RevGal Friday Five: As my mother used to say…

As devised by yours truly for the RevGalBlogPals, but anyone can play!

This morning I had a moment in which I found myself wanting to reply to my teenager the way my father used to reply to me. Most of us have some classic family phrases or retorts or truisms handed down from parents to children.

Name five things you used to hear your mother or father (or even a grandparent) say, especially things you might be surprised to hear coming out of your own mouth.

My two grandmothers and my mother all used the following expressions:

“Pretty is as pretty does.”


“Make yourself useful as well as decorative.”

They were double-edged swords for me. On the one hand, I do hold the philosophical position that our actions are far more important than our appearance (Shh! Don’t tell MIM!!)
On the other hand, if you want to be “pretty” in that system, which I would have taken to mean appreciated and adored, you have to work very hard on doing everything just about perfectly. That has stayed with me, and it’s not always a good thing.

The other three are from my dad, and even though they have an edge, perhaps, I love remembering them all.

“I don’t care what anyone else is doing; I care about what you’re doing.”

This usually came when I was using the behavior and choices of peers as a defense or excuse. It was rigorous and logical and extremely lovingly delivered.

“Don’t give me any of that ‘who-struck-John!'”

I googled “who-struck-John” this morning, and it means b.s., which is what I always assumed. It’s also the name of a band. I think he said this more to my brother than to me, but you couldn’t be mad when he caught you speaking bu-, um, baloney, because the expression was so funny!!!

And finally, when we got the better of him, he would say with a grin,

“There’s nothing I hate worse than a smartass kid.”

By which he meant exactly the opposite, “There’s nothing that pleases me more than a clever take on the situation.”

All these speeches of my father’s were made more charming by his incredibly thick drawl, which I will try to express phonetically for you now:

“Theh-yuh’s nuh-thin’ Ah hey-ut wooooohhhsssshss tha-yun uh smah-yut ah-yus keeeee-yuuuuddddud.”

Then stretch it out further.

And a little bit further.

And just a little bit moh-wah.

10 thoughts on “RevGal Friday Five: As my mother used to say…”

  1. “When you grow up, you can be mean to your kids too.”
    “I don’t care, you go ahead and do what you want.”
    The first one was pretty much a nice way of saying, “I’m in charge.”
    The second one was Instant Guilt Trip designed to keep me from being overly stupid.
    I love my mom.

  2. “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken sh**”
    “If you lay down with dogs, you’re gonna get fleas.”
    “Let your conscience be your guide.” (Ugh, I hated that one)
    “It’s a long way down.” (said to make sure my sister and I got educated)
    “Put your shoulders back and your chest out and be proud.”

  3. “Don’t wish your life away” (if we said something like “I wish it was Christmas now”)
    “When it’s gone there’ll be no more hanker”
    What are we having for supper? “Potatoes and wish”
    (wish you had something to go with the potatoes – actually we always did)
    All above from my mother…
    And from my father…
    “Go away before I get mad and give you a half-a-dollar”
    (and a bunch more that aren’t quite printable in a family publication!)

  4. You brought back some memories. (grin)
    the most irritating was “No, means no!” and yes I’ve found myself using that – especially with DD!
    The sweetest was from ‘uncle percy’ who was an adopted uncle. He used to call out to me “here comes Lorna Doone” and I’d correct him giving my real surname. He exuded lots of love and when he died of a heart attack (I was 13) I was so sad.
    Closest to me was my dad and yet right now I can’t think of expressions he used – he was always so affirmative and encourgaging. He liked the word gobledegook – which still reminds me of him.
    Thanks for this trip down memory lane. I loved the expressions you shared.

  5. My mother doesn’t come off looking too flattering in these memories: what I remember her saying quite a bit in my adolescence were two things:
    “ever since the time of antony and cleopatra, it’s the girl who sets the tone for the relationship”
    “just because a boy takes you to the movies doesn’t mean he has the right to expect anything in return.”
    and generally, “don’t come crying to me if it doesn’t work out”
    The weird thing about the first two statements is that they really reflect her anxiety about sex. She really never said anything much to me or my sister about dealings with boys, and those statements were the sum total of any practical advice she offered. I must have been 20, seriously, before I figured out what the second one meant. And it would have been quite helpful to have known sooner, since I did date a guy who was horribly pushy and I was quite conflicted about what I was supposed to do.
    More happily, I remember my grandmother saying, every time she gave us a present, “I wish you luck to wear it and tear it to bits.”

  6. Susan, my mother also made cryptic statements about boys, which i guess I was blocking out when I wrote this yesterday, much along the lines of what you heard. Poor mothers of ours, imagine how little they understood?

  7. “Poor mothers of ours, imagine how little they understood?”
    That is a very generous way of looking at it, Songbird, which I have to admit I’ve not always cultivated. I’ll need to take this one to heart and ponder it a bit, since those sorts of sayings are at the root of some of the most difficult aspects of my relationship with my mother. And it would be good to get some peace with it all.

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