By Jove

For some reason I've been mulling over things my parents used to say, many of which you don't hear much any more. Someone stupid, my Dad would say, was bone from the neck up. Someone he didn't like was a nasty bit of work. Something good was corker. When you absolutely agreed with something someone said, you said: Too right! In the same way us kids used to say, if we really meant to do something, No fear! Couple of other expressions referred to unusual or remarkable people: She was an original. He was a character. I guess these are still quite familiar, even if they're not heard that often; but what about this? Both my father and my mother were in the habit of saying, many times a day: By Jove! As in: By Jove, it's cold today! I can even remember my mother walking into a room to announce something with the words: By Jove ... When I was young I had no idea what this meant, and heard it as a generalised, probably meaningless, exclamation. It seemed even stranger when I learned, a few years later, that they were in fact invoking a Roman god, actually Jovis pater, Father Jove. They must have picked it up from somewhere like The Admirable Crichton, and probably all their Teachers Training College friends said it too, but Jove still seems a peculiar deity for school teachers in the remote King Country of New Zealand in the 1950s to swearing by.


Ivy said...

I like that first expression -- never heard it before! And the story behind 'by Jove!'

Martin Edmond said...

The other one I should have mentioned, as ubiquitous as "By Jove", was "I say ..."; which really meant, listen to me, I guess. "I say, Trevor, don't you think we should buy a new horse ... or house ..."