Lisa Ricard Claro – Author

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Good Gravy! What the !!??I*&?>I*!!

Posted on Nov 23, 2011 by Lisa Ricard Claro   13 Comments | Posted in eyphemisms · gravy · Thanksgiving
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Good gravy!

Have you ever used the phrase “good gravy!” in place of a more indelicate expression? You know the kind I mean. My oldest daughter, when she was 3-years-old, called them “those words only daddies can say.”
Euphemisms are sometimes necessary, like when a munchkin at your child’s daycare drops a bucket of Play-Doh on your foot and your “fu” prefix turns to fudge. But in writing, honesty is paramount.  When writers aren’t true to their characters, we do them—and our story—a disservice.  Don’t expect your protagonist to talk like a preacher if he’s really a grouchy ex-Marine. 
Remember Rhett Butler’s delicious line at the end of Gone with the Wind?  Imagine if he told Scarlett, “Good gravy, my dear! I don’t care!”  No one can argue that “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” is so much more satisfying.
An honest expletive is as rewarding for your reader as it is for your character, situation permitting. It is also an amusement when an expletive pops up inappropriately. Here’s a true life example.
One Christmas, when my son was 4-years-old, he was antsy to get the tree decorations down the stairs and into the family room. I told him to wait for his dad. He didn’t, of course, and fifteen minutes later a huge crash resounded as several boxes of glass ornaments tumbled down the stairs and Joey with them. My husband and I, and my visiting in-laws, rushed to the site of the disaster. Broken glass bulbs lay scattered everywhere, with Joey sprawled on the stairs.
“I’m okay!” He assured us as we helped him up.
“That scared the bejeepers out of me!” I told him.
You?” he said, dusting off his footie-pajamas. “It scared the hell out of me!”
Would this story be as cute if Joey had voiced a euphemism? Nope. Was it inappropriate for a 4-year-old to use the word “hell” in a completely appropriate context? Yep. But as true stories go, it doesn’t get more honest than that. (For the record, “bejeepers,” isn’t the word that first came to my mind.)
When you’re writing, be true to your character’s voice within the context of the scene.  Exchanging the word that works for one that sits idle will take something away from your story and insult your main character.  It doesn’t matter whether you would say it or not, only that your character would. So, good gravy, buttercup, keep it real!

Clip art courtesy of
For those of you hoping for turkey gravy insights here today, I don’t want to disappoint. In that spirit, I have four important words for you: white wine and brandy. That’s right. Add some white wine and/or brandy (more or less to your personal taste) to the turkey pan drippings and it will offer up what you’re looking for . . . good gravy!
Happy Thanksgiving!
P.S. Book Blurb Friday will go on as usual. See you then!

13 Responses to "Good Gravy! What the !!??I*&?>I*!!"

  1. Comment by Sandra Davies
    November 23, 2011 at 6:06 am  

    Enjoyed this! We moved north when my daughter was three and it was a source of relief to me when a couple of years later she said, about a speeding motorist, in front of my parents 'silly bugger' but pronouncing it as the northern 'boogger' rather than how we would have done.

  2. Comment by Linda O'Connell
    November 23, 2011 at 7:06 am  

    Lisa, Joey's story is so funny. Your advice is oh so true, too. I had my own oops! I was giving a presentation when it popped out. I said, "I have only received one rejection as a result of how I do my queries, and it was from AARP, the old farts." I immediately covered my mouth, and the audience laughed and laughed.

  3. Comment by Bookie
    November 23, 2011 at 9:45 am  

    Enjoyed your post today so much! I know about "sailor words". The info about gravy was new, never thought of wine trick. Bet it is good. I am making cranberries in wine today. Happy Thanksgiving,Lisa.

  4. Comment by Debra Mayhew
    November 23, 2011 at 9:47 am  

    What a funny story! And great advice too. I hate to say it, but this is why I can't read Clive Cussler. Nathanael is a huge fan, so I tried to get into the books a little. Then the protagonist called someone a scoundrel and I was gone. Who says that anymore?!!Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for BOTH good gravy tips!

  5. Comment by Laraine Eddington
    November 23, 2011 at 11:20 am  

    For me, expletives only have power when they are used sparingly. Nothing is more wearing than a constant stream of cursing 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'. Loved the story, it was a classic.

  6. Comment by Sioux Roslawski
    November 23, 2011 at 11:28 am  

    Lisa–wonderful post, as usual.I am going to cheat a little and stretch the gravy this year with Aldi's turkey gravy, along with pan drippings, etc. (It's really tasty. We did a feast for our 3rd graders, and used it. For gravy in a jar, it's marvelous.)Sometimes I cuss a little too much–it's not quite sparing enough–depending on who I'm with.Your advice about characters was spot-on.You've inspired a post today. I'm off to write it.

  7. Comment by Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy
    November 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm  

    Hi Lisa, I loved this post! I can just see that mess on the stairs, lol. I'll never forget when my boy was 4 and as we were leaving the pizza parlor he walked down the isle of our VW bus and said, "Man! Those bideo games are fu….. awesome!" I couldn't believe he said that, but 4's do experiment with cuss words.Thanks for the writing tips. I think I would do well in a real story, but I keep things pretty clean on my blog. Love the gravy tips too.Happy Thanksgiving to you guys,Kathy M.

  8. Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
    November 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm  

    Sandra – That's so funny! I bet your parents thought it was a riot. Kids really do say some funny things.Linda – Your verbal slip turned into a great point of humor. You may have been embarrassed, but I'm sure it only further endeared you to your audience.Claudia – Mmmm…cranberries in wine. Is it as easy as it sounds or is there a secret?Deb – Well, Clive Cussler would be rather boring after your whale research project. :)Laraine – I agree! Lucille Ball once said she didn't understand today's comedians and their need to cuss to get a laugh. She said that to her mind a genuine comedian is someone who could pull the laughter by being funny, not by being vulgar. And if anyone knew real comedy, it was Ms. Ball.Sioux – Glad to hear I inspired something. 🙂 Now I can't wait to read your creation!Kathy – That's so funny! When mine were young they popped out with a vulgarity or two. It's tough to correct them through tears of laughter, isn't it? LOL

  9. Comment by Lynn
    November 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm  

    Great post Lisa… good gravy never thought to add wine. I remember when we took our grandson who was two at the time to the zoo and we were in the goat petting area for kids. A goat butted Jack and knocked him down. My husband picked him up and I asked if he was okay. He shook his head yes and then said, "That goat was pissed off!" We cracked up.

  10. Comment by Léna Roy
    November 23, 2011 at 10:13 pm  

    Excellent – a good reminder to serve the story. Thanks, Lisa!

  11. Comment by BECKY
    November 24, 2011 at 1:14 am  

    Oh, Lisa! What a wonderful post! And oh so true in every way!

  12. Comment by K9friend
    November 24, 2011 at 10:52 am  

    Love that story! Thanks for the Thanksgiving chuckle!PatCritter Alley

  13. Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
    November 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm  

    Lynn – Great story. And he used the term in the right instance! LOL Lena – Thanks!Becky – Thank you. :)Pat – Thanks for visiting.

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