I moved out of NYC a few years ago and found out that people in other parts of the country use “Aw rats” to express minor disappointment. This was pretty shocking for me, for a few reasons. Firstly, when have rats ever been a minor disappointment? There aren’t that many situations that I could even imagine. Were you hoping to watch video of cute cats on Youtube and accidentally typed “cute rats”? You got zero hits and had to fix your typo: “Aw rats.” I’ve thought about it, and that’s about all I could think of. I could never picture finding rats in any other setting and going, “Aw rats.” As a native New Yorker, I can tell you that I’ve seen rats, as in more than one rat, on several occasions, and never once was my reaction “Aw rats.” That shouldn’t be how people react to rats, either. When people are having such mild reactions to rats, that’s a harbinger of something terrible. I’m pretty sure people used to say “Aw rats” a lot right around when the plague took off.
For New Yorkers, this saying is particularly triggering. The first time I heard it, I was at work. I jumped on a table and grabbed a chair to defend myself with. I also wondered why the person saying it wasn’t that alarmed. I thought: “Maybe they were a total badass? Or had low blood sugar?” I’d go on to find out that they were just throwing around the word rats for no god damn reason. At that point, I assumed they were a domestic terrorist.
After some thinking, I realized that my issue with “Aw rats” is that it is unbalanced, striking terror in those who have had to consider the presence of rats. To keep things fair, we need a term that either creates no emotion in anyone, or strikes terror in everyone. I suggest “aw Bob Costas” or “aw sewage flood”.