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Guts for Garters

September 3, 2019

Recollections (1)

In the movie “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” Hec, the grumpy character played by Sam Neill, in the final denouement moments of the story, threatens his protégé with the warning that, should the boy Ricky Baker outperform Hec, he would use the boy’s ‘guts for garters’. It was such an unexpected line I laughed out loud  and even in rewatching the movie I wait for the line as the movie closes. It’s such a wonderful line with deep undertones of awful violence. To use one’s intestines, presumably cleaned out, twisted and dried, as instruments by which to keep your socks up implies foul murder and wanton butchering. What’s to be done, after all,  with the rest of the body if only garters are produced? I’m surprised the line survived the editorial cut but I’m pleased it did, for it’s a line my father used and it ‘takes me back’. Back to lines which threatened unreasonable death such as “I’ll knock your block off” or lesser drubbings such as  “Do you want spiflicating?” or “I’ll belt you into the middle of next week”. That was a delicious favourite, as I imagined flying through time to find out what would happen before anyone else arrived. None of it was ever taken seriously of course but the tone was about suggesting you had better straighten up. Indeed, that word spiflicate was beyond our understanding. It was the sort of thing the old man might have made up and right through into our teens we imagined that was the case.  So it was with a cry of delight that brother Rob rushed through the school library one afternoon and declared the word actually existed in the English language. So, said the Greater Oxford Dictionary. Sadly the meaning was far more droll than the magnificent and exotic lashing we imagined it might represent. 

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