or “Like my mama used to say…”


My mother, 1945


You knew what it meant when you heard it – from your mama, nana, auntie or Miss Lourine down the street. You could hear the exclamation mark at the end — first, the high-pitched “Chile,” then a fast octave drop to “Pleeze!”
On paper, the phrase might sound like a request. It wasn’t — unless she meant it was time to stop getting on her nerves. When spoken, the words filled the air with exasperation, impatience, warning, sometimes disbelief.

Chile Pleeze is what Black women said to their aggravating kids (chillren). A softer tone conveyed mild skepticism, sometimes to sisterfriends or co-workers. I can’t remember ever hearing my father or any other Black man saying it. Maybe it’s one of those sayings like “Guuurl… “

You don’t hear it much anymore and that’s a pity. And my point. We are losing part of our legacy of language, the quilt of expressions that is uniquely ours. Yes, language has always been fluid, particularly in the Black community. Still, I’d love to capture it, to remember and celebrate those creative, funny, earthy, common-sense (or nonsense) sayings we heard Granny say when we were growing up. I’d love to hear them “one more agin.”


3 thoughts on “or “Like my mama used to say…”

  1. awwww! this was sweet. i’ve been thinking lately of the quiet demise of so much colourful language that i grew up hearing from my mother and my grandmother, quaint words and phrases spoken by only the Kutchi-Gujaratis of the Indian subcontinent, more specifically those that lived in Karachi (as I do)
    My grandmother (or Nani-ma, as we called her) passed away some years ago, and it is my belief that the phrase ‘vaaniya ni chokri’ (meaning ‘monkey’s girl-child’) has died with her 🙂
    I miss her.

    Nice post!

    • Thanks. Sounds like a topic for you to blog about as well! Of course, each cultural group has it own sayings. And then there are some “ethnic” phrases that have gone mainstream. For example, chutzpah or kvetch. Sometimes words become some transparent, we actually forget where they came from. I’m interested in the oral tradition that keeps passing it forward. Good luck.

  2. Granny also said, “Ain’t no fool like an ole fool!!” And that was sometime said after, “Chile pleez!”

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