Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Family phrases

Relatively recently, rhymeswithplague put up a post about the things his parents used to say which got me thinking.

I think most families have some phrases in regular use.  They can form an unbreakable code to outsiders, and act as a kind of shorthand within the family.  For example, rhubarb is always known as 'thumb' in our family after a brother's mishap when preparing it.  And my father called all sauces gravy.  I remember seeing visitors cringe when he offered them gravy for their ice-cream.

Both of my parents had a treasure trove of phrases which they trotted out on a regular basis.  Some of them were true, some were helpful, and some decidedly the opposite.  Some were just odd.

As a child I had difficulties with the concept of left and right, and could never remember which was which.  My ever so helpful father told me 'Your left hand is the one with the thumb on the right'.  Why thank you Father.  Thank you so much... 

How about you?  What helpful (or otherwise) things were you told?  Have you carried them forward or started new secret codes of your own?

The smaller portion and I have adopted and adapted a phrase purloined from another family.  A workmate told us that while on a country drive her youngest daughter had pointed at a cattle truck and said 'oh look!  That nice man is taking his cows for a drive.'   More than twenty years later we still refer to nice men taking a variety of things (garbage, furniture...) for a drive.

118 comments:

  1. Taking them for a drive. I'll remember that.
    As we were about to embark on a trip, my father always said 'And we're off like a herd of turtles!' (I think he was referring to how long it took us to get to the point of actually being ready to go.)

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    1. Alex J. Cavanaugh: That is precisely the sort of family phrase I meant. A mystery to outsiders. Though I assume that turtles, like the tortoise, can move fast if they want to...

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  2. turtles actually move quicker than we think.

    My mother used to say when exasperated, "I am so mad I could just spit". another was "holy jeepers", "slower than molasses" when referring to us completing a task; "wise guy" when we were smart mouthed; fuddy-duddy referring to a unpopular person; pass the buck - when referring to us shirking our responsibilities

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    1. Linda Starr: Some of your mother's phrases were used here too. Not 'slower than molasses' though. Molasses was exotic.

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  3. You're right. Most families have their own idiosyncratic idioms. My dad used to have one which I have carried with me over the years. It was a very peculiar way of saying "I'm doing well". :-)

    Greetings from London.

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    1. A Cuban in London: Are you going to share your father's phrase? Please?

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  4. Mom used to say, "I could just chew nails and spit rust" when she was perturbed..

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    1. Delores: That is SUCH an expressive phrase.

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  5. Our family's code language is either some word our dad made up or movie phrases. For example, whenever anyone famous screws up, we like to say, "he chose poorly," from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It's almost a game finding the right movie quote for the right situation.

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    1. mshatch: I love hearing that most families do indeed have their private code. It gives a kind of normalacy (rare) to my own.

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  6. Ooh I like some of these sayings ~ I might even recycle the turtle one with my students.
    My Dad would sit at the dinner table and say "jump, jump" ~ and that was our cue to put all the lids back on the spreads. It was so funny really.

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    1. carolincairns: Off like a herd of turtles is great isn't it? I suspect my father (who wasn't noted for his patience) would have loved it. I love jump, jump too. An almost unbreakable family code.

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  7. Hmmm, let me see...
    My Dad, describing a relative's wit: 'He's got a sense of humour that's dryer than a popcorn fart.' That became both a family saying, and a measure of wittiness.
    Granny used to say she was so mad she could 'stomp grapes', and referring to one of my brothers: 'when it comes to work, that boy is slower than molasses in January' and my Grandma D used to say 'nope, that marriage won't last... 'he/she has 'the other' has 'em so busy kissing their butt they can't never reach their mouth'.

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    1. Jacquelineand... Your Grandma D's phrase is brilliant. And no doubt very true.

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  8. My angry father once threatened to turn an offending night club "into a garage" in a surfeit of gangster flair. It's become shorthand for "let's get of here!"

    ( '>
    /))
    //""

    ALOHA from Honolulu,
    ComfortSpiral
    =^..^=

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    1. Cloudia: Another brilliant phrase. I love that we are bringing these secret phrases out for other families to enjoy/adopt/steal.

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  9. Oh dear about that "drive" those poor cattle were going on. I can see why that might end up being something to reuse. My dad, when frustrated with some electronic thing he was working on, would say, "I.P.O.I.O." (which stands for Innate Perversity of Inanimate Objects. :-)

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    1. DJan: I cannot think of any phrase that better expresses the innocence of children. The same child (who must be an adult now) called emus mee-yous. Another phrase we have stolen and sometimes use. And yes, inanimate objects ARE frequently perverse.

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  10. I guess all families have their own, personal, individual little quirks, sayings etc. I know mine did...some I shouldn't repeat! ;)

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    1. Lee: Don't be a spoilsport. We would love to hear your family's phrases.

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  11. I actually use that "taking things for a drive"!!

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    1. fishducky: How wonderful. I have never heard it used anywhere else.

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  12. We had a family friends who used the letters NLU meaning not like us. It was said in low tones to keep their kids from staring or saying anything rude about practices that were different from their family. My mother liked it so much she started using it, but she misheard it and in our family the letters were NLQ which sent my sister and I into hysterics. QUite the opposite of its intended effect.

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    1. Anne in the kitchen: Snickering here. Sometimes the misplaced phrases are true gems.

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    2. There's also FHB - "Family hold back" when there's not quite enough food for guests and family, and FYO "Fend for yourself" when neither husband nor I could be bothered cooking a proper meal. It usually meant sandwiches or instant noodles.

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    3. lynners: I remember FHB - but it only applied to the women in the family. Men were exempt. Which peeved me.

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  13. We only have words that hung around. Like pigoose (the red car at the end of a train), bolbow (elbow), for example. Oh, yes, piss-ghetti, but I'm sure every family has a version of that.

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    1. Joanne Noragon: I don't think we did have a phrase for spaghetti. Mind you, my father didn't like it so it wasn't served. Love bolbow. Bashed on the bolbow sounds much better than hit on the funny-bone.

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  14. Any time I'd say I wanted something as a kid, my mom would say, "Save your money." I still say it, just as she always said it! Those words get passed from one generation to the next.

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    1. Stephanie Faris: My parents would certainly have supported your mother's theory. When we said we wanted something they would say (in unison) 'then want must be your master...'

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    2. We had a slightly less polite way that Mom reminded us about over wishing. This was always said in a very dry voice "Wish in one hand and spit in the other and let me know which one gets full fastest"

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    3. Anne in the kitchen: I suspect if my parents had known that one they would have used it. I am sure they would have used it.

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  15. Well, yes, re left and right, but which way are you looking at your hand, EC, palm towards or away from you...? Still not helpful though!

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    1. Gillie: I was looking at my hand - as my father did, with the palm down. And no, it wasn't helpful. He was pleased with himself though. Very pleased.

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  16. Boring childhood I had then, with nothing to report. I had a good chuckle at your father's advice. Gillie makes a valid point and I bet if your asked a man to look at his hand, he would look at the palm whereas a woman would look at the back of her hand. Oh dear, such sexist stereotyping.

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    1. Oddly enough, when asked to look at my hands, I immediately look at palms first.

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    2. Andrew and River: When asked to look at my hands I look at the back. As my father did. I wonder whether their is a gender based preference. I may have to ask around.
      Father would have been very pleased to have someone (other than himself) chuckle at his advice.
      Sadly I still when tired have issues with left and right.

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    3. 'There' not 'their'. A shameful error to make.

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    4. And I have just checked. The smaller portion looks at his palm. River, and my father may be abberations...

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    5. According to chinese horoscopes, I have a yang (male) spirit that may have lots to do with it.

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    6. River: How interesting. I have never explored my Chinese horoscope. Or my father's.

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  17. My grandmother had some gems, but I can't remember them right now. Your post has brought a big smile to me. Enjoyed it much. Thanks!

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    1. Myrna R.: I hope if some of your grandmother's gems surface you will come back and share them.

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  18. I loved hearing about your family phrases. It got me thinking about mine. I have three brothers and we have a lot of inside jokes for sure. No specific phrases are coming to mind- but I said one today and thought of my dad. I am going to think of this and write some down. :)

    Oh- I just remembered we used to call the floor of the back seat in the car the "dum de dum".

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    1. Stephanie@Fairday's Blog: The dum de dum (not that we called it that) was were my youngest brother spent long car trips. With the other brother's feet resting on him.

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  19. The only one I remember is "if you don't stop crying I'll give you something to cry for" which never made sense to me; if the child was already crying then clearly there was something to cry for.

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    1. I've heard people say that River and it has always made me wonder!!

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    2. River: I heard that phrase too. I always assumed that it was a threat. If you don't stop crying I will do something to you which is worse than whatever is making you cry now. Not nice. At all.

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  20. What a great concept....family phrases. Loved the right thumb on the left hand!!
    When my children were 11 and 13 we journeyed north to Carnarvon. We lived for two weeks in a huge tent and we began to listening to School of the Air (I think it was something of that ilk) and on it was a segment where this youngster talked to a Mrs Ward. I can't remember the whole thing but something he was trying to do was very difficult and he said "It's hard being an elephant Mrs Ward". (Perhaps she had told him to pretend to be an elephant). Anyway that phrase stuck and all these years later we still use that phrase if we are tired or having problems with something. It's amazing how it clears the air and everything seems to come good again.
    Just thought I'd share that one with you.
    My mum never swore but if she was really cross she would say "Jam and plaster" in place of damn and blast it.

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    1. Mimsie: 'Its hard being an elephant Mrs Ward' is a gem. Love it. Thank you. And my father (who could swear in multiple languages) used to say 'naughty works if only I knew any...'

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  21. Could not agree more. We also have a custom of having family phrases as many parts of the world do. But as you wrote, most are coined based on our characters, manners, activities and our of love and fondness.

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    1. dumcho wangdi: Itsn't it interesting that families the world over are different - in similar ways.

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  22. I loved reading your post and all the comments and I am not surprised you were confused about your right and left hand if you looked at your hands palm up!! In N.I we have so many phases that the rest of the world would not understand!

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    1. Margaret Adamson: My hands were held palm down - but it didn't help me at all. Which father knew.
      I like the thought of cultural phrases as well as family ones. Yet more secret codes...

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  23. My nephew Doug (at 3-years-old) used to call all motorcycles a "Pete" - because their next door neighbor Pete had one that he rode regularly. Doug was just delighted with it. So my dad took that up and until the end of his life, called motorcycles "a Pete".

    And in the southern US we often greet each other with "Hey" - but pronounced more like "Haaay". My mom had my niece Abby in the car one day (also when she was about 3) and while mom drove Abby pointed to something off to the right and said "Hay, Nana!" Mom replied, "Hay, Abby!" Not looking, because she was driving. "No Nana! Hay!" Puzzled - Mom looked quickly and it was bales of hay. So my sis (Abby's mom) and I do that when we are together and pass bales of hay. "Hay!!!" Silly - but it's a fun family thing.

    I love your stories! Very often Italian families refer to meat sauce for spaghetti, etc. as "gravy." But I like that he called even chocolate sauce gravy. :)

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    1. Lynn: I am loving hearing about other 'family phrases'. A Pete is a beauty, as is Hay!!!
      I would happily read a book about family phrases...

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  24. My mom had many sayings that still pop up in family conversations. One of my favorites was when referring to some couples, she would say, "God made them, the devil matched them".

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    1. Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe: Your mama's phrase is an excellent summary about some couples. Couples we all now...

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  25. My son has "orange juice" moments, a phrase he coined, to explain episodes of clumsiness. It goes back to a fight he lost with a small bottle of juice in a department store, spraying it everywhere in the process.

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    1. River Fairchild: I have a LOT of orange juice moments myself.

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  26. 'It's a beautiful day to kill a vampire,' is one of my families favorites.

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    1. Author R. Mac Wheeler: Hmm. Now I am wondering what vampire killing weather looks like. Sunny at a guess...

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  27. Great post and comments. Just this week my mum asked me to type a list of memories from my childhood (I remember heaps) and one of them was the strangely horrid expression "arms up like a dead soldier" which mum would say when she wanted us to stretch so she could take off our jumpers.

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    1. Kim: Arms up like a dead soldier is very evocative. And yes, horrid too. I will remember that one.

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  28. Great Quote !!!!

    My mom always said, "Kim, you are the company you keep!"

    xxx

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    1. My Inner Chick: There was a LOT of quoting from Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass in our home. And my mother used that phrase too.

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  29. We have a code phrase to let my sometimes oblivious husband know my migraines are bad. "I'm having a word day", which means words are getting mixed up, and will make no sense.

    The left and right hand issue...I always told my children to hold their hands out, with palms down. The thumb and fore finger on the left hand will make "L".

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    1. Susan Kane: I hate that you need a shorthand for migraines. I too lose words...
      I really, really wish my father had given me your tip for left and right.

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  30. I do love that quote! Some of my dearest friends would be considered eccentric, and life is never boring when they are around. I just might be part of that company ;) As for the code phrases. I still sometimes have trouble with the left versus the right, not just the hand thing but directions. I'll sometimes tell hubs, no not that left, the other left meaning right. After 40 years he is quite used to me now and yes it has been going on for that long. I keep telling him it's a brain thing :) I don't remember any code words but expressions which were quite prevalent in my area, don't know about anywhere else. For instance, do you know the one, "I haven't seen you in a donkey's age" meaning a very, very long time? This has been a fun post to read.

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    1. DeniseinVA: Donkey's years ago came up in our home too. Like you, I still occasionally have left and right issues. And which is worse they are only occasional. Mostly I am right, but sometimes unexpectedly fall from grace. When directing in the car I cheat and say 'your side', 'my side'.

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  31. I'm not sure where I got this from, but sometimes I'd say . . . oh brother, when someone would say something to me.

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    1. Lon Anderson: I have heard that. And rarely 'oh sister'. I wonder why not?

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  32. Your comments are so much fun to read as much as your posts are!! Yes we had some phrases in our family. Some I never knew were NOT REAL PHRASES!! No wonder my friends looked so odd at me. Take Garfickle for example. That's what my famy called a boy dog's sheathed penis. When I would see it I would go eeeeek gross, what isTHAT?! I would be told that was the Garfickle. As I grew up I told all my friends that. I never knew it wasn't called that!!! Same as dingleberries. "Watch out for that dingleberry!!!" Was a common warning in my household. Meaning if the dogs jumping on you... Watch out for that dangling bit of poo on its backside. There were even sign language phrases that were not true but it's hard to explain that here.

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    1. Furry Bottoms: Garfickle and dingleberry SHOULD be real words. Dingleberry particularly. And sign language non-words has got me thinking too. Why not? It seems only fair.
      And I am very, very lucky with the people who comment here. They add heaps to every post. You included. Dingleberry has just entered my vocabulary.

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  33. I have trouble with my left and rights too. My mother loves this dish with chipped corned beef in gravy on toast. She told me "back then" it was called shit on the shingles. But every time I said it I always said shit on the bricks. Shingles just wasn't a word I was familiar with at the time!!

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    1. Furry Bottoms: I suspect shit on the bricks would have rolled more easily off my tongue too. Much more easily.

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  34. Hi Sue,

    A wandering Mad Hatter, here. Got to hand it to your father for making sense of left and right. Thumbs up, either thumb, to that one.

    I remember being told by my mother that if I watched too much TV my head would become square-shaped.

    Have a peaceful weekend, Sue.

    Good, very early morning from England.

    Gary :)

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    1. klahanie: Your mother went a bit further than my parents. They said we would develop square eyes, but stopped there. And given the amount of television we were allowed to watch (four or five hours a week) neither were going to be a happening thing.
      I hope your weekend is wonderful.

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  35. According to Alice, I must be one of the best people!! :-) Thanks for always visiting my blog.

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    1. Roland D. Yeomans: Bonkers is fine. I don't think I know anyone who is entirely sane. And would have nothing in common with them.

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    1. Weekend-Windup: Another interesting one...

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  37. As I drove my girls back from their out of town dance lessons, one area was always foggy. The four-year-old kept jumping up, looking out into the darkness. I would tell her to sit back down. Finally, she said,
    "I never see froggies! Where are the froggies?" We laughed and she was perplexed. When I told her we were saying "fog" she was not happy. So, when there was fog after that, we referred to the night or drive as "froggy." Eg: "It's a froggy night."

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    1. Practical Parsimony: I would rather see frogs than fog too. Love the froggy night phrase though.

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  38. Ah -yes, I love the word bonkers! Describes our family to a tee.

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    1. ladyfi: Lots of families. Which is lovely.

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  39. I love the 'Mad Hatter', he was bonkers.

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    1. Bob Bushell. I loved him too. And rather a lot of other bonkers people.

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  40. I love the quote. Hatter was my fave. :)

    We had a ton of sayings in the family, I laugh when I hear young people saying them sometimes today (which doesn't really happen often). We must have some in our family here today too, but I can't think of any off the cuff! :)

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    1. mail4rosey: I am always tickled to hear the old saying too. Often when the person saying them has no idea of the history behind them... A kind of continuity.

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  41. Well at least that left hand thing makes you think. I am left handed so my left is the hand I use to scratch my ear with...unless my right ear itches.

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    1. joeh: I was left handed until a teacher tied that hand behind my back. Suitably conditioned I am now VERY right handed. To the point I find it difficult to do anything with my left.

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  42. I love old family sayings like what goes around comes around?? Crazy as a bess bug., can't think of more

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    1. Kim @ Stuff could... : I have never heard of a bess bug. Do they exist? I am loving the education I am getting with this post.

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  43. One of my faves that my dad always said "lights out, flood the rink, game over". He said that when it was our bedtime, or the end of a party, or anytime he'd had enough of something. Refers to the closing down of an ice hockey rink and resurfacing the ice with water. I still use this saying.

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    1. Karen: I love it. And can see my father would have too.

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  44. Hmmm... I remember my mom always used to say, "a little pain is a little beauty" when she was combing the knots out of my hair lol... its kind of a funny memory :)

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    1. totallycaroline: My mother used to say 'you have to suffer to be beautiful' in very similar circumstances. The same concept expressed differently.

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  45. Glad I did not miss this interesting post! In my family, a word sticks out...kyfogging, meaning to fake or pretend. I have never heard of anyone else who knows this word. Do you?

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    1. Bookie: That is a new one to me. And may indeed be particular to your family. Yay for family codes.

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  46. Gravy for ice cream! That made me chuckle. We had the left-right thing as well - really helpful, right? Most of our family sayings are in German and there is no equivalent translation to it.

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    1. Carola Bartz: The same left-right thing? If so, I wonder whether that was something he too grew up with and is in fact a translation from the German. Every sauce was gravy. No matter what it went on. Which we all knew. It was visitors who were shocked.

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  47. This was really fun, I'll check out rhymeswithplague next. I'm still laughing over your father's gravy, but I use his left hand theory! Try this. Hold up both hands with your thumbs stuck out and your fingers are pointing upward.. Your hand that looks like an L is your left hand. Munchkins love that one! Another favorite is Lefty-loosey and righty-tighty for tightening and loosening.

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    1. Karen S.: Using the L shape would have been MUCH more useful that the one that father employed. Much. And we did hear left-loosey - which was of now help when I wasn't sure which way left was...

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  48. There's also family names for different things. Mum used to make something we called foam-rubber pudding, which was jelly mix and evaporated milk whipped together and left to set. It looked just like foam rubber.

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    1. lynners: Raspberry splat (following a mixmaster mishap) was a much loved family staple for years...

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    2. I LOVE both of these: foam-rubber pudding, and raspberry splat!!!

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    3. jenny_o: My mama made a dessert which sounds very similar to foam-rubber pudding. We weren't clever enough to name it though.

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  49. Dear EC. You've certainly evoked a lot of memories for a plethora of your followers. Good show!

    My Mum would say "You're daft as a brush" when anyone said something silly. Not exactly unique to my family though; I think it was quite a common riposte in England, especially for those living 'oop north'.

    I'm left-handed writing but right-handed for everything else. I also kick a football better with my left foot. The Latin word for 'left' is 'sinistra' and 'sinister' in English means evil and this is why, (I think) many kids were once forced to use their right hand for writing, often quite cruelly.

    So, your Dad was less than helpful in his method for telling left and right. I would have thought it would have been better to have used the hand you held your spoon in, or the hand you used to draw and write with could have been useful.

    However, I often don't know my arse from my elbow according to 'Er indoors' - which is VERY rude of Er, init? ;-)

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    1. PhillipH: Welcome. I do get a lovely lot of comments, and commentators. And with one exception (who I delete) welcome them all. My mama (English) also used daft as a brush. And Er indoors' phrase was one used by my father. Who was being clever rather than helpful on the left/right conundrum. Until the school got to me I was apparently completely ambidextrous with a preference for my left...

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  50. What a great post and comments! I am always finding my parents' vocal tics coming out of my mouth, but I'm drawing almost a complete blank trying to think of any to write down! Here are the only two I can come up with, one from each of them: "Cry-dee-kate!" my mom's expression of frustration, and "like a blue-arse fly" (excuse my language) my dad's description of anyone who was running around busily but ineffectively trying to get things done ... And one expression I heard somewhere outside the family which I used in frustration one day and my kids thought it was hilarious, so we kept it: "Lord love a duck!"

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    1. jenny_o: My father too talked about blue-arsed flies. And 'lord love a duck' was one of my mothers phrases. Goodness only knows where they originated. And why blue-arsed flies are considered inefficient...

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  51. Oh I don't think I can type some of the words my mother used....she grew up on the streets of a big city and has the swear words to prove it....

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    1. Donna@LivingFromHappiness: I am guessing that they are not used in your family now.

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  52. Sorry I missed so many posts with pre-event craziness (mine and everyone else's.) I love that bit from Alice in Wonderland.

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    1. Riot Kitty: And it is true. I hope the craziness is receding from your life.

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  53. I love your family phrases. We have some as well, but it is my dad's expressions that pepper even the speech of my husband sometimes. "over the moon" and "Just tickety boo" and "Just lovely" to name a few :)

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    1. Susan F.: Family phrases are often a joy aren't they? My mother used 'tickety boo' from time to time, but I can't remember hearing it anywhere else.

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