I’ve been writing a ‘cowgirl story’ lately and have been giving some thought to old maxims from my childhood. Some of them were well known:
Mom used to say, “Don’t cut off your nose to spike your face.” I was generally happy to agree to that one. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” seemed like good advice, too, at least on a literal level.
But some of her adages were mysteries to me. “Batten down the hatches,” for instance. We were plains farmers. I mean seriously, I didn’t know nautical terms from rocket science. In fact, I’m still not sure what a hatch is. Still I was pretty comfortable with, “Don’t give up the ship.”
I realize now that a lot of my parents’ favorite phrases involved animals. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” made perfect sense to me, because, of course, you judge a horse’s age by its teeth and don’t want to find fault with a gift. But… “Don’t let the cat out of the bag?” What? Or, “Don’t beat a dead horse?” Why would you? In our dating years we heard, “There are a lot of fish in the sea,” “Familiarity breeds contempt” and, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Early in my children’s lives I changed, “Let sleeping dogs lie,” to “Let sleeping babies lie.”
There were many days when the weather was “Not fit for man nor beast. “Idle hands were always the devil’s tools,” on the farm. And we were generally expected to “Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” I have never, however, managed to live up to, “Don’t bite off more than you could chew,” but at least it was a well-known adage. There were many that weren’t. And some that weren’t really G rated but seemed accepted simply because they’d somehow passed down through the family.
For instance, my father often said, “Tell him to go piss up a rope.” Really? Then there was, “Ugly as a mud fence.” Okay. Or, one of my personal favorites, “Worthless as tits on a boar.” Hmmm.
So how about you? Got any weird sayings that have been passed down through the ages?