Do 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 didnt know, then, the joke answer, Not if its in cans. 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
Quite a spell of weather were having is vague
enough to suit all kinds of weather.
And let that be a lesson to you! was said after plans went awry. The example given was of the overweight, middle-aged man who went into a drugstore soda fountain on a 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 minds eye to see something blown to bits and scattered.
A friend added to this collection with a deliberate substitution of Old-Timers Disease for Alzheimers 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. which 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 full. My sufficiency has been suffonsified. If I were to partake of but another morsel, I would most assuredly burst.
Since Hector was a pup is a bit more involved. In ancient Greece, Hectors mother, Hecuba, got turned into a dog for killing the murderer of her older son, Polydorus. Thus, Hector by extension was a dogs 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. 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.
My 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 the 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.) Id 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 wont tolerate anyone trying to belittle them. Anyway, she was a breath of fresh air that day and it cheered me up no end.
My father 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 through thick and thin. It was You can slide further on bullshit than you can on gravel!
All done up like a Christmas tree was a saying of my mothers. She also liked Done up like Lady Astors 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 Im so mad I could chew nails and spit rust!
Ill break your arm off at the elbow and hit you over the head with it! was a mock threat used by my mother. Dont 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 source.
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 Id 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 my childhood.
I pick up little catchphrases from listening to old-time radio skits, such as saying, for someone whos a skinflint, a miser, that they are Tight as a toreadors pants. We always used to say Tight as the bark on a tree but I think toreadors pants covers it, ahem, adequately. Im sure many of my mothers 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!
Im sure I will run across more common sayings over time but for now Ive had the biscuit.
© Sonia Brock 2008