Argh, a saying for everything


I grew up with a mother who had a saying for everything. They were always prefaced with the words, “As my mother used to say….” Her mother was Belgian and my mother claimed that the sayings rhymed in Flemish and sounded so much better. I have to doubt that, for what kid would like hearing these even in rhyme?

When we were playing too rough:

“Someone will end up crying.” Of course someone did run to Mom in tears and then it was:

“If you live long, you’ll get hurt lots yet.” Which wasn’t as callous as it sounds for she always had sympathy for true hurts.

If we stubbed a toe or banged a knee:

“It’s the badness coming out in you.”

If we were upset about something, depending on the situation it would be:

“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”

“Live and learn.”

“It could happen to anyone, but the dumbest first.”

If we were swamped with work:

“There’s no rest for the wicked.”

“Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today.”

When something needed to be done:

“If you want something done, give it to the busiest person.”

“If you want a job done right, do it yourself.”

I hated the sayings and swore I would never use them with my own children. And then came the day I heard my self say, “As my mother used to say, ‘It’ll be in the last place you look for it.’”

As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the bits of wisdom contained in these sayings. One in particular, strikes me—especially when I’m watching the news.

“It takes all kinds to make a world, but some we could do without.”

My father had one saying only, that has its own wisdom. He never said if it rhymed in Ukrainian or not.

“You can choose your friends. You’re stuck with your relatives.”

But, perhaps the wisest of all: “Believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear.”


13 comments on “Argh, a saying for everything

  1. Sounds like our moms were related. She is German but that doesn’t seem to matter, these sayings are universal. I have caught myself saying them as well!

  2. Great sayings, but I have to say I like your father’s best. My mother said things like “don’t cry over spilled milk,” but when I spilled my milk I was promptly scolded causing me to cry. Sometimes cliches make sense and then sometimes they turn into ironic platitudes. I’m sure you reserved the best ones and threw the others out with the bath water. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

  3. “You’ll never know how far you’ve gone until the sun sets,” my father would say.

    One day, I had to ask him what he meant by that and why was it so important that he had to say the same thing even to other kids in the neighborhood. Turned out it was his dad’s line for correcting people. The day I quoted my dad, I was mightily surprised immediately afterwards because I’d earlier vowed not to use the same line.

    What a world … certain words will never die!

  4. When we lost something and asked where it might be, my parents used to say,”well it’s not up your a_s or you’d feel it”. Loved your “it could happen to anyone but to the dumbest first”.

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