Saturday, August 6, 2016

Rising to the Surface

One of the interesting things about living a life of quietude as an independent contemplative is that it's kinda like existing over a simmering mental soup pot:  you never know what will boil to the surface next.

As I stood in the shower (always a great place to think) recently, I remembered distinctly a voice from the past:  it was my mother accusing my father of creating an untruth.  She said, half-jokingly, "Pish Tish in Honolulu!"

Now, wait. 
Hold up. 
I haven't heard anyone say that in recent years. 
I don't recall anyone outside my family ever saying that. 

Was that a family speech construct?  We had quite a number of those, and we often created verbage of our own.  This was something I didn't realize as a kid until I embarrassed myself by using words or phrases that one else did and being told in no uncertain terms (often by teachers) that what I was saying did not exist in any known dictionary or (generally by other kids) that I was just talking weird.

My insular family was an odd world of its own; and now that the others have passed on, I have become the final island in our tiny archipelago.  I alone speak this dead language.  Although I try mightily to avoid the odd words and phrases I cut my teeth on, sometimes they will rise up like little volcanoes out of the ocean and then I have to stop to ponder what they mean.

Pish Tish in Honolulu? 

Websearches on three search engines yielded nothing other than that the words "pish" and "tish" are old-fashioned (generally British) slang.  No surprise there--three of my grandparents were immigrants from the British isles, and their grammar sorta stuck with us even though none of those grandparents did; certainly I never met them.  My best guess would have to be that this phrase was, maybe,  WW2 Era slang from when folks were warned that loose lips could sink ships and when it was believed that a well-told lie might rescue democracy.  Certainly Hawaii loomed large in the news back then, and for good reason.

But I also recall being told of how my Scots grandfather was hired for a very desirable engineering job in Hawaii in the late 1930's and how he refused the post indignantly when he discovered that the firm had purposely not disclosed that a trade union was involved in the work--a situation that my grandfather refused to stomach.  (His hatred of Eugene V. Debs, Samuel Gompers, and others of their ilk was deep-seated and empassioned--the stuff of family legend.)  Perhaps the employer's lie was the Pish Tish in Honolulu?  It's impossible to know for certain but it's amusing to imagine.

Since I haven't uncovered a proper answer, I guess this little oddment will sink in the mental stew again for awhile and that something else (hopefully just as interesting) will rise to the surface.

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