Have you ever heard the
expression "lick your calf over"? I can’t imagine why
anyone would lick a calf in the first place or how that expression
came into existence, but I’m sure there’s an explanation out there
Or how about this: "A whistling girl and a crowing hen always
come to some bad end." Why is whistling bad and why would a
Did you know that if a woman marries and doesn’t change her name
she is doomed to die of a bellyache? At least that’s what my
grandmother says, and when it comes to dispensing advice she has a
When we watch television together sometimes I’ll sneak a peek at
her during the commercials. She’ll squint her eyes, peer over the
top of her glasses, and scratch her head. "What in the Sam
hill are they advertising?" she’ll ask. Sometimes I know,
sometimes I don’t. But then again, I don’t know who Sam was and
how his hill is connected to anything either. Or where did the
expressions "Dad gum it" or "Dad blame it"
come from? What did poor old Dad do that was so wrong?
One day I walked into the kitchen and caught Grandma staring at
the television muttering, "Dot com, dot com, what in the
world is a dot com?" Technology talk is for the modern world
and Grandma’s lingo comes from the past.
Members of her generation most likely know words like "drekly"
(directly), "reckon," and "recollect." They
know that if someone says "I’ll be there in two shakes of a
sheep’s tail," they won’t have long to wait, and they
understand what it means when "the pot calls the kettle
black." But when my children hear their great-grandmother
speak her old-time talk they are as puzzled as she was about the
I may never know why someone had to lick their calf over, and I
may never find Sam’s hill, but the thoughts and beliefs of my
parents and grandparents live on through me. The familiar phrases
they use comfort and guide me.
"You reap what you sow," says Grandma. So watch what you
say. You never know when someone might be listening.