Supper time around our table is a much quieter experience today than it was a couple of weeks ago. With two of the siblings gone, one of whom is widely known as a motor-mouth (but a lovable motor-mouth), having a conversation is a lot less of an acrobatic feat now.
Last night the sibling remaining at home was actually home for supper, and the conversation got around to a comment we’ve often heard Grandma and those of her generation say:
“Oh, she (or he) has really failed.”
Invariably accompanied by a sad shake of the head, this sentence is intended to describe elderly friends whose health and/or mental faculties seem to be deteriorating. What I always hear, though, is that this person is doing a really crappy job at life and is certain to receive an F on the big report card in the sky. Ironically, the fact that a friend of Grandma’s was heard to say this very thing about Grandma herself appears to have been an unforgivable sin.
And then there’s:
Again, mainly used by older folks. I know this one is short for “passed away,” a weird enough euphemism in itself. What’s wrong with “died?” I don’t care how you sugar coat it, the person is pushin’ up the daisies…he’s joined the choir invisible…he is an ex-person. “Passed” once again makes it sound like a reference to the imaginary report card of life, but in this case he got an “A.” I don’t know what it looks like if an elderly person first “fails” and then “passes.” Mind-boggling.
Another one that’s always cracked me up:
“Is she/he a good baby?”
Yet again, most often said by the older generation, I think the question is trying to get at whether the baby sleeps at night or is fussy. But it’s a saying that conjures up images of failing at the general state of being a baby. What I always wanted to reply (and occasionally did, depending on how much sarcasm I’d acquired during the time I’d spent awake with said baby the night before): “Well, we’ve been paying for baby lessons, and she seems to be making some progress. We’re hoping her baby instructor will be able to improve her skills, or we’re going to have to send her back to the farm team.”
I suppose there will come a day when I, too, will use odd turns of phrase that make younger people do a double-take. Perhaps that stage of life will hit me the day I start wearing a folded-up plastic rain bonnet every time I step out of the house. Only time will tell.