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Golly, I dunno - Porta-Posts
April 25th, 2009
10:12 am
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Golly, I dunno
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25 years ago, I got aboard a bus in skid row Los Angeles and, addressing the black bus driver, I said something wherein I remarked, "Golly," to express mild surprise or bewilderment, and the driver laughed in some mild astonishment of his own, saying, "You just said 'Golly.' That's not something I hear people say any more these days. It's kind o' nice to hear mild language like that."

I have to admit that my use of the word was a case of my being very deliberately corny or "square" or a hayseed. (Just as my using those describers is.) Not unnaturally so. 'Golly' is a good word, and I wore it well, I wear it well, in all sincerity and with not a trace of affectation nor irony.

About that. Not a trace of affectation nor irony. My Freshman year at Windsor Mountain School in 1968 I had my first encounter with natural-sounding black-American vernacular in the person of fellow freshman Boo-Boo Monk, daughter of the jazz musician. Boo-Boo used words and phrases that were strange to me, and which, had I attempted to use them, would have sounded pretentious. It would have been as if i were attempting to sound black, without my being black.

But "golly?" Now, "golly" is a word that I can lay claim to as being of my culture and (generally speaking) of my generation. Oh, it was ten years out-of-date by the time I was a teenager, but that is of little moment. Now, it may be that "golly" is an expression one may associate more with youth than maturity. Nevertheless, its strong evocation is cultural. As such, it is my culture. I get to use "golly" with a straight face and not a trace of self-consciousness. And that is one of the things I like about the word. It is a case of language which is  culturally defining.

Who is that Man, anyway?

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