Collecting History: Old Sayings

Some people collect antiques. Some collect old cars. Many collect old books. There are innumerable items to collect and most often we associate certain things with history, like antiquities.

As exciting as ancient pieces of statuary may be, they are expensive, often hard to move, and quite frequently illegal to gather. I have a solution. It requires no storage, no expense and is, as yet, quite legal. I urge you then to collect old sayings!

These are the short pieces of advice that have been around for centuries. Some are extremely useful and some are not.

Here are a few examples (taken from Wise Words and Country Ways: Traditional Advice and Whether It Works Today by Ruth Binney and Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish):

Weather –

“Ring round the moon, snow soon.”

“When swallows fly low, rain is on the way.”

“Rain before seven, fine by eleven.”

Health –

“Sit up straight.”

“Eat your crusts – they’ll make your hair curl.”

“Chew each mouthful twenty times.”

“Put vinegar on a wasp sting.”

“Eat a peck of dirt before you die.”

Education, gab and whatnot –

“Improve your mind each day.”

“What’s on her mind is on her tongue.”

“She’s got a tongue that’s loose at both ends and has a swivel in the middle.”

“I’ll be with you in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

Kitchen –

“After melon, wine is a felon.”

“Don’t open an oven door while a cake is cooking.”

“Stew boiled is a stew spoiled.”

There you are. I’ve started you off with your own small collection. Add to it as you come by a funny old saying, factual or not. Listen for these from older family members and friends. If you don’t have access to these resources whose sayings will vary by region and nation, then look to books.

These sound bites are a direct link to history. They tell us how people thought in the past, what they believed, and how they acted. To keep the thread of history alive, start collecting today!

– Amanda Stiver

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One Comment

  1. Many people here in Australia still say “two shakes of a lambs tail”. When I first heard it I had to ask them several times what they were saying and to repeat themselves. I finally got the hang of it (it’s one of my mother-in-laws favorite sayings). Although, like most Australians, usually they’ll shorten it and say “I’ll be with you in two shakes”.

    Reply

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