Author Archives: jwroth

I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.

“I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.” Is a phrase used in Mississippi. I was told that its meaning is somewhat akin to “I wasn’t born yesterday.” An example the informant gave of its use was that when lying to one’s parents about something, they may respond that they didn’t just fall off a turnip truck in order to indicate that you aren’t fooling them. The informant mentioned that it may have come about because turnips were commonly eaten in the area, though felt that a bit strange, as the informant theirself didn’t recall eating turnips regularly.

My best guess of where this proverb came from is that turnips being transported on trucks were a common sight in that region. Turnips are smaller, more compact vegetables, and so more likely to fall from a truck than some other vegetables, and according to my informant may be more commonly seen in the area than others. The turnips that fell from trucks were likely not going to be retrieved by the truck driver, and so were now subject to the joking law of “Finders Keepers” This gives the connotation that a turnip can be easily used/taken, which leads you to the meaning in the proverb being a distancing of oneself from this easy manipulatability. It also helps that the simple action of falling from something can leave someone dazed/dizzy which would leave them easy to confuse, which is another thing the proverb distances the speaker from. 

Bless ___ Heart

To say bless someone’s heart is an insult or a way of making fun of people in Mississippi. The informant said if someone were to say it about them, they would think the person didn’t like them. It’s a way to be fake nice and to curse someone out without actually cursing.

I think that this saying is very similar to euphemisms and an example of tabooistic vocabulary, but rather than replacing a specific phrase it replaces a multitude of phrases by just conveying the intent of the message and the impact the message is meant to have on the listener without having to use a specific example of the misfortune or dislike felt towards or wished upon the subject of the heart-blessing. The fact that the community is Christian is probably a large factor in why this way of insulting people became popular. Since it is looked down upon on a spiritual level to be rude, and especially to curse people, they have acclimated to using words that are kind and well-wishing in an insincere way for expressing their negative emotions towards each other. 

Claw Machine Game

In elementary in Illinois, the desks would open so you can store stuff inside. A kid would clear half their desk, or the corner of it, and put erasers and pencil toppers and similar things of theirs in that space. The owner would then pretend their hand was the hand of a claw machine and other people would take turns “playing the claw machine”. You got to keep what the owner took out for your turn.

The informant kept commenting that this was a very stupid and pointless thing to do. Different people would do it different ways as well, sometimes the person whose turn it was would pretend that they are controlling the claw hand, and other times the owner would just pretend to be the hand on its own and pick things up on people’s turn when they felt like it. The informant remembered that usually only items that the owner didn’t care much for would be given away or “won,” as they were the one picking the items up and could, obviously, just not pick up anything they liked. The informant did recall one time that they accidentally picked up an item they liked and felt really dumb after doing so and having to give the item away to the “winner.”

This game is yet another example of children playing a game that mimics something they are normally not allowed to use or do, this time being claw machines, which many times they aren’t allowed to play with because of the cost and small chance they will win a toy from one. Claw machines are intriguing to children, and really most people, because of the thrill of maybe getting a good deal on an item, the feeling of earning/winning something, and the mystery of whether one will receive an item and, if so, what. The game also reinforces, in a way, the value of giving, as the children are voluntarily giving each other gifts, though through the format or ritual of this game. A final aspect that could be likable to the children playing this game, specifically those “operating” the claw machine and giving out their possessions to other children, is that they feel in full control of the situation, which is not something children usually are.