What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “wonderful wielders of the willow?”
Although the alliterative use of the letter “w” starting with “wonderful” has an almost poetic feel to it, it actually comes from an account of a baseball game a century ago by New York Times writer W.J. Lampton. Sounds better than “batters,” don’t you think?
Sportswriters of the past were colorful characters themselves and their sportswriting often reflected the flowery prose that was so popular in their times. Although that style of writing has largely disappeared, similarly colorful family phrases are often passed on to succeeding generations.
For example, English was the language of choice in my wife’s household as she grew up, but her mother used enough words from her own Czech heritage that my wife picked up on them and stored them in the deep recesses of her mind from where they emerge at the most unexpected times, amazing those of us around her who have never heard the phrases before.
Families of immigrants often carry the native tongue of their ancestors through successive generations, adding popular American sayings like “you’ll poke your eye out” or “if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”
Think about the language of the household of your youth. Where did those phrases come from? Do you talk like your mother or father?
Photo of Omaha's famous Bohemian Cafe courtesy of DBasci. (Vitame vas is Czech for "we welcome you")