Friday, July 20, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Wicked

Wicked was not a word that occupied much space in my vocabulary when I was growing up. Wicked was the wicked witch of the west from the Wizard of Oz, and occasionally another story book character. It was not a word I used in every day conversation and I don't remember anyone I spent time with using it either.

I grew up in New York state, although I don't really sound like it since my speech patterns were influenced by my father's western Massachusetts upbringing, and my mother's modified mid-western upbringing, and the elocution classes my mother was subjected to in college. By the summer of 1976 we were living in northeastern Ohio, a brief sojurn, where my speech was further influenced by not only the sounds of Ohio but also by the slight British accent a school mate had acquired during his father's sabbatical in England the previous year and cultivated for reasons unknown to me.

I'm sure I used slang, I do now and have no reason to believe that I was immune from it as a child. But I can't actually tell you what slang I might have used to identify those things which were, to use a more recent vernacular, awesome.

The summer of 1976 found me working in the kitchen of a church camp in New Hampshire. I ended up there largely because I'm not good at small talk, but given a job to do at a social event and I'm fine. Late in the spring of 1976 I was at a church picnic, and someone commented on how helpful I was. The college age daughter of our pastor was at the periphery of the conversation and asked if I was interested in working with her that summer. She was the head cook at the camp. A couple of weeks later I was off to New Hampshire. The trip east was eventful enough since it was the first time I had traveled alone.

I took the train east from Ohio to Springfield, Massachusetts where my grandfather picked me up, took me to lunch at the Ground Round in West Springfield, and deposited me at the bus station. At the end of the bus ride north I was picked up by the head cook (the minister's daughter) and the waterfront director, who was nominated for the job because he had a car.

A number of my co-workers were from the Boston area. And when they wanted to describe those things that set their hearts to tingling with joy they said "wicked pissah" (never pisser, always pissah). The first time I heard it there was a pause before I figured out what they meant. Eventually it became a familiar phrase rooted in my brain. I'm sure my mother was glad that the phrase didn't become part of my vocabulary.

I moved to the Boston area just over a year later (yes I'm that old) and was able to pick out the locals at my college by their use of the word wicked. In the intervening years the phrase wicked pissah has fallen out of use, at least in the circles I run in, but on those rare occasions when I hear it I am instantly back in that long ago summer in the woods of New Hampshire.


paris parfait said...

Isn't it interesting the phrases that stick in our mind forevermore? An entertaining post.

Rob Kistner said...

Fun read... I know the term. Had a gentlmen from New England that worked for my company -- "er" didn't exist... only "ah"...cah, scahf, bah... ;)

gautami tripathy said...

This was good. I enjoyed reading it.

Paul said...

Enjoyable read. Thanks.

JAXTER said...

That brought a huge smile to my face, thanks - growing up in MA I was quite familiar with the phrase, but being North of Boston we stuck to just plain "wicked"...