Not only did my recent column on sayings generate an excellent response from readers, it also stirred my imagination.
My brothers, my sister, and I cut our teeth on these words from our mother. Whenever she thought we had “bit off more than we could chew,” she would throw out one of these three lines: “You’re spreading yourself too thin!” or “You’re burning the candle at both ends!” or “You’ve got too many irons in the fire!”
Whenever she saw a potential bad situation in the making, she would say, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”
Across the Miles
And here’s another one that has generated much discussion over the years. If someone came up with a lame-brain idea, she would declare, “Why, you don’t know T I from pull up.” Our family has searched for the origin of this saying without success.
When she saw that someone had made a disastrous decision she would exclaim, “He drove his ducks to a bad stream!”
My late friend, Cecil Vinson of Woodbury, had an oft-used saying. Whenever he saw someone taking on too much risk, he would declare, “He’s boring with a big auger!”
My uncle, John E. McCall, recently reminded me of one my mother’s sayings he remembered: “Two heads are better than one, even if one of them is a cabbage head!”
Cousin Mark McCall reminded me of an old saying a while back. He said, “I’m sore as a risin!” If you’ve ever had a “risin” (a boil or carbuncle,) you know of what I’m writing. Someone told me of having a “risin” on their backside one time. Seems they had to have a donut pillow in order to sit down!
Over the course of my lifetime I have heard it said of a few wealthy men, “He’s got enough money to burn a wet mule!” I’ve heard it said of a few others, “He’s as poor as a church mouse!”
A number of well-known sayings are tied to man’s best friend.
A few include, but are not limited to:
“That dog won’t hunt.” (A bad plan or deal.)
“You’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“The wet dog barks.”
“Meaner than a junkyard dog.”
“Swelled up like a poisoned pup.”
And everyone has heard this one, “There are more ways to skin a cat than to choke him on butter.”
My grandmother Amy McCall had a favorite response to a question often asked. When someone asked how she was feeling, she would respond, “I’m feeling with my hands,” as she chuckled happily.
Beverly Baines shared a saying that she had heard and used for years: “It hurt bad enough to make you want to smack your Granny!”
Sometimes good advice and even warnings come in the words of well-worn sayings. Here are a few:
“Look before you leap!”
“Measure twice, cut once.”
“You have to crawl before you can walk.”
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
“One rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel.”
Melanie Bowman sent me this one from Red Boiling Springs – one often used by her father when she was growing up. “Everything ain’t gonna to be alright no way!”
Margie Shrum, a Mt. Juliet reader, took the time to write down 54 sayings she recalled. Here is a sampling.
“Green as grass.”
“Pretty as a picture.”
“Old as the hills.”
“High as a kite!”
“You can get used to anything except a rock in your shoe.”
“Life is not a bed of roses.”
“I don’t chew my tobacco twice!”
“Cheap as dirt.”
“Home is where the heart is.”
I was discussing with my brother, Tom, our father’s use of the phrase “much obliged.” We agreed that our father finished many a job by closing with “much obliged.”
Tom reminded me of some of the other sayings our father used to end the day.
When a task was almost done, he would encourage us by declaring, “Boys we’re getting’ into the short rows!”
Sometimes when the last stalk of tobacco was cut, or the last stick of tobacco was handed up into the barn, or the last bale of hay made it into the loft, our father would declare, “That’s what the shoemaker killed his wife with…the last!” Or he would triumphantly announce, “That’s the one we’ve been looking for all day!”
And sometimes when a job was almost completed, he would say, “Boys, we’ve about got his little ball of yarn rolled up!”
In my mind’s eye, I can picture him, his face beaming with a smile of satisfaction, which reminds me of another saying.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”