What Did You Just Say? And What Does It Mean?

My mother was always big on Sayings and idioms.  I guess every culture has them.  Most of the time, as a child,  I never knew what they meant and was always left puzzled until I would get her to explain them to me.  I often used to wonder where in the world these things originated or how they came to be?  Here are a few I remember my mother saying:

1.  That’s the pot calling the kettle black

Back in the day most cookware was made of black metal.  This is said when someone accuses you of doing something that they also do, or criticizes you for a fault you have that they also are guilty of having. 

2.  Don’t get your nose out of joint.

This is said to someone who is upset or annoyed about something.

3.  Two wrongs don’t make a right

This means that it is never right to wrong someone, even if they have wronged you first.

 4.  Birds of a feather flock together

This means that people who are similar will be drawn together. 

5.  That’s the straw that broke the camel’s back

The reference is to the carrying of loads by animals.  We can load the camel with lots of straw but eventually it’s back is going to break.  The last straw.  The final bit needed to change the course of things or send one over the edge.

6.  His bark is worse than his bite

This means that someone is not as bad as they sound. 

7.  He/She got up on the wrong side of the bed

To be grumpy or in a bad mood. 

8.  Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite

I think this actually was a line from a popular nursery rhyme and is pretty self- explanatory.  My mother used to say this almost every night when it was bedtime.  Of course that was back in the day when bedbugs had essentially been eradicated by DDT.   Now this saying has a whole new meaning! 

9.  Kill ’em with kindness

This means to be enormously kind and pleasant when someone is being rude or mean to you. 

10.  When the cat’s away, the mice will play

Without supervision, people will do as they please, especially in disregarding or breaking rules.

11.  Eating high off the hog

This comes from the opinion that the best part of the meat on a hog is cut high on the thigh

12.  Don’t hit the panic button

B-24 and B-17 bomber planes had real panic buttons.  When the pilot pushed it, a bell sounded throughout the plane warning the crew to be ready to jump from the plane, that a crash was imminent. 

13.  Age before beauty

A graceful way for an older woman to acknowledge the courtesy of a younger woman who stands aside to let her enter a room first. 

14.  For the birds

This usually refers to something that is worthless or unwanted.

15. Crazy as a bedbug

This simply refers to somebody who is crazy. 

16.  If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas

This means that if you become involved with bad company, there will be negative consequences and you will often acquire their faults and bad habits. 

17.  Don’t put the cart before the horse

This refers to doing things in the correct order and not being impatient.   

18.  Circling the drain

This means that one is flirting with disaster, meaning they’re messing with something they shouldn’t.

19.  I smell a rat

something is definitely wrong. 

20.  Painting the town red

having a good time going out and spending a lot of money.  

What old sayings do you remember your parents saying?  Any favorites? 

Gail ♥ 

About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
This entry was posted in Childhood memories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What Did You Just Say? And What Does It Mean?

  1. Kathy Sundberg says:


    I love reading your stories. I am also an adult orphan as you refer to yourself. I lost my dad in March 2010 to bile duct cancer. My mom has been gone for soon to be 17 years. You tell your family stories very eloquently. My parents also used the phrases above and many these days seem to have no idea what they mean. Thanks for bringing back happy memories of both of my folks.

    • Gail says:

      Thank you Kathy for your kind comments. They mean a lot to me. Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of both your parents. Being an adult orphan is difficult in many ways, isn’t it? Thank you so much for visiting the blog and especially for taking the time to comment.

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