Chicken Scratch and other Coloquial Terms

Chicken Scratch is a term that I grew up knowing to be sloppy handwriting, or scribbling type drawings, etc. I found out recently that this is not a universal term.

Anyone else never heard the term?

What other terms do you use that might be regional, or isolated to your family?

My dad, a designer, used to always tell me my drawings were chicken scratch. He grew up in Southern Cal. I have no idea where he learned the term, but it is the best I’ve heard to describe that very unsure style of sketching that often results in hard to understand and out-of-perspective drawings. I use the term and people always laugh, but they also seem to know exactly what I mean.

In Dutch, scribbly handwriting is called ‘hanenpoten’, which means ‘rooster claws’.

Spending time in London I had a learning curve on terms like “knackered” and “sorted” – unfamiliar, but not that hard to figure out.

Conversely, the word “trash” is kind of a novelty to non-Americans, and “blowing someone off” has somewhat different connotations as well…

Chicken-Scratch is a go for the upper midwest, i thought it had to do with looking like the lines drawn in the dirt by chickens looking for food.

Ya, that’s where it came from for me. Growing up in Chicago/Indiana and my Mom having grown up on a farm, the scratchy lines in the dirt are where I understand it originating.

One of my favorites from England is Bollocks. Bollocks meaning something is bad, while Dog’s Bollocks meaning somethings good…I hope I have that right.

As in:

I don’t like that, that’s bollocks!


That new Ferrari is the Dog’s Bollocks!

(someone please stop me if I am making a total ass of myself)

Bollocks meaning something is bad

You know the meaning of bollocks is your balls right? lol. ‘The bollocks’ and ‘bollocks’ mean the total opposite, or you can even say ‘the dogs’ to imply something was good. Just thought I’d clear things up a bit, or maybe I’ve just totally confused you.

I am having a deja vu moment. I sat at a pub here in Vancouver with a friend from Nottingham. We had a few pints in us and our discussion was very much like this…kind of a Laurel and Hardy, Who’s on first discussion.

What I want to know is… Where do all these people have these writing chickens?

“Back of the envelope” (like a “napkin sketch” for financials)

“Straw Dog” (that’s a new one, I’ve heard “straw man” but not sure where “straw dog” came from)

“Sticky Wicket”

“devil in the details” (derived from Mies’ famous “God is in the details” or is it the other way around?)

“take a stab at it”

nut’n for nut’n - origin Brookyn, NY, NJ area dialect.

English translation - nothing for nothing

Meaning - ?

And of course, the 27 different possible meanings of “fuhgeddaboudit” in Brooklyn and Queens.

We use chicken scratch in MD. I heard it used to refer to my writing way too many times when I was young.

My dad only used “chicken scratch” to describe my drawing. It must have been pretty bad, because my hand writing was horrible.

a variation of chicken scratch is used in Singapore too, though I don’t remember the exact term. Used to refer to bad handwriting during my primary school days.

Either influence from past colonial days or another literal translation of some chinese term. Probably already out of use. Haven’t seen it used in the past 20 years.

Moving from the south to Boston I am constantly saying expressions that leave people baffled. and am hearing new expressions that ive never heard, (or maybe i still cant understand the boston accent) unfortunately none of these expressions come to mind right now.

I went through that same thing moving from MD to RI. First mistake was ordering a milk-shake, it’s something different there. And having to figure out what a bubbler was when I was just asking for a water fountain. Still going through it now in the midwest. Mostly with “pop”, still gets me every time I hear it.

South central Indiana, circa 1970.

  1. you’uns [pronounced y’uns]; What’r y’uns doin’ t’night?

  2. we’uns [pronounced weens]; We’ns havin’ supper 'round eight, com’on over.

  3. us’uns (interchangeable with we’uns); Us’uns was gonna go to a movie later on, y’uns wanna come too?

Central California; circa 2007

  1. tooken; He’s tooken the dog to the vet.

I use chicken scratch all the time. To me, it is lines in a drawing that are start/stop and repeated. The opposite of a clean defined line. As if a chicken scratched at the paper with the pen. :open_mouth:

i just had an incident last night using “cat’s pajamas”. apparently in texas its the cats meow. But I did find one supporter and avoided looking like a total nitwit.