Thursday, August 17, 2006


One of the things that makes childhood such an exciting time of life is that the Big People - adults - wield real physical power over us.

When you’re a kid, you take that kind of thing seriously.

In our house, nothing brought about Instant Obedience quite as effectively as the classic Daddy Threat: “I’m gonna get out the belt!” Never mind that, in all the years I lived under the same roof with my father, not once did he ever actually get out the belt. It was the mere suggestion that such a powerful piece of weaponry would - could - be brought into play. My brother - the other Elisson - and I would not have snapped to attention any faster had Dad threatened to get out his .44 Magnum.

When a less serious threat was called for, other weapons - more versatile weapons - in the Parental Arsenal would be trotted out.

“Keep it up, and I’m gonna give you a frask im pisk!

Ah, the old Frask im Pisk. That’s a smack in the mouth, for any of y’all that may be Yiddish-impaired: a serious sanction reserved only for the most egregious infractions. Fortunately for me and my brother, our folks were not big users of the frask im pisk. Strong medicine, that.

“I’m gonna give you a potch in tuches!

That’s a smack on the ass. It’s pronounced almost as a single word with the accent on the first syllable: potchintuches. The “ch” in tuches has that same throat-clearing guttural sound that’s found in the Scottish “loch.”

And that potch in tuches was a very versatile threat, for it could be issued in perfect seriousness...or it could be meant completely in jest. Compare and contrast the potch in tuches with “I’m gonna kick yer ass!” The former is almost deceptively playful, while the latter is an unalloyed warning. When we were threatened with a potch in tuches, we could never really be sure whether it was a real threat, a threat made in jest, or mere posturing. One thing’s for sure: nobody was in a hurry to find out.

The best threat, though, came from my Uncle Gerry, of blessed memory.

Back on our Snot-Nose Days, when we would horse around to the point of becoming annoying, Uncle Gerry would warn us: “I’m gonna give you a funge in the knibber!

To this day, nobody has ever, to my knowledge, figured out what a funge was, nor what part of the anatomy the knibber represented. But when we were little, nobody wanted to find out, all too late, that a funge was “an ashcan-sized exit wound, similar to that left by a hollow-point projectile,” and that the knibber was another word for “skull.”

What Parental Threats do you remember fondly...or not so fondly?

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