper shelf pretty hard (after all I was trying to pick up a car battery and they are heavy). It hurt a lot. Polite company or not, I was pretty colorful. Oops!

Phrases.org.uk defines oopsy-daisy this way:  an exclamation made when encouraging a child to get up after a fall or when lifting a child into the air. But there are many other uses for it and its variants. For a while, my father-in-law and his wife developed the annoying habit of saying “whoopsila” after each time they burped. If you would like to use this word for yourself (but I’m recommending you don’t) the accented syllable is whoop. And you have to say it with a sort of verbal flourish.

Some of the other forms listed on phrases.org.uk are ups-a-daisy, upsa daesy, oops-a-daisy and hoops-a-daisy. From these, I can see why they defined it the way that they did. But more often than not, I think most people use it to denote a mistake or express an element of surprise. And more often, they will just say oops or whoops. While the longer versions are mostly British in origin, the shorter ones are all American. We have a charming way of paring things down to the basics.

Ultimately, the source seems to be up-a-day, which has the same meaning (get up), and daisy is a fanciful extension of day. The word daisy itself derives from the fact that the daisy flower opens its eye to the day (Day’s Eye) and closes it’s petals at night. Seems to be very appropriate.

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Speedy Gonzales
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Lickety-split

Phrases.org.uk defines it this way: headlong; at full speed.

This one is American in origin, possibly with Scottish influence (so is it American or not?). Well we are the “melting pot” of the world. It is not commonly used in other countries, so I guess we are good with laying claim to it.

It’s suggested that lickety probably came from lick, meaning speed as in “going at quite a lick.” But who says that? I don’t recall ever expressing it that way. Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever use lick for fast. Seems just a bit obscene.

Here is an excerpt from Thomas Donaldson’s “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” from 1809:  Ere I get a pick, In comes young Nannie wi’ a lick. Then there is D. McKillop’s “Poems” (1817) with:  I rattl’d owre the A, B, C, as fast as lickety An read like hickitie. Most likely, these two gentlemen are the cause of the comment about a Scottish connection.

The second part, split, is an intensifier. While we Americans may like to take things down to their basics, we do still like to intensify things. Can you be basic and redundant at the same time? Apparently. That’s awfully nasty, for example. My husband, Bernd, excels at redundancy. But he is German born. So go figure.

There are many variations (lickety cut, lickety click, lickety split) and they suggest a preference for onomatopoeic phrases (words that sound like what they are describing; like the buzz of a bumble bee or the fizz of a carbonated beverage). Phrases.org.uk gave clickety-clack as an example for trains running across the ties (actually it was clickety-click for trains running across points … the British do speak English right?). But really … how does lickety-split sound like moving fast? Now whoosh might be better suited to that purpose (“He went whoosh out the door”).

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Okie-dokie

Who hasn’t said this at least once in their life? I’ve probably said it a thousand times if I’ve said it once. Whoops! Should I have admitted that? Ed Flanders (from “The Simpsons”) made it more popular again. But his take on it is “okley-dokley.”

It has a number of different spellings:  okey-dokey, okey-doke, okee-dokee, etc. It’s pretty clear that okie-dokie is a variant of okay. It is thought to be 20th century American and first appeared in print in a 1932 edition of “American Speech.” Who the heck researches these things? I can’t imagine pouring over everything printed since printing began to determine when something first appeared in print.

Okie-dokie is used to indicate that all is well, just as for okay. But it is often used as a form of agreement as well (“Dear, would you please take out the trash?” “Okie-dokie! I’ll get right on it.” How often do you actually hear that?)

So, obviously, I had to take a look at okay. Hooyah! I hit pay dirt with that. You wouldn’t believe how many different languages and people are given as the origin of this word. And apparently there is quite a bit of dispute within the halls of lexophiles as to its true origins.

Some of the most popular contenders include:

1.  Terms from various languages that sound similar to “okay” in English:

            a.  from the Scots – “och aye” (yes, indeed)

            b.  from Choctaw-Chickasaw – “okah” (it is indeed) I like this one.

            c.  from Greek – “ola kala” (everything is well)

            d.  from Finnish – “oikea” (correct, exact)

            e.  from Mandingo – “O ke” (certainly)

2.  A shortened version of “Oll Korrect,” used by President Andrew Jackson when initialing papers

3.  “Old Kinderhook” – nickname of President Martin van Buren (but was he okay?)

4.  “Aux quais” – the mark put on bales of cotton in Mississippi river ports

5.  “0 killed” – the report of the night’s death toll during the First World War

6.  “Orl Korrect” – military reporting indicating troops were in good order

However, in 1963, the celebrated (?) etymologist, Professor Allen Walker Read published his research into this word in “American Speech.” He explained that in the summer of 1838, a craze for abbreviations began to flourish in Boston. Professor Read found the earliest recorded use of OK (okay came later) in the “Boston Morning Post” on the 23rd of March 1839 in a story about an odd group known as the Anti-Bell Ringing Society (their reason for being was to have the law relating to the ringing of dinner bells changed). In the article, OK was used as a shortened form of “oll korrect,” a comic version of “all correct.” I suspect the article was poking fun at the Anti-Bell Ringers (who wouldn’t?). Despite his exhaustive research, people do still dispute the exact origin of okay. I’m not surprised.

Oopsy-daisy! Look at the time! I’ll just have to finish this up lickety-split. Okie-dokie?

Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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