Thursday, December 2, 2010

Songs my mother taught me...

Alright, steady on you kids! Today's topic is 'songs my mother taught me' only they aren't songs and she didn't really teach me - she just said them all the time until I could whisper them under my breath as she said them in a cowardly act of semi-defiance. I won't give them to you in order - because there isn't any but just as they arise in my brain pan:

1.Who do you think you are? The Queen of Sheba? - this was used when any of us got 'too big for our britches' or 'cheeky'. I had no idea who the Queen of Sheba was but meant to look her up as an adult and 'give her a piece of my mind'. But I didn't because apparently she's been dead for centuries and centuries and is sick of little girls beseeching her ghost. I have looked her up in my Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, however : ahem....The Queen of Sheba is the queen who visited Solomon and apparently what has led to the saying above is that she came to Jerusalem with 'a very great train'.  So there you have it - that one demystified.  And yes, mom, and moms everywhere, I DO think I'm the Queen of Sheba!

2. Old as Methuselah- this had littler interest for me because anything 'old' was by its very nature not very compelling. The confusion on this one was that all my life I thought Methuselah was some old LADY in the bible but it was an old man - the oldest in the bible. He was 969 when he died. To my young mind there wasn't a great deal of difference between 969 and say...49. So. But this one leads to the next.

3. She looked like the Wreck of the Hesperous - never said about men oddly. Only women. What could the wreck of the hesperous be I oft wondered?  Well it was a schooner that fetched up badly as they say round these parts at Norman's Woe near Gloucester, Mass. in 1839 and was made famous by a poem Longfellow penned. I wish now to know whether Norman's Woe was named that before or after the wreck. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. At any rate it wasn't a good thing to be compared to a shipwreck and I definitely knew that even as a little pitcher.

4. Little pitchers have big ears - this was completely mystifying but I knew that it meant I should listen closely as something wildly gossipy was about to be uttered.  And so that is what my book tells me - little folk hear what is said when you little think it. The 'ear' of a pitcher is the handle made somewhat in the shape of a man's ear. OK - if you say so. I must say that I thought it was something to do with baseball as a child and wondered why folks that played that position would have bigger ears than say - the catcher.

5. If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all - no need to look this one up. I hated it then and I get uncomfortable when Buddhist texts talk about the importance of 'right speech' and that is because I like to fall by times into a wallow of gossipy bad talk. There. I admit it.

6. Mind your own beeswax - ok I will. I always liked this one even when it kept me from asking questions I was dying to ask - my mother's name was 'Bea' so there might have been some confusion there in the younger years. I won't even tell you how confusing it was to have my dad's name be Lloyd and here everyone say The Lloyd's Prayer. He ought in my living room I used to think...

7. You sound like an old fish-wife - I thought this a bit much when we lived my entire life in land-locked places. I thought it meant that fish wives were by the nature of their hard lives prone to hectoring but I find that the saying applies to those women with strident harsh voices because the wives of fisherman had to yell to sell their wares and were known for their charming (ha) flow of invective at the market place. OK - I'd like to sound like a fish-wife then.

8. And one of my favourites - rarely said by my mom and so treasured when she did let it escape her lips - And they were off - like the bride's brassiere!

Do you have any songs your mother taught you? Do share....


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Oh, those are great expressions!!! Thanks, too, for sharing your reactions to them and for explaining their backgrounds. Really interesting!!!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

These sound very familiar!

I think "children are seen and not heard" was something I occasionally heard--as well as "somebody's going to get hurt" (when the kids were running around like crazy people inside), and "your face will freeze like that." :)

Katie said...

My mum is the queen of not quite swearing. My personal favourite:
Jeepers Cripes!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

These are wonderful, Jan! Some are very familiar and some not-so-much. The one I remember hearing only once was "Don't do as I do, do as I say" which, even to my 10 year old ears, sounded so hypocritical that I made a remark to that effect. I never heard it again.

Words A Day said...

Its amazing, i had the queen of sheba too, and methusla, and if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all -
children should be seen and not heard
and the answer to my question "who?" when i overheard them gossip about someones scandalous behaviour was always - "A woman down the road!"
That woman sure had a colourful life!

Hart Johnson said...

Lloyd's Prayer--BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I love how kids mishear stuff.

I can't hear the name Methusela without thinking of the Parrot in Poisonwood Bible--foulmouthed thing that it was.

I love these. My mom said the "if you can't say anything nice..." on and "mind your P's and Q's" (I am POSITIVE she doesn't know it's a bar phrase), but for the most part she wasn't much on catch phrases.

Jemi Fraser said...

Those are great! My mom used #1, 2, 5 & 6 as well! :)

Jan Morrison said...

Hi ya all - nice to know there was really only one mom model! And yep to face freezing like - Elizabeth and Niamh, ditto the children should be seen and not absurd oooh, I mean heard. Hart - my mom said p's and q's but I don't know the origin of that (bar thing) I'm going to look it up right now... oh I just did - my Brewer's says that it was that the pub accounts were added up by p for pints and q for quarts so you would have to mind which they put! It also says it might simply be the similarity when one is learning the alphabet but I like the one involving beer better! It also says it might be from Louis XIV's court when you had to mind your P's (pieds - feet) and Q's (queues - wigs) when dancing as if you bent too low your wig might tumble!
I love words.
Thanks all for playing with me today...

Glynis said...

Yes, I most certainly have one.

"What are you trying to do, kill me?"

It started when she was teaching my brother how to drive. With him behind the steering wheel, mom thought he cut it a little close. It became a famous line whenever my brother or I did something questionable but not really wrong.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I heard most of these from my mom, too, especially that one about sounding like a fishwife. She also used to tell us kids, "You are your own worst enemy," when we did something wrong.

Jodi R. said...

"Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!"

"That's been around since Jesus (or Moses? or even Methuselah?) wore short pants."

For some reason I always say "old as Methuselah's goat." Not sure why his goat would have to be old, but it sounds good anyway!

I use wreck of the Hesperous all the time... prolly because I always look like it!

A favourite in our house was "The kitten comes from the cat" - always said with a really t'ick Nfld. accent. Whenever me or my Mom act like my grandmother, that one gets rolled out!

This is fun - thanks!

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