Old sayings..with help from Paul and Darryl

Last weekend when Darryl was out here and he was bowling his perfect game he, Paul and I got to talking about old sayings.  First we wondered what they were called.  Does anyone know if they have a name or if they are really just called “old sayings?”

A few of them, one or the other of us didn’t know what they meant or what they referred to.  We came up with these.   Can anyone think of any more?  Do you know what any of these don’t mean?   Do you still use these phrases in life now?

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

The early bird gets the worm

Can’t see the forest through the trees

The squeaky wheel gets the grease

Burning the candle at both ends

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Old habits die hard

What goes around comes around

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Birds of a feather flock together

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

While the cats away the mouse will play

Three sheets to the wind

Colder than a well diggers ass

A stitch in time saves nine

Drunker than a skunk  (Does a skunk get drunker than anything else???)

Slower than molasses in January

A watched pot never boils

Early to bed, early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise

Red sky at night, sailors delight

The grass is greener on the other side of the fence

Making a mountain out of a molehill

Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

A penny saved is a penny earned

Penny wise and pound foolish (my mom told me this one this morning.  I had never heard it).

I’ll admit that I say some of these things.  Do any of you?  Come on and put on your thinking caps and see if we can come up with some more.

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48 Responses to Old sayings..with help from Paul and Darryl

  1. SKL says:

    I use most of those. I just love those kinds of logical comparisons. I don’t know what “three sheets to the wind” means, though. And as far as the early bird stuff, well, it may be true, but I don’t acknowledge it!

    I am sure there are others I use but I am in no condition to think of them right now! Or maybe I can think of a few . . .

    a tempest in a teapot
    an apple a day keeps the doctor away (this is still true!)
    better late than never
    waste not, want not
    raindrops are pennies from Heaven
    knee high by the fourth of July
    quit while you’re ahead
    too big for his britches
    sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me
    you can’t have your cake and eat it too
    least said, soonest mended
    once bitten, twice shy
    the burnt finger teaches best
    crying with a loaf of bread under his arm
    little pitchers have big ears
    blind as a bat, deaf as a doorknob
    wake up and smell the coffee
    children should be seen and not heard (ha!)
    nip it in the bud
    til the cows come home
    an idle mind is the devil’s workshop
    treading on thin ice
    people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
    wind down, pipe down, simmer down
    bringing up the rear
    don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today (ha!)
    grasping at straws
    I got the short end of the stick
    at the end of my rope
    you’re holding up the show
    in the spotlight
    under the microscope
    lefty loosey, rightie tightie
    spring ahead, fall back
    all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
    that train already left the station
    that’s the pot calling the kettle black
    don’t put the cart before the horse
    small talk, straight talk, walk the talk
    draw a line in the sand
    toe the line
    a hop, skip and a jump
    a stone’s throw
    a place for everything and everything in its place
    weed out
    cut out the deadwood
    strike a new path
    be careful what you ask for
    money doesn’t grow on trees
    to make a long story short
    honesty is the best policy
    milking it
    poker face
    ship shape
    horse sense
    run its course, stay the course
    look before you leap
    skirting the issue
    turn the other cheek
    easier said than done
    be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all
    don’t judge a book by its cover
    he who laughs last laughs best
    laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone
    laughter is the best medicine
    he that is last shall be first
    time cures all ills
    make hay while the sun shines
    not playing with a full deck
    if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again
    where there’s a will there’s a way
    necessity is the mother of invention
    little strokes fell great oaks
    we’re all in the same boat
    it’s high time
    call a spade a spade

    OK, I have to stop now, this could go on all night. Who knew there were so many?

  2. Tosha says:

    I’ve heard most of those.. Say half of them..LOL

  3. I don’t know why the cold inspires swearing, but since you used the “a” word I will contribute this one that one of my high school classmates used to say all the time (he couldn’t’ve made it up, he wasn’t all that bright) :

    Colder than a witch’s tit in a brass brassiere.

    Now that’s cold!

  4. Laura (LS) says:

    Ok, these aren’t very common, but they’re pretty funny. They come from my self-professed “hillbilly” uncle:

    shakin’ like a hog’s ear in a high wind
    nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs
    smilin’ like a mule eatin’ pine burrs
    playin’ possum
    slow as a turtle in a sandstorm
    quick as a March hare

    and yes, I find myself using them quite a bit.

  5. Eric says:

    Joy I read yours and find I use a lot of them. lol

  6. Just a Mom says:

    I have heard most of these and I am guility of using a lot of them!

  7. Laura (LS) says:

    Oh, yeah, I forgot one. This is one you hear among a lot of sports fans, especially in Chicago…

    wait ’till NEXT year!

    And among fishermen…

    you shoulda been here LAST week!

  8. joanharvest says:

    “Quiet as a church mouse”. That’s the only one I can think of that hasn’t been mentioned. My father had some great ones but he’s in heaven (at least I think he made it there) so I can’t ask him. He had some very unique ones.

    The one I use the most is “What goes around, comes around.” My mother was always saying “Where there is a will there’s a way”.

    “the pot calling the kettle black” is one I also use but I usually forget the exact wording and I just have the kettle calling the pot a dumbass.

  9. SKL says:

    let the chips fall where they may
    beggars can’t be choosers
    the school of hard knocks
    that’s the way the ball bounces / cookie crumbles
    catch as catch can
    straight from the horse’s mouth
    beauty is in the eye of the beholder
    one man’s trash is another man’s treasure
    throw a wrench in the works
    the more the merrier

    you can put lipstick on a pig . . . oh, sorry, that’s in a different category!!

  10. SKL says:

    I like the kettle calling the pot dumbass!

  11. SKL says:

    I can’t stop thinking about this post and I’m beginning to wonder if I have ever spoken a sentence that didn’t contain this type of adage or metaphor.

  12. Sue says:

    I have heard a lot of these and say some of them. To go with Red sky at night, sailors delight is red sky in the morning sailors take warning. That’s all I’ve got!

  13. mssc54 says:

    Oh c’mon, I know every one of you ladies know this one.


  14. SKL says:

    mssc54, I say that to my kids regularly!

  15. thegoddessanna says:

    I swear three sheets to the wind is a naval term… something about 3 sails to the wind. My favorite is a recent phrase, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.” I’ve heard all of the above, but can’t think of any others. Humph.

  16. mssc54 says:

    Did I miss this one..

    Bussier than a three legged cat in a litter box.

  17. mssc54 says:


    I saw you wrote “bringing up the rear”

    Isn’t that a liposuction procedure? 🙂

  18. Joy says:

    LOL mssc54, I’ve heard busier than a one armed paper hanger!

    Three sheet to the wind, at least around these parts means your DRUNK! It could be a naval term too though

  19. SKL says:

    Funny! I keep thinking of another saying every time I turn around (hey, there’s one), but if I kept coming back to add them here, you all would think I have a screw loose (hey, there’s one).

  20. Joy says:

    That’s funny SKL. That’s how we were the other night. One of us kept thinking of more.

  21. Mary says:

    These sorts of sayings do have a name. They are called aphorisms. Everyone seems to have come up with quite a lot of them between the post and the comments.

  22. Joy says:

    Thanks Mary, I should have known you’d know this.

  23. SanityFound says:

    This is excellent, I use a lot of the above and then wonder why people give me strange blank looks rofl thanks for this one!

  24. pammy says:

    If you eat the crust of the bread,you will grow hair on your chest

  25. Joy says:

    LOL Pammy, that is so Grandma and Grandpa Froom. I love it.

  26. nikki says:

    I’ve missed a lot in the last few days!! I say a lot of these saying!! Some I have never heard but are very funny!! Great post Joy.

  27. Jane says:

    I have really enjoyed reading these. They remind me of my grandma. I’ll show them to her and ask her if she has any to add.

  28. Pingback: Weekly fruit salad - Número Quince « SanityFound’s Rambling’s

  29. Bobs says:

    Just a few more. Some a bit too metaphorical, too recent and, perhaps, too Canada side.

    – A toot (flatulence) that would turn a cat’s ear a block away.
    – (after a toot) Sounds better since you got it tuned up.
    – Lights are on but nobodys’ home
    – Willy nilly
    – crap shoot (risky)
    – Good night shirt! (My Dad’s worst explitive)
    – Punch out his clock.
    – Fair weather friend.
    – He’s (or she’s or it’s) toast
    – knifed in the back
    – Twiddle your thumbs
    – Cock and bull story. (hate to say it, but “bullshit” says a lot)
    – Love at first glance.
    – Better late than never.
    – If the shoe fits, wear it.
    – Hung out to dry.
    – He’s always a day late and a dollar short
    – Oh, for crying in the sink.
    – Nobody with notice you/it going by in a taxi.

  30. larryW says:

    What’s the origin of “Good night shirt”?

    • Cathy says:

      I want to know the origin of this shirt as well. I have searched all over the internet and no one seems to know. Sheldon wears the shirt on Big Bang Theory and until I found one that could actually be purchased, I wasn’t even sure what the design was.

  31. Joy says:

    I don’t know larry.

  32. Eliza says:

    aphorisms maybe the formal name for these sayings, however, there is another name for them, which I can’t remember. After all I am retired.

    Does anyone know the more common name for them beside “old sayings”.

    • Barbara says:

      I am not sure if this is the one you are thinking about however, might it be Euphemisms.

    • Michael Mathern says:

      I think the word you are looking for is ‘adage’ which means “a short but memorable saying or phrase” which most people hold to be true.

  33. Kari says:

    Does anyone know where the phrase ” good night shirt ” comes from and what it means? My Grandpa usedto say it all the time, and we are all still baffled..Thanks!

  34. Barbara says:

    This has been a nice trip down memory lane. Yes I am guilty of still using quite a few of them. I hope I am not duplicating any from previous comments. Here’s just a few I can think of.

    You shouldn’t cry over spilt milk
    You are judged by the company you keep
    I’m turning a deaf ear to you
    Don’t forget to take time to smell the roses
    Nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof

    That is all I can think of as most of them have already been posted and thanks to all for helping me to remember all the things my dear Mom used to say to get her point across….most all the time. She never seemed to run out of the one liners.

  35. Robert says:

    Three Sheets in the Wind
    To understand this phrase we need to enter the arcane world of nautical terminology. Sailors’ language is, unsurprisingly, all at sea and many supposed derivations have to go by the board. Don’t be taken aback to hear that sheets aren’t sails, as landlubbers might expect, but ropes (or occasionally, chains). These are fixed to the lower corners of sails, to hold them in place. If three sheets are loose and blowing about in the wind then the sails will flap and the boat will lurch about like a drunken sailor.

    Back in the day, I remember hearing;
    Do it right… Do it once
    Burning Daylight
    Daylight’s a waisting
    Screw loose
    Foot loose and fancy free
    In a coons age
    Knock me over with a feather
    Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
    Pretty as a lark
    Follow the straight and narrow path
    Lead on McDuff
    A bill of goods
    Smile like a cheshire cat
    Middle of the road
    When push comes to shove
    Indian Giver
    Going to hell in a handbasket
    You are what you eat
    You make your bed, now lie in it
    Pulling yourself up by your boot straps
    Devil in the Details
    Heavens to Betsy
    Rules were made to be broken
    It’s not over till the fat lady sings
    That’s Life
    Penny pincher
    The whole nine yards
    That’s all she wrote!

  36. Ann says:

    Hi, everyone! I’m new here–these postings were cracking me up :-).  My dad is from Oklahoma and has some priceless phrases.  My mind is blanking a little right now, but not on my all-time favorite:

    • “Don’t tell me fat meat ain’t greasy.”–Used to let me or one of my brothers know that he knew we were lying and he was on to us.  Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but I’ve never heard anyone else use this saying.    I have a couple more (not provided by my dad).  I tried to make sure that the following phrases hadn’t been mentioned already.  These came to mind because I taught English in Mexico in 1988-89 and was required to teach these, even though I didn’t know anyone who used them:
    • “I bought it for a song.”
    • “It cost me a pretty penny.”

    And I have been known to say, 
    • “Well, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black.” 😉

  37. Ann says:

    Oh! I forgot to say that in trying to find a name for these “old sayings” I came across this website: http://www.bored.com/findcliches/wordphrases.htm
    I wasn’t able to look through the exhaustive list at the time, but I saw a couple of things I’ve said:
    • a blast from the past
    • willy nilly

  38. Ann says:

    Thanks, Joy. You know, I was just looking through this site (is that what it’s called? Today was the very first time I read and commented on anyone’s blog) and your comments and people’s responses to you tell me that you are a special, kind and interesting woman.

    • Joy says:

      Thanks Ann. There are 4 of us that do this blog together. We like to keep it interesting but we always welcome new people. The more the merry.

  39. Larry says:

    Handy as a pocket on a shirt
    best thing since sliced bread
    your ass is the blackest (it means perfect)

  40. Amanda says:

    I love old sayings and the only other word I know for them is adage. My mom uses them all the time. Occasionally she gets carried away with them 🙂

  41. Michael Mathern says:

    The small word for the above is ‘adage.’ Which refers to a short but memorable phrase which most people hold to be true to a large degree…

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