Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Mystery of Grandpa's Sayings

John Edward Burnette
ca. 1980

My Grandpa Burnette had some very unusual and colorful sayings.  I would give most anything if he were still alive so that I could ask him where he picked up these sayings or why he said them. He died when I was in my teens and it never occurred to me to question him then. I am sure there are other sayings that were just as intriguing, but here are the ones that I remember the most.
My parents and I lived just across the road from Grandpa and Grandma Burnette, so we were all always in each other's homes. When Grandpa used to be at our house and it was time for him to go home, he would say "I'm going back across the channel."  Well, as a little girl, when he said "channel" the only thing that I could picture in my mind was a television channel! That didn't make sense to me, but Grandpa was always saying things that sounded a bit strange to my ears. Now, I am wondering if he was making a reference to the English Channel and why would he have been doing that?

If Grandpa was referring to something that happened before I was born when he was talking to me, he would always say "that happened while you were over in the Old Country." I had no idea what that meant, but it always made me giggle. Of course, years later I found out that he was referring to Europe the way that many immigrants would have referred to it after they came to the United States.

When Grandpa was ready to leave, I would always beg him to stay a bit longer. He would say that he had places to go and things to do. When I would ask him where he was going, he would say "I'm off to Nova Scotia!"  To my knowledge he was never there and had no relatives there either. Another mysterious saying.

Now, some things to keep in mind. My Grandpa was born, raised, and lived most of his life in Virginia.  He did live in West Virginia for a brief time when he worked in the coal mines.  No matter what branch of the family tree that I trace, all of his ancestors came directly to Virginia from either Scotland or England in either the 1600s or early 1700s. So he was quite a few generations removed from his ancestors that did immigrate to this country. So why did he have all of these references to what must have been Great Britain and Nova Scotia?

Have you ever heard anyone use these sayings before? Do you have any theories about why my Grandpa may have used these sayings?

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean

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