Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
October 29, 2000
My father influenced me in many ways, not the least being the many phrases of speech
which I inherited from him. So now I often think of him when I make comments that I first heard
him use and that over the years became a part of my vocabulary.
When he wanted to emphasize the truthfulness of something he said, he would often conclude with the remark, "If thatís not true, there is not a dog in Georgia!" The implication is clear: the statement is true because everyone knows there are plenty of dogs in Georgia.
I have no idea where my dad first heard those words. Most likely it did not originate with him. Perhaps it was his own dad, an uncle, or an acquaintance. Whatever its origin, it found lodging in the recesses of my mind years ago.
Now and then I even use this remark in a sermon as a humorous way of inviting my audience to know that I truly believe what I have just said. It is a way of underlining an affirmation of truth, or making a statement with "bold face" speech.
Family members and close friends have a way of sharing, unconsciously, their vocabulary with us. We learn from each other. We pick up words or phrases that appeal to us and add them to our own reservoir. Over the years we get into the habit of using certain words or phrases in everyday conversations. The use of these expressions become characteristics of our unique personalities. When someone is telling me a story, for example, and I realize that the other party is expecting me to do little more than listen, I find myself saying over and over again, "You donít mean it." As I become conscious of having used that expression several times, I begin to alternate it with a one-word response, "Really." Then if the story is exceptionally long, I begin to look for an opportunity to say something like, "Well, thank you for sharing with me, but I really must run along now."
I laugh when I remember an old friend who, becoming exasperated with a friend who would not stop talking to him, kept raising a finger to indicate that he wanted to reply. Finally, when his friend kept ignoring his signal, he raised his whole hand and said with emphasis, "If you would please put down a period, I have something I would like to say!" But such an abrupt remark usually brings to an end any significant sharing for the talker feels rejected.
There are a few people of my acquaintance who seem to need nothing but an ear, into which they are willing to pour endless words without any response from me. These persons probably imagine they are having conversations when actually they are doing almost all the talking. It can hardly be described as a conversation if one party does 99 percent of the talking.
Along the way we all pick up meaningless phrases which we use habitually. One such phrase is "You all come to see us." If everyone we said that to were to show up at our house one afternoon, we would probably have a stroke. What we usually mean by that phrase is this: "This casual contact with you today is about all I really need." I cannot remember if my dad ever said, "Have a nice day," as a parting comment to someone. But I picked that phrase up from someone and use it a lot everyday. Perhaps it is simply one of those socially acceptable remarks that makes our daily speech polite.
One remark I am trying to stop using is the very common phrase, "Have a good one." A good what? I suppose it a shorter version of "Have a good day." But while pleasant, it means little more than the overused "See you."
Come to think of it, I never remember my dad saying "See you" or "Have a good one."
So I reckon I have someone else to blame for slipping those phrases into my vocabulary. And if thatís not the truth, there is not a dog in Georgia!