Where ‘woe’ means ‘whoa’ and ‘giddy-up’ means go

By Roger Alford

The college professor asked a student in his class, “what is the opposite of joy?”

“Sadness,” the student responded.

And, to another student, the professor asked, “what is the opposite of depression?”

“Elation,” was the reply.

And to, Bubba, the professor asked, “what is the opposite of woe?”

“I believe that would be giddy-up,” Bubba answered.

Those of us who grew up in America’s heartland have a bit different vocabulary. We can talk horses and cattle and hunting dogs. We can talk crops and fencing and vegetable gardens. We can talk family and good neighbors and lifelong friendships. And, when we’re traveling or living elsewhere, we often can recognize people who share our roots by the things they say and the way the say them.

The Apostle Peter was trying to blend into the crowd the night that Jesus was seized by wicked men to be crucified. Peter, trying to protect his own skin, thought he was incognito but people standing around him heard him talking and suspected he was one of Jesus’ disciples.

“Surely you are one of them also,” one person said, “for even your speech gives you away (Matthew 26:73).”

Peter then did something entirely out of character for a follower of Christ; he cursed and denied that he knew Jesus.

To me, there’s something terribly sad when country boys and girls who grew up in church turn their backs on their wholesome upbringings to try to fit in with others who don’t share their values. They do things they shouldn’t do, go places they shouldn’t go, and say things they shouldn’t say.

The Bible is clear about how we are to communicate.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of their mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).”

“Shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:16).”

So, in the same way we recognize people who share our heartland upbringings by the things they say … or don’t say.

Truth is, when I hear “woe” said aloud, my first thought is not that it means great sorrow, but that it means “whoa,” as in the word we say when we want our horses to stop. And, giddy-up means we want our horses to get going, perhaps in a new direction.

I wonder if those words might work on people, too. I wonder what would happen if we yelled “whoa” when we saw people doing things they shouldn’t do, and “giddy-up” when they need to go in a new direction.


Roger Alford of Owenton, Kentucky, offers words of encouragement to residents of America’s heartland. Reach him at rogeralford1@gmail.com.