Old Man Word 96: Dadgummit
Nobody likes a cliche’. The most irksome of all cliches are found in bad dialogue; when the writer relies on stereotypical catch-phrases to convey the tropes of the character. Here are a few examples:
- The New Joisey goomba who tells a compatriot to “fuhgeddaboutit.” (Why that must be an Italian-American with a quick temper but a heart o-gold!)
- The African-American kid who ignores the homework given by his bushy-eyed teacher because all he cares about are “Dead Presidents.” (I suspect that jaded gangster will come to realize life ain’t all about bitches and money.)
- Craps players call for a “seven!” (Okay this last one doesn’t quite fit but it’s a major pet peeve of mine; no one who plays craps gets excited about the even-money prospects of a seven, I assure you).
At first bi-focul’ed glance, dadgummit would seem a natural addition to this unseemly list. A word so stereotypical and comical it sounds almost fake. Which it is:
Dadgummit. interj or n.
- Euphemism for Goddamnit.
- A word invented by a Hollywood scriptwriter and uttered by Walter Brennan as he portrayed Gran’pa Amos McCoy on the sitcom “The Real McCoys.”
Imagine the scene. A group of script writers are sitting around a table figuring out how to make a character they call “Gran’pa Amos McCoy” appear even more hickish and ig’nant than his name suggests. They make him wear coveralls. They hire an actor with no teeth. They make him hold a jug of “XXX” moonshine. Not good enough. So they pick up their dictionaries and say “let’s give him a real stupid catchphrase.” After reviewing the 250,000 or so words made available by the English language, they throw up their hands, yell “fuck it,” and invent a word adequate to convey his backassness:
In many ways the word is the most stereotypical of all. The mere mention invokes the instant image of a chair-rocking, porch-settin’, shack-livin’, banjo-fishing-system-usin’ hick. But unlike the gangsters, jersey goombas, and gamblers, old people actually say dadgummit. They aren’t embarrassed, they aren’t trying to be “ironic,” they aren’t trying to do anything but scoop tapioca into their craws. Hollywood invents a fake “ignorant” word and the timers latch on like it’s their last relative leaving the nursing home on Christmas morning.
This is unprecedented.
Do black midgets ask people “Whatchutalking’bout?” Do teen detectives express surprise by saying “zoinks?” Do bikers raise their thumbs, buy shares in burger joints, and say “aay!”
No. They don’t.
Item of evidence number 408 in support of my case that old people suck your honor.