One time years ago when grandson Colten was younger and we were talking, somewhere in the conversation I made the comment that whatever it was we were talking about would give him a leg up.
A leg up. What?
He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. So I explained that it meant something would give him a head start, an advantage, an easier way, put him ahead somehow.
Perhaps those of us who rode tall horses might understand that little saying easier than someone who didn’t. But it reminded me of a few other little sayings I grew up hearing that Colten and other young people today probably won’t understand, either.
Adults my age. give or take twenty/ thirty or so years either way, say things like this all the time and don’t give it a thought. We grew up hearing our parents and other adults saying them, and we probably had to ask what they meant by that, just like Colten did. Or figured it out ourselves. And the cycle continued.
And what are these creative little fillers we take for granted? Idioms came to mind, but then so did colloquialisms. Since I have been out of the classroom a while, I did what we all do these days, I googled both terms to refresh my memory. Idioms were defined as a phrase that doesn’t make literal sense in context. Colloquialisms were said to be informal and include slang or language specific to a designated country or region.
Or perhaps to a specific group of people with common lifestyles. And I don’t think the lines are clearly drawn because either one could be flavored by slang or regional dialects or interests. And since no test will follow after reading this, I don’t care which is which, because both kinds of sayings flavor our language and keep conversations from being boring. But mostly, they can get the point across much better than plain, unadorned language. And are more fun.
For example, to keep the horse-related connection, what about someone looking like they have been rode hard and put up wet? I know the grammar is off, but the image hits the nail on the head-ah ha!-another one, of someone who looks bad and worn-out, like a horse unsaddled after a hard day and not cleaned up properly. Or someone who has been taken advantage of and looks defeated.
I asked around for other sayings that my friends had grown up with; most I had heard or even used before and a few I was not familiar with, and thought I would share some of them with you. And I’ll just bet as you read them, you will remember someone in your family saying the same things, and that will remind you of others you remember growing up. I also won’t belabor the point and explain each one since if you are the right age, you will know what they mean because you, too, have used them. If you are not the right age, the topic will give you something to talk about with family around the dinner table or in front of the fireplace, and family can fill you in.
Some I grew up with that have stayed with me: something was built hell for stout; we have enough food to feed Coxey’s army (Read the explanation at the bottom of the story-I found it on a website that also deals with sayings like this.); we need to do (whatever) even if it hair lips the governor; he was in high cotton; got a hitch in my git-along; eyes were too big for his stomach; making money hand over fist; something cost an arm and a leg.
Some shared with me include these: treated like a stepchild; someone is all hat and no cattle; you can bet the farm on it; this ain’t my first rodeo; go whole hog; he could tell you how the cow ate the cabbage; don’t let the grass grow under your feet; full as a tick; when having to work on a Sunday or a day you don’t want to, saying that when the ox is in the ditch, you have to get him out; and the ever popular bless your heart, which could infer a lot of things depending on the tone of voice in which it was delivered.
A few might be a bit R-rated, but still appropriate in certain situations, like when it rains a turd-floater or gully washer, when the the s*** hits the fan, and the explanation for where bad leadership comes from – s*** runs downhill.
I could go on and on, but by now you are remembering the ones you grew up with, and the list is endless. The list of websites and books that explain these sayings or give their history is also endless if you care to research the topic and learn some of the history behind the sayings, and the areas where they came from.
No doubt the younger generation will continue to use a few of these old pearls of wisdom-another one- but then I’m also sure over time they will come up with their own that are pertinent to the modern age in which they live; TV, movies, computer, social media, you know, all that stuff we may not be as fluent in. Some of the ones I listed are real classics, and I hope they will live on as time goes by.
But when a situation arises that something like this fits the bill-is that another one?-don’t hesitate to use it. That’s the fun of language.
Enjoy. And come up with some of your own.
Thanks to Elaine Bowman for sharing some of her dad’s old sayings with me, and Bill Liles for adding to my list.
Here is the Coxey’s army explanation:
(“My mom would always say that we had “enough food to feed Cox’s army”. I asked her who Cox was and she said she didn’t know, it was just something that her parents said. I did some research and found out that there were two Coxs. During the Depression, in 1932, a priest named Cox led a march on Washington, DC consisting of unemployed men from Pennsylvania. In 1894, another depression year, Jacob Coxey led a protest march into Washington, DC to ask that jobs be created. I thought it was interesting that there were two “Cox’s armies”.) Taken from this website: https://blindpigandtheacorn.com/feeding-coxs-army/
Two websites that I checked to be sure I knew what I was talking about: