My friend Annie and I have this habit (or is it tradition?) when we talk on the phone. Actually, there’s more than one, who am I kidding?
The first is that it’s guaranteed that at some point in the conversation, Annie will say the word “walkin’.” (Where does the period go when the word and sentence end with an apostrophe plus parentheses?) And she says it all clipped and cool, like “walkin’.” (I just realized you probably didn’t hear how I said it in my head.) So anyway, “walkin’” always ends up in the conversation. And as soon as it’s out there, we chuckle and laugh.
Second, it’s guaranteed that at some point in the conversation, I will say either “down,” “town,” or “around.” And I say it all drawled out and Suthun’ like. And as soon as it slips out, we chuckle and laugh.
(C) It’s guaranteed that at some point in the conversation, one of us will say some catch phrase or colloquialism that everyone says and has said for decades, but no one really knows what it means. Then the other one will immediately say, “where does that even come from?” And then Annie stop trying to sift through her hundreds of emails to Google the origin. And we chuckle and laugh.
So today, we had our usual walkin’ around town conversation, and for some reason I exclaimed, “Heavens to Betsy!” Annie laughed – I asked what that even means – she Googled. Here are the results that just tickled me pinkish-purple to no end:
A mild exclamation of surprise.
This American phrase has been in circulation since,
primarily restricted to America, the latter part of the
19th century, although its use faded throughout the
20th century and it is now something of an anachronism.
The first example of it that I can find is from the US journal Ballou’s dollar monthly magazine, Volume 5, January 1857: Heavens to Betsy!” he exclaims…
It is possible that the phrase is a minced oath and an
alternative to ‘Hell’s bells’, although there’s no real
evidence of that, Of course, what we would like to know is,
‘was Betsy a real person and, if so, who?’. Various theories
have been put forward but it is unlikely that she will be identified. For phrases that contain names that are genuinely eponymous, i.e. named after a known person or fictional character, it isn’t difficult to trace the person concerned,
to phrase like ‘Mickey Finn‘, ‘happy as Larry‘, where there is doubt as to the named person, a strong case can be made to suggest that the names were invented. That seems to be the
case with Betsy.
The etymologist Charles Earle Funk published
Heavens to Betsy! and other curious sayings in 1955.
In that he ventured the opinion that the origins of
‘Heavens to Betsy’ were “completely unsolvable”.
Well Hell’s Bells and Kiss Me Hardy. I feel like this could all become a Christopher Guest movie. “Waiting for Betsy” or “Betsy in Show.”
Of course the “Heavens to Betsy” comment led to the “Heavens to Murgatroyd” phrase that sweet ol’ Snagglepuss made popular back on the days of The Yogi Bear Show. And we chuckled and laughed.
We then decided that “Giggle while you Google” is the new “whistle while you work.”
Just color me Happy as Larry.