Friday, April 15, 2016

How to "Jerk a knot in your tail" and other favorites.

      I love words. I've loved them all my life. Be they Americanisms or born of any international variety, I love the spellings and sounds and amazing diversity of words.
      Buzz (the hubby) and I were having a conversation one evening this week and the old adage "Land o'Goshen" popped into my head. I hadn't heard it for years, yet there it was, buried in a memory that's so crammed full of words I can barely store anything new in it!
     That started a discussion about old adages. As our daily language evolves, lots of new words and sayings are created with each generation, but I hope to keep a few of the old favorites alive by repeating them to our children and grandchildren.
      One of my maternal grandfather's favorites was threatening to "jerk a knot in your tail" if you didn't behave. I was never (and still am not) sure what that entails, yet I recognized it as a warning.
      An elderly neighbor used to tell me something got done "every whip stitch." I understood that meant quickly and repeatedly. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's a promise to do something "in two shakes of a dead lambs tail."
      Years ago, my mother-in-law introduced me to the phrase, "You're leanin' on a broken stick." That's also pretty self-explanatory. 
      I work part-time in a newspaper office with a young man in his twenties. We were joking about doing something outrageous, and I said he could end up in the "hoosegow." He'd never heard the old-fashioned term for a jail cell. I suppose my fondness for westerns keeps the term securely ensconced in my over-stuffed memory. 
      A few phrases borrowed from our English ancestors are "having a bee in one's bonnet" or "having your knickers in a twist." At least, I think they originated in Britain. I'm not sure about "having a burr under your saddle." 
      I'd be happy to hear from anyone who knows the origins of these adages and invite you all to share some of your favorites. Don't be shy!

Hugs, Becky
BeckyBarker.com 
    

   

24 comments:

  1. I love the old ways of speaking and that, in large part, they stick around for generations.

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    1. Liz - I think there's great comfort in the words of ancestors!

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  2. What fun post, Becky. And boy, absolutely remember that "jerk a knot in your tail" phrases from my childhood. (Of course I was the good child, it was a reference to my sister or cousins, I'm sure. LOL ).

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    1. LOL, Maddie. I'm not sure I was good, but I was careful not to find out what it meant.

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    2. Becky, I agree! (and I wasn't always the good child either... just told everyone I was. ) :)

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  3. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Becky. Some of those are familiar, some not.

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  4. Never heard "jerk a knot in your tail." Also never heard the dead lamb part of 2 shakes of a lamb's tail. Very interesting and funny

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    1. Thanks, Joan. I'm sure all these adages have lots of variations!

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  5. On Easter, my grandmother used to tell us we looked "sniptious." I've never heard that word before or since, but I think the very arrangment of vowels and consonants makes it clear that it's a compliment!

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    1. I love it, Jeanne! That's the first time I've heard it, but it's a fun word. :-)

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  6. I love old proverbs and such. My mom used to tell me a watched pot never boils - meaning I could stand at the door starting at 5:00 because that's when my dad got home, but my standing there wouldn't make him get home any faster.

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    1. Pamela - we still use the 'watched pot' occasionally, too. That's a good one.

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  7. I like all the Southernisms, like "Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, it doesn't make them biscuits." ;-)

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  8. LOL, Marcia! That's a new one for me. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Becky, I too, love words. The only thing I did with my Etch-A-Sketch was write words...never pictures. I'm a city girl so a lot of these sayings are new to me. Also, being from a completely different region of North America we had different sayings in my house. My mom would say: I'm keeeeping this. The meaning was that it was too "good" for regular use and would be set aside for more important occasions. Kind of sad, really...her drawer was full of lovely nightgowns we'd all bought her. never worn...I don't know who she thought would be worthy of them if not herself. Another one was: If I have to come up over them stairs-- you know you were in big trouble!

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  10. Bonnie - I've heard variations on "if I have to come over there" but never up over them stairs. LOL. My mother also kept things for special occasions even if they never arose. :-)

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  11. You read my mind. I'm frequently trying to figure out what a particular old word or phrase means, because they often don't make sense to me. I was remembering "shucks" lately. Where did that exclamation go? Fun post!

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  13. Lynn - Buzz and I have fun with the old phrases, too. We'll have to research "shucks" LOL.

    Hugs, Becky

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  14. Becky, I too love the old expressions. One of my favorites I used on my daughter when she was a teenager and she started saving them: "six of one, half-dozen of the other."

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  15. Becky, I too love the old expressions. One of my favorites I used on my daughter when she was a teenager and she started saving them: "six of one, half-dozen of the other."

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  16. Patricia - that was one of my daddy's favorites! I still use it, too.

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  17. When my mild-mannered husband was in high school, he was being hassled by some jocks. His best friend, a funny, mouthy type, warned them to be careful or he'd "stomp your [butt] and butter the walls with it!" I've been laughing for 25 years

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