Fiddlesticks and Thunderation!

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

When I was a kid, I was taught that a lady had to watch what she said. If she was irritated or stumped her toe, there was a definite limit on available words to express her vexation. Even the innocuous darn was forbidden in my house. Often, if that word slipped out, you were reminded that the word meant repairing holes in socks. 

Most of the young people in this day and time probably would have no idea how to go about darning socks. To be completely honest, I don’t know much about the process either. There was a glass or wooden

darning egg that the mender inserted in the sock and then with darning needle and thread repaired the hole. If people lacked a real darning egg, they might have made do with a lightbulb or a ceramic doorknob. Amazingly enough, you can find how-to videos about darning socks out on the web. Not that I’m going to take up darning. I’m too busy “darning” all the “threads” of my story together. So I just buy new socks and keep the economy rolling. 

That’s Mom and me back in the fifties. (You can see I was already a dog lover then.) Mom’s favorite vexation
word was always “fiddlesticks” or sometimes just “fiddle.” My daughter
told me last week that she finds herself saying fiddle now and in the
process remembers Mom. That got me wondering about the word and in the process of wondering I discovered a lot I didn’t know about fiddlesticks.

See the guys in the photo. They’re playing fiddlesticks. Fiddlesticks are traditional instruments used to add percussion to old-time and Cajun fiddle music, allowing two persons to play the fiddle at the same time.
While the fiddler plays with his bow, a second person uses a pair
of straws, sticks, or knitting needles to tap out a rhythm on the strings over the upper fingerboard (between the bow and the fiddler’s fingering hand). This is also called “beating the straws” or “playing the straws.” Nobody knows for sure where this
technique originated, but some think it probably arose in the eastern United States. The technique has become rarer over time as the music has changed, but numerous examples have been recorded. (Info from Wikipedia)

Obviously my mother’s use of the word to express irritation and the odd way of helping a fiddle player’s music sound different aren’t the only ways fiddlesticks is used. A lot of stores and restaurants are named Fiddlesticks. There’s a country club in New York and a town in Florida. And from the images I pulled up on the internet there is a video game where Fiddlesticks is a creepy character. 

Another word I heard sometimes when I was a kid, used mainly by a neighbor who loved to visit and talk away the afternoon, was thunder and thunderation. Tommy was good at telling stories and sometimes laughing at himself in those stories, but when something went sour it was always “thunderation.” So I went out on the web to check out that word. An outdoor steel roller coaster that opened at Silver Dollar City in Bransom, Missouri in 1993 is named Thunderation. My neighbor’s use of the word pre-dated that by a long time. But here’s a photo of the roller coaster. 

But even more interesting is that Thunderation is a scouts’ camp song. Now it’s mostly the Girl Scouts who claim the song, but I think in the beginning it may have been any scout’s or guide’s song.  Here are the lyrics. 
“Thunder, thunder, thunderation.
  We are the (Scout/guide) Association.
  When we work with determination
   We create a sensation.” 

Sounded as if there might have been some feet stomping to make the thunderation.   Link to Girl Scouts singing Thunderation.

So what about when you were a kid? How were you allowed to express your vexation? Or not?