Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Land O Goshen

When I checked, I was rather startled to learn that I posted my Dan to Beersheba blog so long ago, way back in December '04 to be exact, just a few months after I started blogging. The expression, From Dan to Beersheba, was one of my dad's sayings, and I had come across it again while reading Bill Bryson's history of the English language, Mother Tongue. Much of this ancient post of mine was about language in general, but I specifically mentioned my dad's "from Dan to Beersheba" phrase toward the end.

So, I don't know why nine years later,I have become intrigued by one of my mother's sayings: "My Land O Goshen," which sounded like one word, "malandagoshen," when she said it. Actually, I often thought it sounded more like, "My Lantic Ocean."

She used it as an exclamation of mild astonishment, as when she was surprised or somewhat shocked about learning a certain fact.

So, off I went to Google to discover what I could about the expression. Did others use it, or was it hers alone?

I discovered that there is a blog entitled My Land of Goshen, but I won't bother linking as there are no entries — just a blog title. Strange.

My Google search also revealed several religious posts based on the phrase.

Here is what I found in the Urban Dictionary, which is pretty well how my mother used the term — at least the amazement part if not the frustration part.
Land O Goshen is a Southern expression of amazement or frustration. The Land of Goshen is a place referred to two times in the Bible, once as a province of Egypt (in the time of Joseph) and another time as a Canaanite land renamed Goshen in the book of Joshua. After Moses led the Jews out of Egypt (Goshen) and Joshua finally led them into Canann, they named a portion of the Promised Land, Goshen. This may be why the phrase is used as an exclamation of amazement and frustration, as the Land of Goshen was the place of the Israelites bondage, and later a place in the Promised Land.
1. Land O Goshen, I just saw a shooting star!
2. Land O Goshen, if I have to tell you to close that front door again I'm gonna tan your hide, boy!
3. Land O Goshen, that apple pie is the tastiest I ever et, Ma!

Just as Dad seemed to have picked up a archaic New England phrase, apparently, Mom appropriated a southern expression. It's an odd thing in both cases as neither of them were Americans nor travellers, but both of my parents were quite religious and knew the bible really well, so perhaps it isn't such a big leap after all.

The Free Dictionary defines it as a mild oath much equivalent to saying, "My goodness gracious!" which was also a Mom phrase.

This is part of what the Perspective Sun Journal replied to a query about the term. You can link for the whole article if you like, but these are the key parts. Perhaps, she did learn the phrase from the Barney Google comic strip mentioned in the quote. Who knows?

"Land o' Goshen" is an old-fashioned expression that is rarely heard these days, although it has not dropped entirely out of use. We have found some evidence of its continuing occurrence (in one form or another) in recent years . . .

There isn't really a "story" for the phrase - other than that it was a favorite usage of the cartoon character Loweezy, wife of Snuffy Smith, in the comic strip Barney Google . . .

. . . "Goshen" is from the Hebrew "Goshen," the name of the land allotted to the Israelites in Egypt, and is found in the Bible at Genesis, chapter 45, verse 11: "And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen ... and there I will nourish thee."
So, there you have it. The definitions that I found were consistent with how she used the idiom. I cannot know where, exactly, she picked up the expression, but she was certainly a religious woman, and I think she also would have been at least somewhat familiar with the Barney Google comic strip. Those two things probably sealed the deal for her, and I think both her, Land O Goshen and Dad's Dan to Beersheba idioms were quite wonderful expressions.


Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Interesting how a few words can set one off on a search for more info. It happens to me all too often and glad to know others share my addiction or is it affliction for knowledge?

TexWisGirl said...

would not have considered that a southern phrase. sounds very irish. :)

Donna said...

Well...I think I'm lost for words...again!Hahaaaa

Anonymous said...

That's so interesting, AC. I've heard Land O'Goshen, but I've never heard the Dan to Beersheba one, and I'm from New England. Maybe I'm not archaic enough. Yeah, let's go with that, shall we? said...

Aloha AC - Rhode Island Jim here. I'm also in my mid-sixties from Southern Rhode Island and my paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Green, was born and lived her entire life in the North-East, in Charlestown, Rhode Island on June 27, 1902 (died June 28 at 12:05 am in 1985 - not gonna die on her own birthday) She used that saying all the time to express amazement and I still hear her saying "Jimmy - my land o goshen" and like you AC, I thought she was saying my Lantic Ocean and it wasn't till I got on some of these ET sites, that I'd ever heard of the "Land of Goshen." So I'm not buying that it was a southern expression. when the settlers first came here from England they landed on the North-East coast and the south did not become inhabited by the white man, till the mid 1800's - early 1900's (a guess) So I will make a bold statement that that saying - at least in the US started in the NORTH-EAST and the SOUTH JUST ADOPTED IT!!! said...


CB Haack said...

My grandmother said it all the time --- she was born in Northern Indiana in 1880s. I was probably a teenager before I parsed out all of the words (sounded like Landagoshin)

ScotishCat said...

I always heard it as "Atlantic Ocean" haha

Unknown said...

My little grandmother who would be about 130 yrs old by now used to say that and I've always loved it. We have been going thru a very difficult time the last 5 years and having to sell our house. I have no idea where we are going but in prayer one night God just spoke to my heart and told me that like Abraham you will go to a place I will show you and when you get there you will say "land of Goshen".I cried when I read Genesis 45:11. Grandma had no idea that's one of the things I would remember about her.