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On today’s show (WFYI @ noon), there was a reference to I (or I’ll) Swanee used similar to “I declare” or a similar expression. I live in and have grown up in Indiana. When I was a child, I heard older people say, “I swan” used in the same way. Neither my husband nor I had ever heard “I Swanee,” but it was interesting to hear of a similar expression used in the same way. Perhaps this is a regional variation.
My grandmother used to say that whenever she was surprised. (This was in the early to mid fifties.) I never could understand whether she was saying “I swanee” or “I’ll swanee”, but I never thought about it until now. She was born in Troup, Texas (or in Georgia, we never found out which), which is in east Texas, but was raised in Kerens, Texas (south of Dallas). The saying never caught on with my mother or any of us kids.
I have tried for years to decipher what this meant. My aunt used to say, “Well, I’ll just swan.” or “Well, I’ll just swanee.” just about to everything. I always figured it was a lady-like way to swear! And her mother, my paternal grandmother’s favorite was “Land o’ Goshen!” I assume she was using Land of Goshen as in the Bible. Anyone every heard that one? I grew up in East Texas (my grandmother was from Indiana). I never heard anyone say it except my Aunt Florence.
Yeah, I’ve read (but never heard) “Land of Goshen!”, too; I take it to be a more western than southern expression, from Texas and Oklahoma perhaps. But you say she was from Indiana. My kin are mostly from Wisconsin but that saying isn’t in our family.
I didn’t mention it before, but I’ve long supposed “I swanee!” to be spelled, properly speaking, “I suwanee!”. That is, I connect it mentally with the Suwanee river (as in ” ‘way down upon…”). But I may be mistaken.