Good Grief!

If you know Charlie Brown, you know “Good grief!” Charlie Brown was the main character – a little boy that never grew up (got older) – in the Peanuts comic strip (picture stories that appear in newspapers). Even if you didn’t see the comic strips in a newspaper, you might have seen the Peanuts comic books, television programs, or movies.

When Charlie Brown said, “Good grief!” he was using it as an exclamation, a sound, word, or short sentence that you say suddenly, and sometimes loudly, because you are surprised, angry, or excited. Charlie usually said it because he was both surprised and annoyed (a little angry).

Some people might call “good grief” an oxymoron. An oxymoron is a combination of two words that seem to mean the opposite of each other. Here are some examples I found online: seriously funny, pretty ugly, old news, and Microsoft Works. Some say “intelligent blonde” (a person with pale yellow hair) is an oxymoron, but I might disagree: I married one!

The reason some people might call “good grief” an oxymoron is because grief is the extreme sadness we feel when someone we love has died. Not many people would call that good.

My brother, sisters, and I felt a lot of grief when our mom passed away (died). It was a difficult time, but we discovered that remembering and telling stories about Mom helped reduce (make less) our grief. Mom was a hard-working, warm (friendly and relaxed), loving, funny, and creative woman. And many of the stories we told were about her humor (ability to think that things are funny) and creativity. Let me tell you a few.

When I was young, Dad didn’t receive a large salary (monthly payment from work). As a result, we often had to scrimp (save as much money as you can). One Christmas, Mom didn’t want to spend money on a Christmas tree, so she found a tumbleweed, which was easy where we lived. A tumbleweed is a round weed (undesirable plant) that grows quickly, dies quickly, and after it dies, tumbles (rolls in an uncontrolled way) across the ground wherever the wind blows. She brought the tumbleweed into the house, flocked it (covered it with a white powder) and turned it into a Christmas tree. No one had a Christmas tree like ours that year!

My second story comes from a photo we found of a snowman sitting in a chair at a snow-covered table on Mom’s deck (wooden floor behind the house). He was wearing a cap and enjoying a plate of peppernuts (I wrote about these in The Wanderers) – one of our favorite Christmas treats. What’s interesting about this is she did it for her own enjoyment. It doesn’t get very cold where she lived, and I’m sure that this scene disappeared a short time after she took the picture when the sun came out and melted the snow. She didn’t care! She was just enjoying herself in a creative way. And I imagine she probably chuckled (laughed quietly) to herself while she did it.

Finally, the story of the bear in the picture at the top of the page. Several years ago Mom called to say that she had been cleaning out the closets (small room where clothes are stored). She said she had found some things of mine and had sent them to me in a box. She told me that I could keep them or throw them away, whichever I wanted to do. When the box came, I opened it and found a quilted, stuffed bear wearing my first pair of overalls (pants held up by cloth straps that go over your shoulders). A quilt is a blanket made from pieces of cloth. The pieces of cloth Mom used to make this quilt had come from shirts and dresses she had made for us when we were young. One of the pieces even came from the dress she wore to the hospital when I was born! I discovered later that she had made five of these bears, one for each of us children.

Good grief! Not fun, certainly, but good for us because it gave my brother, sisters, and me a reason and opportunity to remember a wonderful woman and mother.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo by W. Ediger.


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23 Responses to Good Grief!

  1. Claudia Rejane says:

    Hi Warren, my name´s Claudia, I am from Brazil.
    That is the first time I´ve read articles from you. Congratulations, I say congratulations because your words show me exactly what you feel and touch me. I must confess, this article makes me cry a little. It has let me to think about my mom (she is still alive, thanks God for that), your mom and me as mom. Anyway… It is pretty nice take with us every single moment with we love so much for the rest of our lives. Good grief!

  2. milkykung says:

    This is a very good article Warren though I feel sorry about your mom having passed away. What a touching story!!

    I always wonder about the expression “Good grief” as my British friend loves to say it.

    Thank you for your wonderful writing. Your mom was indeed very creative and warming. I’m sure she will be remembered forever.


  3. Hilario says:

    GOOD STUNG!: The peanuts showed up in Spain as Carlitos, snoopy and friends and they were having great number of followers. The expression “good grief!” has no equivalent in literal translation into Spanish. One can obviously think of the figurative meaning rather than the literal one, like if you take the sudden and stinging pain after being bitten by a mosquito, as one of the meanings of the word grief. It seems that when cartoonist people make the strip scripts, they use very often this creative all purpose expressions to characterized his drawn characters, as it is the case with Homer Simpson´s D´oh!. By the way, oximoron expressions are also quite often, in sneaky ways, used by politicians when they are campaigning and want to swim and hide clothes at the same time. as we say it down here by in Spain. For instance: “We´re much bettering services and lowering taxes but we´ll increase co-pay in health care while cutting costs in civil servants …bla,bla,bla.
    nice very nice story Warren, you know that mothers never die while their sons still remember their smile.

  4. Sergio says:

    Dear Warren,
    listening to many programmes about any topics often with scientists as guests – and now reading your tale too – I’m very impressed and I like very much a particular and spread aspect of your culture that we can call in a sense “Anglo-Saxon”. That is the skill in being in the same time serious and funny, slight and deep, objective and personal…
    Good grief, it’s a great skill!
    P.S. I and my daughter we always love Peanuts – I’m a Woodstock fan!

  5. Hugo says:

    Dear Warren,
    Thank you so much! It’s so wonderful a blog talking about your wonderful mother. Also, I am a big fan of Charlie Brown and Snoopy, I borrowed the collection of the comic strips from our University Library, and two biographies about Charles Schulz. Dr. Jeff and Lucy also have an episode (English Cafe 123) talking about Peanuts. Thank you for your advice on Successful English about listening and reading auidobook, I read almost ten audio books during last month, the Hobbit, the Twilight , the Pride and prejudice, the wonderful wizard of Oz ect. It’s really really good method to improve English, Thank you.
    Also Thanks are given to our dear Dr. Jeff and Dr. Lucy, I’m always craving for every coming episode, Jeff and Lucy give us a lot of interesting topics, a lot of American famous people and History. Thanks you all, have a great day, Sincerely, Hugo, from The University of Chicago

  6. emiliano says:

    Thank you so much Warren to share important memories and feelings of your own life with us.
    My mom passed away nearly six years ago but every day I have her in my thoughts and is usual to me to remember lot of sayings she
    said to us or in general when she was a young healthy woman.
    As I am the junior and the boy she felt always something very special with me and it was the same feeling of mine to her too.
    We were always in touch with the mind or by the heart, a single look was enough to know how she was or if I had something to tell
    Along her last twelve years she lost little by little her mind but not ever with me as she always knew who was I despite she could
    be really bad.
    My father passed away six months ago with 96 years old and till the last moment he was the most nicer man I have ever met.
    He had always a joke for the bad moments and he was not ever afraid of dying or even despite his long aged he was not
    in bad humor or claiming for special attention.

    Both of them are present now in my life the same way you have your mom too.

    Thank you again dear Warren to tell us so magical tender re-memories of your mom and family.
    I think that the best we can transmit to our friends and family is LOVE and good humor.


  7. Peter says:

    I just read the post
    Good job Warren
    You Always come up wig some interesting ideas
    I like it
    Allowme to throw in sth totally related
    You happened to mention the word”oxymoron”
    We had this discussion about oxymorons and palindromes
    Palindrome are hard to spot
    But now that we are talking about them
    I figured sth extra never hurts anybody
    No condescending ,don’t go there please
    I m not that kind of person
    Compare to you guys ,I have nothing to say

  8. Peter says:

    I m at my wit’s end
    I have this nagging kink in my back
    Job injury

    I got this summer Job
    We clean up windows on tall buildings,skyscrapers ,if you will
    Good money
    It pays my rent
    How ever, this hapless ,mishap happened one week ago
    I fell off the scaffold which was set up against the thirt story windows. The trees bellow the scaffold broke my fall. I landed back first on a bank of soil accumulated there for construction purposes
    As luck would have it, I didn’t get hurt. Just my back was out for a couple of days.
    Now,I am back on my feet
    Still ,I have a kink in my back
    It is totally relevant just venting out
    Now,I got called in today
    Tomorrow ,I should go up there
    The pay is 20 per hour
    Not bad ,but risky
    Still have some English students.poor them:)))

  9. Betty says:

    Hi Warren, thank you so much for such an emotional topic.

    Please accept my condolences to you and your family. Warren, I am sure your mother is very proud to have a son like you.

    You see, I spent a few hours with my elderly father today just to cook for him and eat together with him in order to keep him company. Why did I choose to spend my time that way? I wanted to be with him while he is alive.

    I am a mother of three good children. Every minute of my life I live for them. I simply do everything to protect them and to help them whenever they need my help.

    I do think of the days when I am gone and my children will be without a mother. That thinking makes me work very hard to give them as much as I can, while I can.

    Your mother was so clever. I looked up the wikipedia to see what a tumbleweed looks like, it really can look like a white Christmas tree. The ‘Symbolism’ part of the tumbleweed in the wiki was very good.

    I really admire your mother’s skill in making the beautiful teddy bear in the picture. When you see the teddy bear, you see yourself when you were a little boy who was being looked after very well by a caring and loving mother.

    Like Emiliano said he remembered what his mother said, I think we all do. Even this afternoon when I was having a little chat with my father, we mentioned one saying that was from my mother.

    I remember my youngest daughter asked me one day when she was only four or five years old and I was driving her to school. She suddenly asked me: ‘Mummy, is it true that you will die one day?’. I almost crushed the car. But I stayed calm and I said to her: ‘Yes, of course, how do you know?’ She said: ‘My teacher said that one day you and Daddy will become very old and will die and then go to heaven. So, it is true?’ ‘Yes, it is true, your teacher was telling you the truth’, I said. I also said to her that it would be a very long time later so she would not have to think about it at that time.

    I doubt it that she would remember that conversation, but I never forget it.

    Thank you, Hilario, for telling us: ‘mothers never die while their sons still remember their smile’.

    My mother passed away eleven years ago in April, she is with me every single day and every single way.

    My dear friends, give your father and/or mother a call now. Don’t wait for them to call you, parents never have time to call their children, but they are waiting for their children to call them every second. Give them a call now to let them know that you care.

    By the way, it is ‘mom’ for mother in U.S., but ‘mum’ for mother in U.K.

    Good Grief! Not fun! Certainly not fun!

  10. Sanaz says:

    Very impressive!
    I believe that the persons like your mother are always among us as they remain in our hearts and on our minds forever!
    Good grief!

  11. Øyvor says:


    Thanks for the topic..and for sharing these happy moments..
    What a lovely mother, and such good memories! I wish everyone
    was so lucky to have a mother like yours=)
    Have to say to everyone: Take care of your mother!
    My mom(or ours, five children, the yougest 6) passed away
    when she was 47..and I have almost the same memories..

    Take care and thanks


  12. Peter says:

    I have this unprocessed emotion about all we have going on here.
    It is sad that I never get to meet up any of you guys
    My dear cyber friends
    It is sad our dear profs are just this respected images in our minds
    I know we have met Jeff in a way ,still I wanna meet them in person.
    Just imagine,the creaters of all these impeccable transcripets is a mystique figure. I respect her decision still dying to meet her in person
    I really wanna see the mastermind(Jeff) behind this phenomenon He named Eslpod and Warren with all this amazing article-like posts
    I mean it
    I really wanna pay my respect to our dear profs
    Guys we should pay tribute to them ,an act of recognition for the rendition known as ESLPOD.
    As starter I suggest some sachets of cash towrds them
    Then,later on down the road we can plan out a ceremony rewards for our dear profs.
    You know,every time I m out talking with people with no stumble on words ,with no pause to fine proper words ,and most importantly with no constantly getting the famous Question of “Where are your accent come from” ? my heart goes out to Jeff and associates
    Do u have the same unprocessed emotion
    Or you have fond a way to deal with it?

    You are not here to feel Jeff and his words in you every move you take in this English speaking country.
    Nothing beats what this beautiful mind has come with
    Thanks bro
    For all you have done
    I wish I could hand you a fortune that you turned tables for me
    I was deepes into a bunch of trashy text book when you came to rescue
    I dropped them all and for good the minute I heard your first sentence.
    I said at the time
    Golly,H’e is the miracle worker I have been sought out over the course of my adult life.
    I m not on crack ,and I have got emotional
    I am just stating a hard fact
    You can’t undrestand unless you walk in my shoes
    Thanks to you Doc for what you have brought around.

  13. Peter says:

    Holly cow,
    Talk about long-winded coment
    I give you that guys I m an oasis of insanity around here,a whacko job:)

  14. emiliano says:

    Good, very good Betty.

    I enjoy so much reading your post.
    Your little daughter is very clever and have a lot of confidence with you Betty, that is really good.
    She is also brave to ask you such a question.
    What Warren told us about his mom it is some ways similar at what Cuca used to do when my daughers were children.
    We don´t have too much money to give them several things, but my wife was always with good, very good humor and
    have a lot of imagination to make funny things manually or cooking a nice sweet (and imitation of the one that was sold
    in the sweet shop) if there was not enough.
    Her good humor was epic as I have not ever seen her angry or shouting the girls.
    It seems like impossible that a mom with three little children never lost the papers but Cuca never did.
    when my daughter Fátima was a teenager she frequently told her mother: Mami you wants us like the “happy family” and that
    is not possible.
    Why not?, she used to reply.
    Well teenagers are like an illness that is necessary to pass if we want to be adults.

    Again Betty, it has been a very nice post.
    I think every moment you write better.
    Thank you.


  15. sara says:

    Dear Warren thanks for it as always you are great . this time you picked a subject that is my biggest nightmare. I really can’t even think of a day without my mother and as a new mother I hope I can do for my son even half of what she did for us.
    Wish all the babies of the world have the chance of having mother’s arms.

  16. Indeed talking about our mother is something that make us feel happy and grateful. They are the ones who brought us to this world and the more we do it will be not much because there is nothing better than a mother. Remembering the time when we were kids is to remember good moments when brothers ans sisters were together and had great time. Playing with toys, running in the front yard, playing hide-and-seek, swinging on the seesaw and others move us to a time that will never come again. The shadow of that time when it is gone!
    Aecio from beautiful green and yellow Brazil.

  17. Tania says:

    Hi! I have read the article “How Slavery Really Ended in America” by Adam Goodheart, The New York Times, April 2011.
    It was a pleasure for me reading it because I was able to understand almost all words and (very important for me) to understand this history lesson.
    On May 23, 1861, three black men cross the James River in Virginia claiming asylum in a Union-held citadel, Fort Monroe.
    In accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: all fugitives must be returned to their masters. We know about this law from the English Cafe 279. This law inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write the novel
    “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.
    “They were declared as contraband of war. Now, the fugitives had a new name: contrabands. Were these blacks people or property? Free or slave?”
    There was an universal desire among the slave to be free…
    “They were the best source of military intelligence, the only friends the Yankees through hostile territory. Lincoln unveiled the Emancipation Proclamation in the fall of 1862, not as a humanitarian gesture but as a stratagem of war”.
    Thanks to the English Cafe 294 on Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) I could understand this historical act.
    And then thanks to the English Cafe 292 on Buffalo Soldiers regiment – black Americans soldiers who faught in army in 1866 during peace time after the Civil War – I have understood how
    “blacks were contributing to the Union cause in larger ways”.

  18. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you and for Net Impact ( New Yorker).

  19. Tania says:

    Hi! Maybe you can offer us something to read and during June 2011.

  20. Tania says:

    Hi! Zinsser on Friday: “No Last Names”.
    “My phone rings and a voice at the other end says “Hello, William?” They do not address me as “Mr. Zinsser”. (Mr. Zinsser is over 80 years old.) People want to be treated with feel-good familiarity by strangers.”
    “I blame the Sixties for getting us into this fix. It was a mantra of the counterculture not to trust anyone over 30. People over 30 used their last name.
    Four decades later, the young are still incognito. “I’m Jennifer”, “I’m Mark” they say. “Mark who?” They seem surprised by the quetion.”

    And in my country, after 90’s people used the last name for instance at the bank , at a store…the boss had to be very young… I did not know this was counterculture.
    But now I have remarked their first and last name. People changed.

  21. Tania says:

    Hi! You remember me of my Literature lessons where we study the oxymoron like figure of speech.

  22. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Warren, I think you can write a very good book “Childhood Memories”.

  23. Ziba says:

    Thank you Warren, I didn’t know anything about the meaning of “good grief” and now I know.
    And about your mother, God bless her soul, please accept my condolences, I’m sure she was a great woman as all mothers are.
    Mothers put their life into their children (devote). They are the most precious gift of life in the world.
    I know you loved your mother too much, it’s because she gave you the love she had. Loving children is brilliant feeling and mothers have this feeling more.
    I want to thank you for reminding me to pay attention to my parents especially my mother more and more.
    with best wishes,

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