A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

Are the Southern sayings in PERSONAL BAGGAGE original?


The southern sayings in PERSONAL BAGGAGE are not original. I learned most of them from fellow hospital workers who, when they realized how much I enjoyed them, would quote their favorites for my benefit.

“Bless his/her heart” is the most universally used saying I have ever heard—especially now that people are blessing each other, asking for blessings, and deciding which of us has been blessed. It may be endearing or it can become a critical description, as it does when Maureen uses it against Dr. Lawrence in Chapter 3 of Summer.

Adaptations of sayings such as “one brick short of a load” and “not the sharpest scalpel in the autoclave” are fun to create and funny to hear, but are derogatory descriptions of the beneficiary.
Picking cotton was hard, hot, back-bending labor done by field hands in the early 19th century. The terms “high cotton,” found at the end of Chapter 6 in Summer, and “thin cotton,” found at the end of Chapter 1 in Winter, refer to wealth and come from the Old South where cotton was one of the few cash crops when this country was settled. High cotton--the biggest, fluffiest, whitest tufts of cotton produced by the healthiest, tallest, most-valuable plants--sold for more money. Low cotton” referred to times in which the crops grew poorly and picking it was harder: bad times of poverty and depression. When used in reference to a person, “low cotton” would mean someone of lower class.

Search result for 'cotton' in PERSONAL BAGGAGE

Chapter 4: Chapter Four
"... she asked. “My head feels like it’s full of cotton and my heart’s real weak.” He yawned so wide that Penny could see his molars. “I didn’t sleep last night, as far as that goes. Not at all.” He watched Penny take a bottle of pills from the medicine cart. She shook out two ..."

Chapter 5: Chapter Five
"... described to Maureen the multiple-copy incident reports she had learned to fill out in Jacksonville. “We could use those here! Yes Ma’am, you’re chopping in high cotton up at JMC.” As they crossed the parking lot together, Maureen said, “You can expect a late frost this ..."

Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
"...“It actually started out as a series of buffalo trails and Indian tribes joined them together,” Johnny said. “My students don’t appreciate the history all around us—our dirt grew the cotton that revolutionized North American agriculture! Every day we’re looking at evidence of the wealth that came to this area from the invention of the cotton gin and the steamboat...don’t you just love getting a history lecture with supper?” ..."

Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
"...Carrying the three pairs of socks David had bought, Penny and her father walked slowly into the department store and she pointed out the display of socks. He rejected nylon socks as too thick, and the cotton ones were too lumpy. Paying no attention to price, he selected a fifteen-dollar silk pair and insisted upon trying them on. The clerk pointed to a dressing room for the handicapped. ..."

Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
"... her smile was replaced by tears. ”I’ll numb it.” Laying down the alcohol swab and the cotton ball, Penny turned to the doctor. “We use an ethyl chloride spray to deaden the skin over implanted ports before we insert access needles. I’ll go get it.” “Bring me more pillows and ..."
"... of Maureen’s illness, Penny placed a hand on the over-bed table. The death-dealing disease was murdering Maureen! “Yeah, I’ve picked myself into some thin cotton.” A house wren landed on the window ledge then flitted away, and Penny wished that both she and Maureen could hop on the ..."
"... bird’s back and fly far away from here. Maureen broke the intense silence. “When you pick in thin cotton you don’t get your quota.” Her shoulders slumped forward, leaving her scapulae, like bird bones, outlined beneath the flimsy hospital gown. She’d lost weight! Struck by a wave of ..."

Chapter 21: Chapter Twenty-One
"...cottonlaced her fingertips behind her ears and raked her hair back. “That’s a good question. You know all his research trips to interview people and stuff like that? Well, when he came back from this last trip, instead of taking the kids to meet him like usual, ..."
"...Colonel Philpot approached from the elevator leaning on a crutch. “I been shot in the leg but don’t worry, super glue and cotton balls’ll fix anything. I couldn’t make it back North with the lettuce for Kroger and I lost thousands on that load, but don’t worry, I stopped off in Vegas and won big! They hate to see me comin’ cause I never lose—now I’ve got 185 million!” ..."

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"Margaret McMillion's PERSONAL BAGGAGE is a very entertaining story of professional life within a corrupt medical community, and the toll..."

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