See if you recall these popular phrases that kept children in line in the 1960s, before political correctness became the law of the land. Maybe you heard one from a parent, a teacher or an uncle. You might have heard a few from a neighbor if you were foolish enough to trespass on his finely manicured lawn.
“I’ll skin you alive!” - Some poor kid was always being threatened with this heinously dark punishment from the middle ages; but in my entire time as a child, I never met anyone who was missing a chunk of skin. After you’ve been threatened 20 or 30 times and not lost an ounce of your epidermis, this threat loses its punch. So, naturally, folks had to find something a bit more drastic.
“I’ll beat you to within an inch of your life!” - This threat made more sense. All you had to do in the 1960s was turn on the TV and you’d see people getting beaten to within an inch of their lives. Some folks got beaten as close as a quarter inch before the commercials came on. Every show we watched was a treatise on how to beat someone, whether you measured it in inches, feet or yards. This threat had staying power. Some other threats just weren’t realistic enough to be taken seriously.
“I’ll jerk a knot in you!” - Here’s a good example of an unrealistic threat that always made me laugh. I don’t think it’s even physically possible to jerk a knot in someone, but I never really wanted to tempt anyone to prove it. I imagine this threat was popular in the 1800s before the workings of the human body were fully discovered. People were a lot stronger back then too, so that might have had something to do with it.
“I’ll fix your little red wagon!” - Speaking of strong, this threat was the absolute scariest. First, very few of my friends owned little red wagons. We favored the little blue ones. Second, the one kid who had a broken red wagon heard this threat every day for a year, but he never got the new wheel he needed. So, if an adult would blatantly lie about fixing your toys then you had no idea of what evil they were capable of. And being around an unpredictable, lying adult who can’t even fix a toy wagon is the scariest threat I can imagine.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org