There’s something about home-speak that is comforting like a big bowl of mashed potatoes with a little sweet corn mixed in. Some of us inherit that colloquialism, and we can often find ourselves talking the same.

You know my Grandma used to call me "sister" a lot. Of course, I wasn’t her sister, but it was a commonplace thing for her to say, “get over here, sister or put a coat on, sister.”

Her voice carried a tinny pitch of humor.

Her lingo has stuck close to me like a friend. Every time I find myself saying something she would; I can hear her voice so well it almost takes me back. 

I miss my Grandma that's for certain. She was a good storyteller, and she could make a good pie. She was particular on the crust; it couldn’t be too thick. When she and Pappy ran the Starlight Café in Cantril, folks came from all over just for the pie. 

The way she spoke in the kitchen was always funny too. I don’t think she ever measured anything, but she always said this, “a watched pot never boils, sister,” or “you can add it, but you can’t take it out.” Which is good advice. 

One time she told me to call my boyfriend, "snatchelbritches" (she called them all snatchelbritches), and "skinny down to the crick" — then she’d look at me and say, "be still my heart," of course she was making fun of snatchelbritches and me.

She was after mushrooms to fry up, and when I came clogging into the back porch she'd say, stop right there! “Skinny out of those clothes and take them outside.” Grandma wasn't a big fan of spiders or ticks. When I was little, she'd make me go straight to the tub and scrub with Palmolive to get rid of the poison ivy I was sure to get anyway.

When something semi-bad happened like being covered in poison ivy head to toe, she’d say, “goodnight Irene…”

When it was time to go home from some place, she'd say "home, James," every time. I never knew who James was, but I figured either she was talking about her car or an invisible man that looked similar to the Schwan's man. My kid mind was busy sketching this whole guy's backstory and everything.

Speaking of cars, she also used to honk the horn at you when you were walking in front of the car. Talk about a scare. She’d be bent over the steering wheel laughing up a storm over it too.

Sometimes when I’m leaving the store and heading out of the parking lot, I can almost feel her sitting there, ready to grab my kneecap out of the blue to scare me again — then those old familiar words pass through my lips, “home, James.” 

Herald staff writer Shelly Ragen can be reached at

Have your own favorite story about family lingo or fun old-time sayings? Let us know. Call or email Shelly, or mail The Oskaloosa Herald, 1901 A Ave. W, Oskaloosa, IA, 52577