The Secret to a Great Apology

I hear you saying I hurt you by doing ______ . Your feelings are valid. I am sorry. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to learn. I will work on this and do better. I hear you saying I was wrong…


A Few Words That I Learned From Erma Bombeck

I live really far away from any English-speaking countries, but I recently discovered a nearby library with several hundred English books. Judging by the stamps on the flyleaves, it looks like most of the books were donated by American Embassy personnel.

As such, the selection is extremely random — exactly how I like it!

Two things struck me immediately — one, that the United States has changed a lot since then. Some of the biggest topics “covered” in the book included teenage boys with long hair (a major problem) and kids listening to “loud rock” (defined as bands like The Beatles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young).

But, aside from some dated TV and film references, I’m old enough to grasp a lot of the cultural asides.

What threw me for a loop, however, was some of the vocabulary. Some of it was antiquated but easily understandable, like being a “square” (uncool, old-fashioned, or rigidly conventional). Others, however, I’d never even heard of.

Here are the words and phrases I learned from Erma Bombeck this week:

The first reference was to “raggy underwear,” so it’s pretty clear that this word is just a variant of “raggedy.” However, other times it’s used more loosely to mean “ugly”.

“Let it all hang out” — in 2018 — means “to be uninhibited” or “to express one’s emotions directly.”

In the 1960s, though, Bombeck was using it to refer to the “Women’s Lib” movement, aka Second-wave Feminism, and its direct encouragement for women to stop wearing “control” undergarments like girdles, corsets, pantyhose, and bras (basically, anything made by Spanx today).

Therefore, “let it all hang out” was used much more literally.

Short for “marvelous.”

Weirdly, this wasn’t put in quotes (to indicate slang usage), but just written as though everyone was very familiar with this word.

From what I can tell from Google’s Ngram and other sources, “marvy” took off big-time in 1965 (but I can’t figure out who started it) and then rapidly fell off in popularity by the mid-70s.

Today, searching for “Marvy” will only get you people whose first or last name is Marvy.

At one point, Bombeck’s husband lost his “Ruptured Duck.”

This is one of those things where you just have to be old enough to remember the tech from this period. I certainly am, but I never knew some of the names.

In 2018, you’d probably think of a cashier’s work station when someone says “the register,” but Bombeck repeatedly used the word to refer to what we’d call “vents” today.

You know, the little grille on the floor or baseboard that blows air from the heating/cooling system in your house. They were a big deal in the 60s, based on how many times Bombeck referenced them.

The exact quote was something like “watch out that the green onions don’t repeat on you.”

Obviously, the verb “repeat” has a lot of meanings, but in this case, it apparently means something like “cause acid reflux” or “cause burping.” Makes sense when you think about it :)

This means “to hit someone very hard,” originally from a verb (lambaste) that meant “hit someone until you permanently cripple them.”

Fun times!

Weirdly, Platformate is still used in cars today although I’d never heard anyone use the word before reading Bombeck’s book.

I think we’ve all heard of a “malted” chocolate milkshake — or, at least, I have — but I had no idea what the “malted” part meant, or how it could even be “double-malted”.

The younger women might have been “letting it all hang out,” but older women (including Bombeck) were still heavily swaddled in control garments.

And why, exactly, did a Jewish man from Lithuania invent pantyhose? Because he had to wear “rubber leggings” after a surgery when he was young and wanted to create something better.


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