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Tarnation, Gumption, and Brogans

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Lanessa in San Antonio, Texas, remembers once when her Tennessee-born grandmother saw her grandfather coming home from work and tromping into her pristine kitchen: “What in the tarnation? You don’t have any gumption! Don’t come walking into my kitchen like that. Leave your brogans at the door!” Back in the day, the word brogan meant “a sturdy work shoe,” and may be a linguistic relative of the word brogue, referring to a “Scottish or Irish accent.” Gumption is likely related to the Scots word goam or gome, which has to do with “paying heed” or “understanding,” also the source of gormless, meaning “stupid.” Tarnation is a minced oath, form as an alteration of damnation, combined with tarnal, which is in turn adapted from eternal, with less of a connotation “everlasting” and more in the sense of “infiniteness.” This is part of a complete episode.

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