“Well, I’ll be go to hell.”

This is an expression I’ve heard countless times in my life.  As I wrote the scene where Ed Ferguson first sees his lost love, Linnie Mae Sparks, after an absence of many years, the first words that came to mind were those.

“Well, I’ll be go to hell.”

I thought everyone had heard the expression. Not so, I soon learned. Apparently the expression is unique to the Midwest, which makes it perfectly acceptable for Ed Ferguson to use, since Summertime is set in rural Kansas.

But what about my readers from other parts of the country or other parts of the world? Would they understand the expression and what it means when someone says it?

My editor doubted it. Of course, the last thing any author wants to do is confuse a reader, so I was left with three choices.

  1. Stubbornly leave the dialogue exactly as written, against the advice of my editor.
  2. Remove that perplexing line and give Ed something else to say.
  3. Keep the dialogue, but offer a quick explanation for readers who weren’t familiar with the term.

I wanted to go with the first choice, but stubbornness as an author — and going against the advice of an editor — is an act that is best reserved for really important occasions.

I couldn’t take out the dialogue because the expression was perfect for Ed in that moment of time. There is truly nothing else he could possibly have said that would have more fully expressed his thoughts and feelings.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s an expression that conveys shock, surprise, and a range of emotions centering around disbelief. It’s used when something occurs that leaves a person all but speechless, unable to think of anything logical or meaningful to say. It is, essentially, a gut reaction to a very unexpected happening.

Originally, this is what I wrote:

Ed stopped mid-stride. He looked up, and his slate-colored eyes grew wide. “Well, I’ll be go to hell,” he said in a quiet voice.  He stood staring at her as though trying to grasp the reality of her presence there on the dust-covered streets of Brookfield.

Since I could not possibly give up that line of dialogue, I had to quickly offer a bit of an explanation, so to please my editor, I added in this little bit:

Linn winced at the quaint midwestern colloquialism. Her ears had grown accustomed to more refined speech.

I did a bit of tweaking to get to the final version of this very significant moment in the story:

Ed stopped mid-stride. He looked up, and his slate-colored eyes grew wide. “Well, I’ll be go to hell,” he said in a quiet voice.

Linn winced at the quaint midwestern colloquialism. Her ears had grown accustomed to more refined speech.

For a moment, Ed said nothing more. He just stood staring at her as though trying to grasp the reality of her presence there on the dust-covered streets of Brookfield.

All the while, I was baffled, amazed to think that not everyone had heard this common, everyday expression that comes so naturally to folks here in my part of the country. Even as I was shaking my head about it, my husband came home from work, mail in hand. He’d picked it up from the box but hadn’t looked at it yet.

The first thing he saw was a billing statement from a doctor. The bill had already been paid, but there had been a mix-up in posting the payment. My husband had called the office several times and thought the matter was straightened out. Not so. He was being billed yet again. His immediate reaction? Yep, you guessed it.

“Well, I’ll be go to hell!”

 

 

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Well, I’ll Be Go To Hell!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s