So, What Are We Really Trying to Say?

[Previous Rural Farmgirl, April 2009 – May 2010]
“Sayings” almost always distract me. They make me question where they came from and how they originated. Some of them make me laugh. Others make me roll my eyes. And others just annoy me.

A perfect example of the annoying type is, “If you can’t stand the heat get on out of the kitchen.” This saying goes against everything I was taught and all that I believe. Maybe it should go more like, “If you can’t stand the heat, turn on the fan and get the job done anyway.” While not as clever, it at least doesn’t give us permission to throw our hands in the air. I don’t like to “throw in the towel,” and I don’t like to be beaten by any task. Although, like most people, I have run screaming from a situation or two, I would prefer to see it through and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that it brings.
A saying that leaves me perplexed is, “It just tickled me to death.” Is that a good thing? I usually hear it in the context of “I saw the cutest thing, and it just tickled me to death…” Hmmm…I don’t think I would like being tickled to death, but maybe that is just me. I remember the feeling of laughing so hard that you can’t even catch your breath, and it is a horrible feeling.
Of all the sayings I’ve heard, the one I love most would have to be, “Bloom where you are planted.” It has been my mantra. My life has had some bends and curves, and this little saying has reminded me time and time again that my life is here in this moment and that putting life on hold is a waste of time.
I also love it when I hear someone from the South say, “That dog won’t hunt.” I am not sure why it sounds better when it‘s said with a southern drawl, but it does. I must admit, it is one I use in those quiet times when I just know “that dog won’t hunt.”
One saying that has had a lasting impression on me is one that was handed down from my dad, and I suspect that it is one he heard from his dad. My dad would constantly say to me, “Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing well.” It has become a model for how I want to live my life. I am apparently passing my own sayings on as well, as I recently heard one of my older kids repeat one that I am known for saying: “Did you do that to my standards, or to yours?” Oops!
I think every family and every region has their own set of sayings. Some are funny, some poignant and some just off the wall. I hope you will share yours with me. I love words. I love how you can tell a little about people by their word patterns and the way they phrase them. Word pictures are just fun. They are like an abstract painting, where sometimes you almost have to stand on your head to try to find the meaning. Oftentimes they can mean something completely different to different people, and quite often they keep us wondering, “What are we really trying to say?”

  1. Heather says:

    Ha, that made me laugh. 🙂 I tend to enjoy sayings, even if they are a little off the wall. My mom always used to say, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all." A good motto to live by.

  2. Noeletta says:

    "Reap what you sow!" This is one our family uses often, mostly in the content of relationships. It is kind of a warning to nurture all relationships. I have seen first hand what can and will happen if you take your relationships for granted.

  3. Kathy Aubrey says:

    I like "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket". You can take this so many ways. Eggs, Money, what you do in you volunteer time. I think that I spread my time to thin and don’t get to do the things I want to do. In that case maybe I should put all of my eggs in one basket

  4. Gary says:

    Ahhh… more Memories Rene’…
    I also like the expression: "Bloom where you’re planted", which is kinda what I’m doin’ while I wait to return to my Smokey Mountain Home.
    My Ganny had some expressions that were social in nature, and you needed to know what they meant to function well in her circle of Friends on the neighboring farms. If asked to "stay a while", it had better be a short visit, but if asked to "stay a spell", you were wished to stay a long time. There were also suble distance sayings, like "a piece" meant it was close by, while "a fer-piece" meant it was a long way, as in ""hits up th’ road a piece".
    My Uncle Loyd (known as "Sod") was a dairyman in the old tradition, and I loved to go there in the Summer (before airconditioning came along) because he had a "Cold Room" in his barn over a spring to store the milk in, and I could cool off in there. He had some salicious sayings, which always prompted my Mom to snap: "not in front of children Sod!"… like his reference to the Preacher as "having more mouth than a poor hog has rump."… I never did know what a "poor hog" was, and my Mom declined to discuss it.
    Thank You for yet another walk down Memory Lane, and…
    GodSpeed to Y’all…!
    in Tampa

  5. LizB says:

    I had the opportunity growing up to live in many different places from coast to coast. But having moved to South Dakota I have experience new sayings unique to this area. It seems that most of the folks I talk to about going somewhere seem to think South Dakota is in the south? I will ask them about going to a town north of us and they will say they are going down to that town and if I ask about a town south of us it is "up to that town". I don’t know why but it just comes out that way. And the upper Midwest seems to leave out a word or two. If asking about going with someone somewhere, the question is stated "are you going with?" With what? To where? It makes me jiggle everytime I hear it. And just a side note. We really know we are our mothers child when we hear her words come out of our mouths and it suprises us! You just have to love it, don’t you.

  6. I too am a lover of words. That dog won’t hunt is a good one but to give it the proper punch it has to be said, "That "dawg" don’t hunt", making dawg a two syllable word.
    Out here in the west you hear "Smile and Cowboy up," which means stop complaining and "Git er done." I also use the saying, "Who told you life would be fair?"
    So smile and Cowboy up.

    Diana C

  7. Claire says:

    I’ve always loved "Bless her/his heart!" complete with the southern drawl that I know only as normal. It can be a saying of sympathy or one of criticism and both ways are charming in their own right. I am a southern girl, born and breed (as we say) and have always found "sayings" to be one of the more favorable attributes of the South.

    Thanks for another fun, thought-provoking blog!

  8. Reba says:

    I started grinning as I read your blog thinking of some of the funny sayings that you hear in the South where I’m from. Recently I taught a financial class and three of my sisters were in the class. I had a lot of quotes and one in particular that my mom stated to us most of the time when we were cleaning house": "If you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all." As I started to speak, my sisters finished the sentence. It was hilarious. The class just looked at us like "we had lost our minds." "Hey if you can’t run with the big dogs, get back on the porch." Have a great day!

  9. Brook says:

    Fake it til’ you make it! I think I first heard my mom say that….or I learned it when I went through three months of in/out patient treatment for Anorexia and Bulimia….It works though…..!!!!

  10. Sharon Stout says:

    I love the saying, "You teach people how to treat you." If you carry and conduct yourself with respect for yourself and others, you will be treated with respect. If you conduct yourself in a lesser fashion, you will be treated accordingly. "Bloom where you are planted" is a great way of saying "Make the best of any situation". I am a big fan of sayings (just ask my 17 year-old daughter who can quote my sayings just as I am about to say them :).

  11. Whit says:

    My Dad has a good saying, remembering it well from my youthful teenage(read lazy punk) years when asked why i hadn’t accomplished a little something, "If you have 5 minutes to to a ten minute job, you’d be half done."

    My grandmother from OH used to say "she’d split (it) half in two" meaning she wanted to share something with you. We used to tease her that if we needed four servings, we’d be split in "quarters in four."

    My friend’s hubbie has a really good saying when someone balks about personal matters, looking for support for their side of the arguement, he replies, "Hard tellin’, Not knowin’"

    but my all time favourite (that i can repeat in public domain)is my aunt’s. If see sees someone wearing fancy red shoes, she’ll say something like "where’d they get those shoes? Them’s ‘Going-To-Hell’ shoes." :o)

  12. Rachelle says:

    We have had chickens now for a year and the saying that I now understand is "madder than a wet hen." During last years hurricane, Ike. We experienced what mad hens look and act like! :o)
    just experiencing some of the farm life you can understand where some of the sayings came from.
    I also like, "Lord willin and the creek don’t rise" If you have ever experienced being flooded in by rising water you can totally understand this one!

  13. Melissa says:

    When I was a young-adult (and I use the term adult loosely) my dad used to tell me, "I can give you two slops and a flop" meaning I could come home and he would feed me and provide shelter but the rest was up to me. An Okie of the purest kind, he has lots of sayings, in fact, my sisters and I compiled1250 a list of Dadisms a few years ago for his 70th birthday. "Life ain’t fair" he said a lot, and "I hope you never have any less" But one of my favorites I heard from a lady I worked with who was from Louisiana. When we were done working she would always say "Let’s get the heck outta Dodge" I adopted that phrase and say it often.

  14. Chris says:

    When my sister & I fought, my mother use to say "You two better learn to like each other. One day it will be the two of you against the world." She was right, as aduts we are best friends. I mentioned that phrase to one of my great-nephews recently and he told him his dad says the same thing to him & his brother. She also loved to say "You made you bed, now sleep in it." Roughly translated? You married him, now make it work. Or, you created the mess, either live with it or clean it up yourself. A number of the sayings I read in your article & in the comments ring bells as well. I still use them today.

  15. suzy says:

    One of my all time favorites (which I use quite often here in Texas): "Busier then a three legged cat coverin’ up poop ".Thank goodness my two mousers have all their legs !

  16. Nan Clifton says:

    I was lucky enough to have my grandparents live with us while I was growing up. My grandparents were from Norway and many of thier customs and sayings go back to the old country. Two of my favorites from my grandmother are "God never gives us a cross to heavy to bear, but sometimes he sorely over estimates my strength." and "God answers all prayers sometimes the answer is no."

  17. Linda says:

    My dad used to have a couple of sayings that I’ve only heard him use. When he would bring up an interesting fact or tidbit he would say "Put that in your pipe and smoke it" or he might say "How ’bout them apples?" I think these sayings came from the time he lived in the North Georgia mountains.

  18. Pat says:

    Being a Southerner by birth, I grew up with a lot of sayings. Since so many of us move around to different sections of the country, in the South, you hear "If the cat had kittens in the oven, it don’t make ’em biscuits". In other words, you can move some place but it won’t make you a "Native". I used "As handy as a side pocket in a shirt" just this weekend and if you believe in doing it right the first time then you don’t want to "..lick your calf over".

  19. carol branum says:

    hi rene, i work in a beauty salon,i have a lot of sr citizens,so i hear them all,everyday,one i like a lot is…she thinks she ms astor…ms aster in case you dont know was a new york ritch socialite in the 30s or 40s….if you cant stand the heat,get of the kitchen is from my home town,birthplace of harry truman,and we use that a lot here,i know of several more,that arent so politically correct these days….have you ever heard the dorthy parker quote,you can lead a whore to culture,but you cant make her think?,…blooming were i am planted,the mo farmers daughter,carol branum lamar mo

  20. SusieQ says:

    On fathers day this year I think I heard the perfect saying. You make a Living by what you Get but you make a Life by what you Give.

  21. Barb says:

    My Dad used to ask me, "If you don’t have time to do it right, how are you going to find time to do it over?" These words have made me take a few extra minutes to finish something properly.
    I also had a boss many years ago that gave me some great advice: Ask yourself "why am I not going to do this task?" If the answer is "because I don’t feel like it," -do it anyway.

  22. Flassie says:

    I asked someone one how they were doing one day.

    That person said, Oh, I am finer than a frogs hair.

    I looked it up and found it said a different way
    with a little more added to it.

    I am finer than a frogs hair split three ways.

    Meaning: Doing well.

    How about: Slower than molasses in January.

    The way the prices are going up we could be saying
    this one: Now that’s higher than a cat’s back.

  23. Theresa says:

    My grandmother would always say to me "It will never been seen on a galloping horse." People don’t really pay that much attention about the little details, so don’t spend your time and eneregy on fretting over your faults. I was very critical about myself especially my looks. My grandmother would look and me and smile. She saw me as perfect as any grandmother would see her grandchild.

  24. Pam says:

    "It won’t last forever" is what my husband has said to my daughter throughout her life. One day when particularly exasperated by an event in her life, my daughter said back, "Dad, I’m going to put "It won’t last forever on your headstone"! She’s right, it won’t.

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