As I intimated in my last post, the response to my Facebook query asking for examples of sayings from parents was amazing. Fifty-seven responses in all, counting multiple entries and conversations about entries.
I have quoted my mother often. But I am only now becoming aware of how often. Our whole family remembers this aphorism in song: “When we all work together, how happy we’ll be.”
Since it’s taken me a long time to recognize my mother’s words (“Sooner or Later” turns out to be later for most of us), I decided to ask my twenty-something and thirty-something children what they remembered as sayings from me and my husband Stuart.
Most of what they remembered were little expressions we used (“Just in the niche of time,” instead of “nick.” A few Pennsylvania Dutch expressions such as “strublich” and “nixnux.”) But my daughter did remember one aphorism for each of her parents:
About me: “You sometimes said ‘suck the marrow of life’ or something like that that half way grossed me out just a little bit.” 🙂
About husband Stuart: “‘Good ingredients = good results.’ (when referring to cooking … I remember him making real mint tea and taking off the bad leaves of the mint while saying this).”
I chuckled to hear that my one aphorism, stolen from Henry David Thoreau, halfway grossed my daughter out just a little bit. Now there’s the very definition of eye-rolling!
Below is the collection remembered from parents collated from Facebook.
Here’s how the conversation got started: “My father said, ‘if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.’ What did you hear?”
1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. (X2)
2. My mother: We grow too soon old and too late smart.
3. Dad (mom some as well) when something was painful, or life was a challenge–“you just need to/have to rise above it.”
4. My dad had a unique saying that governed his generous approach to business dealings: “The other fellow has to make a living too”.
5. My dad’s favorite line with my youngest sister was “Remember who you are.” Seems a lot more original than what he used on me when I was kid– “If you don’t know what to do, spit in a shoe and tell the teacher it’s half past two.”
6. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
7. “Let’s all sing like the birdies sing, like the birdies sing…..” Sure, he could be wise, but what I really miss is the silliness.
8. My Dad: “If at first you don’t succeed, suck, suck, suck until you do succeed.”
9. You’re burning the candle at both ends again…..
10. My dad (thinking this was hilarious): “If you need anything, call me. I’ll tell you how to do without.”
11. He also said (w/ 3 daughters on the farm and chores like stacking wood): “Anything boys can do, girls can do better.”
12. Dad always said there are two sides to every story, even a stick on the ground.
13. ” Many hands make light work” was a favorite around our house.
14. Just because everyone else does it, doesn’t mean it’s right.
15. Father: “Eat up. There’s more downstairs in a thimble.”
16. And when he wanted his children to get up and work at 5:30 am: “Day is dying in the west.”
17. My father had these crazy Pennsylvania Dutch sayings that had a moral story to them but made no sense in English. You’re prompting me to get my sisters to help me remember and write these sayings down!
18. My grandmother: “If you don’t watch your figure nobody else will either”
19. My mom: “ya can’t have nuthin’!
20. My dad would say: no education is ever wasted. My mom: I have every faith in you!
21. My Grandmother always said “idle hands are the devils workshop” and the only time her hands weren’t working on something was when visitors came by visiting. I may need to reinstate this practice in my own life.
22. How about this, “Life is not a bed of roses,” or its associate: “Live is not a bowl of cherries,” to make us kids realize that life was tough and we’d better not expect an easy time of it.
23. Remember who you are. (X 2)
24. My mom would say “stop looking at life through rose-colored glasses.” My grandmother always just said “stay out of trouble.” My favorite comes from my dad, my here: “Remember, when times are tough, I love you!”
25. First impressions are too important to miss.
26. From my Dad, ” Anybody can be like everybody. It takes character to dare to be different”.
27. My mother always reminds me “Done is better than perfect.” I have to remind myself of this many times a day.
28. From Uncle Buzz: ” either do it right, or don’t do it at all”.
29. How about the song/phrase quoted often by Mother “When we all work together how happy we’ll be, when my work is your work and your work is my work, when we all work together how happy we’ll be.”
30. “Many hands make light work.” My student leaders all know that saying now…spreading aphorisms around the globe!
31. You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.
32. A good name is more valuable than great riches.
33. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.
34. Money: when you get some, save some, spend some, give some away!
35. “Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can,
Seldom found in women,
Always found in man. ”
My son recalls hearing his Grandpa Brubacher say this quite often, just a little sexist eh?
36. My husbands favorite comment to poor unsuspecting cashiers who ask how are you? His response: “Every day above ground is a good day.” And every funeral you walk away from is a good funeral.” Yup, the grocery clerks just love that one!
37. Although “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”…”Every dog will have it’s day.” Woof!
38. Of his grandchildren “One word from me….and they do what they like”
39. My dad’s tough love-“I’d feel for you,if I could reach you.”
40. “This too shall pass” and “If those other fools can do it, so can you!”
41. If you don’t have a goose, take the hen. Thank the Lord and say, “Amen.” And quoting from The Little Engine that Could, ” I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”
Notice that some sayings contradict others.
42. Dad said, “Take all you want. Take two.”
43. My mom always said, “If you are not going to do it right, you might as well not do it at all.” But the one I heard most often in my dating years was “After midnight is the Devil’s workshop.”
44. My dad always said, “You got your brains from your mother. I still have mine.”
45. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”
46. Remember who you are.
47. My Granny said: “The further away from home you get the meaner the people get.” Yep. I grew up in the mountain hollers, where families never moved away + ‘strangers’ rarely came.
48. My dad, “you make your bed, you sleep in it.”
49. Dad, in response to my sister’s and my table behavior: “Sing at the table, whistle in the bed, the boogie-man will get you by the hair of your head.” Thanks, Dad; I have panic attacks now every time Mennonites want to sing table grace. *kidding*
52. My dad, “you make your bed, you sleep in it.”
53. On this blustery snow day I am glad to report that I am “snug as a bug in a rug” and that kind neighbors cleared my driveway with a snowblower proving once again that “all good things come to those who wait” and “actions speak louder than words”!A final word on the temp…”cold hands, warm heart”!
54. My grandma said Keep on keeping on.
55-57: Since first reading your post on aphorisms I have become keenly aware and highly entertained to note that half of my speech is in that form! And really with no distinct memory of why or from where.I hadn’t really thought about their non-use as a means of promoting individuality in my children, but rather an attempt to avoid being like my parents (perhaps the same thing). It is an intriguing phenomena, that seeps into our vocabulary unconsciously from all kinds of sources, literature, teachers, media, relatives etc. I think they add a folksy, albeit cliche and yes, sometimes irritating, sense of poetry to our speech using literary devices like metaphors and alliteration. Being a very visually oriented person ( “a picture paints a thousand words”) I am probably drawn to the imagery, heck what is more fun, to be UPSET or to “have a bee in your bonnet” or “your knickers in a knot”? Moral teaching, espousing of virtues and values, and an mental picture all wrapped up in a phrase, quite brilliant really…”every cloud has a silver lining”…but alas, “beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.” Or as they say, “each to their own.” Thanks for the romp, it’s been fun but I better stop myself!!
What role do you think these aphorisms play in forming our characters? Do we become who we are because of such shared wisdom or despite it? Chime in below. Will you be more or less inclined to sprinkle your speech with aphorisms after reading these?