you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?
That was a common joke saying in Chatham. We figured it would take an
outright flood to do any harm to rhubarb. I didn't know, then, the joke
answer, Not if it's in cans and I just found out it was a
line in the Gene Kelly / Judy Garland movie Summer Stock.
To me it epitomizes the dry humour favoured by farmers, like the Irish
How do I get to Galway?
Well, if I were you I wouldn't start from here.
Quite a spell of weather we're having which is vague enough
to suit all kinds of weather.
Another weather-based saying was, Never rains but it pours, eh?
but that was a bit more mystical, more in the line of Trouble comes
in threes. I still find myself, in times of misfortune, counting
and hoping to arrive at that final third event.
In my family, recently, my youngest sister had emergency gall bladder
surgery, my other sister had a fall and got a cut that needed stitches.
Niece had skateboard accident and is all over bruises. There! That's three
and let that be an end to it. "Never rains but it pours".
"And let that be a lesson to you!" was said after after plans
The example given was of the overweight, middle-aged man who went into
a drugstore soda fountain on hot Summer day and ordered a full glass of
cracked ice. He swallowed the lot in short order and died on the spot
from a heart attack "and let that be a lesson to you".
Blown to smithereens! is another familiar phrase and without
knowing its origins it is still easy enough, in the mind's eye to see
something blown to bits and scattered.
A friend added to this collection with a deliberate substitution of Old-Timer's
Disease for Alzheimer's Disease.
Someone whose appearance is none too neat "Looks like he was dragged
through a hedge backwards"; a tradition which I try my best to uphold.
He might also look like "The Wild Man from Borneo", a sideshow
attraction named after the Bornean Orangutans. They have long hair which
makes them appear unkempt.
A computer friend told me, My grandfather (and his family) used
to use a good one to let you know that they had enjoyed a meal and were
"My sufficiency has been suffonsified. If I were to partake of but
another morsel, I would most assuredly burst."
I though that was uncommon but apparently it is a Canadian standard saying.
Since Hector was a pup is a bit more involved. In ancient
Greece, Hector's mother, Hecuba, got turned into a dog for killing the
murderer of her older son, Polydorus.
Thus, Hector by extension was a dog's son and he lived a long time ago.
The phrase seems to have become current in the 1920s and was a favourite
with my mother, who was a flapper then.
I figured Plant you now and dig you later came out of the
1960s but I was wrong. z
Apparently, it dates back to sometime in the 1930s and migrated from black
street slang into the Beat generation vocabulary. It shows up in Pal Joey
as hip street talk.
friend, Joan in Wiltshire wrote:
I met a Scottish lady the other
day and it was so good talking to her. She came from Edinburgh, whereas
I am from the West coast. We were comparing places which we both knew
and had a chat about them. She did make me laugh because she mentioned
one town where she reckoned they considered themselves upper class.
"You know what I mean" she said, "Fur coats and no
drawers!" (All show and no substance.)
I'd almost forgotten that this is how most Scots talk. They do tend
to call a spade a spade. To me that is a good thing because you know
exactly how you stand with them and most won't tolerate anyone trying
to belittle them. Anyway, she was a breath of fresh air that day and
it cheered me up no end.
was a salesman of pianos, home organs and heavy appliances at the Eatons
Department Store in Chatham, Ontario. He had a favourite saying which
I consider to be his legacy. Like most salesmen he was not canny about
saving his money but his favourite saying has carried me safely though
thick and thin. It was
"You can slide further on bullshit than you can
done up like a Christmas tree" was a saying of my mother's. She also
liked Done up like Lady Astor's plush horse. Lady Astor was
a well to do American-born lady who became, through marriage, a British
upper class lady. She held a seat in the British parliament.
Another favourite with my mother was I'm so mad I could chew nails and
break your arm off at the elbow and hit you over the head with it!"
was a mock threat used by my mother. Don't know where it came from and
there are too many words for a credible Google search or so I thought
until I published this piece on the Internet and found out I was now the
She also used "Your eyes look like two burnt holes in a blanket"
to cover any degree of illness or fatigue.
When I asked friends for familiar family sayings they would tend to say
I should just get them off the Internet. Well, the Internet is good for
research but I wanted original folk sayings instead of an Internet list.
Disney has taken over our childhood mythologies and Disneyfied it with
cute bottoms and quirky little cartoons. The Internet, in a somewhat similar
fashion, is homogenizing our memories.
My friend Steven C. from rural Illinois contributed:
"Feel like I'd have to get better to die" and "Feel like
the little end of nothin' whittled down to a point."
"Hot as the hinges of hell!" was another common saying from
I pick up little catch phrases from listening to old time radio skits,
such as saying, for someone who's a skinflint, a miser, that they aretight
as a toreador's pants. We always used to say tight as the
bark on a tree but I think toreador's pants covers it,
ahem, adequately . I'm sure many of my mother's sayings came originally
from radio and movies in the 1920s and 30s.
When defeat was confirmed beyond all doubt we could say they "Beat
us all hollow!".
"Had the biscuit" was another common saying from my childhood.
I looked it up and found that it refers the the Catholic last rites when
Communion was given to a dying person. the communion wafer was, in this
case, the biscuit.
I'm sure I will run across more common sayings over time but for now I've
had the biscuit!.