Mama’s old sayings to live by

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I think my mother had a saying for just about everything that occurred. She kept me going with all these old adages, and I find myself quoting them today, more than 32 years after her death. Earlier, I have written some of her old sayings and here are a few more.

“Well, I’ll be John Brown!”

“That’s tight as Dick’s hatband.”

“Ugly as a mud fence.”

“Fits like a sock on a rooster.”

“What goes around, comes around.”

One that I frequently quote is one that she learned as a little girl. Her mother had a little girl, a sharecropper’s daughter, come in and help with the washing. She knew that the little girl’s grandmother lived with them and that she was not well. So my grandmother asked, “Sarah, how is your grandmother?” And she said “Oh, Miss Susie, when hers up that’s all her is, and when hers down, her can’t get up.” That is just about the fix I’m in and so I quote that from my mother quite often. The following few weeks, my grandmother asked again about Sarah’s grandmother. The little girl giggled and said, “Her died.”

“Fast as greased lightning.” or “Fast as a scalded cat.”

“There are more ways to kill a cat than to choke it to death on butter.”

“Everything that glitters is not gold.”

“Marry in haste, repent in leisure.”

“As slow as molasses in January.”

“Busy as a cat on a hot tin roof.”

“Star light, star bright, first star I’ve seen tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.” And we believed it. This is just one of the adages or proverbs that my generation grew up with.

Another was, “If rain starts before seven, it’ll quit before 11.” Of course, that didn’t prove true on really rainy weather.

“Blessed are the dead that it rains upon,” was quoted on the day of a funeral if it was raining.
And as to tale bearers, “If a dog brings you a bone, it’ll carry a bone back,” and my mother said that if someone tells you a bit of gossip, secretly, they will take back what you have to say to someone else.

“One bad apple will spoil a barrel,” which translated, means that you should be careful who you associate with.

“As late as it thunders in February it will frost in April.”

“Late Easter means an early spring.”

“If it rains the first day of June, it will rain for 40 days.”

“If snow remains on the ground for three days, there will be another snow that season.”

“All three colored cats are female.” Of course, at my house we had to wait to see if they had kittens to be sure.

“A whistling girl and a crowing hen always come to some bad end.” My mother always either sang or whistled as she worked, so I guess she didn’t believe that adage.

“If a woman’s second toe is longer than her big toe, she will rule her household including her husband.”

“Red at night, sailors’ delight, red in the morning sailors’ warning.” and along the same lines was, “Evening red and morning gray sends a traveler on his way. Evening gray and morning red sends a traveler home to bed.”

“Never drink milk and eat fish together, and that includes ice cream, it might kill you.”

“Lush vegetation and abundant roses on bushes means that there will be a flood that spring.”

“Lightening in the east means a quick shower or a long dry spell.”

“If a cloud comes out of the west you can say it is going to rain, because it is going to rain.”

“There will always be a cool spell in early May, and it is called ‘blackberry winter’ since the blackberries are in bloom at that time.”

A high forehead on a child denotes great intelligence.

“Every tub must sit on its own bottom.” My mother said that meant everybody was responsible for what they did and not to blame somebody else.

“Waste not, want not.” That was a saying of my grandfather, along with his request to “Put your best foot forward.” Mother said he thought everybody ought to do their best in every situation. And another she quoted was “Willful waste makes woeful want.”

“A man’s word is his bond.” That meant that a man did not have to sign a note or a mortgage. If he agreed to pay a bill, he would pay it. His word was trustworthy.

I thought many of these came from the Bible since my mother interspersed her admonitions with scripture.

And do you remember saying “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.” And then the drunk tried to say that to an early evening star and it came out like this: “Starkle, starkle little twink, where I are you think?”

Well, there you have it, all my old homespun sayings that I grew up with. Some of these have a basis for saying what is said, but most have obscure meanings to me. Did your mama have sayings similar to these?

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.

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