parents say the darndest things
October 14, 2008 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Help me compile a list of vintage hokey parental catchphrases.

"Shape up or ship out," "goodnight, nurse!" and "like it or lump it" will be forever tied the adult figures who loomed large in my childhood. What colorful sayings did your parents and grandparents overuse? The mustier and more inexplicable, the better.
posted by roger ackroyd to Writing & Language (157 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
This is gonna hurt you more than it hurts me.

Life's not fair.

Homework is an easy A.
posted by chillmost at 11:52 AM on October 14, 2008

When my grandmother would tell me about the lively parties she used to throw, she'd always claim "I really tied one on!" (She never quite learned how to hold her booze.)
posted by numinous at 11:53 AM on October 14, 2008

If you can ___ then you can ____.

(ie, if you can make such a big mess in your room, then surely you can clean it up)
posted by Autarky at 11:54 AM on October 14, 2008

Any answers you get here will be about as useful as tits on a bull.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:55 AM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

“Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

“I’ll hit you so hard your brother will feel it.”

“It’s just growing pains.” (said by my dad about pretty much any ailment I ever complained about)

“It will be a cold day in Florida before I [something dad has no intention of letting me do.] (I always hated this one. Didn’t the Challenger come apart partly because it was a cold day in Florida?)

“Don’t get smart!” (Said by dad whenever I pointed out a flaw in his logic.)

“Smarten up!”
posted by bondcliff at 11:55 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

From my grandma:

"I didn't know him from a bale of hay."

"She was the lay of the land."
posted by marxchivist at 11:56 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it."
posted by owtytrof at 11:59 AM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'll knock you into the middle of next week.

How would you like a knuckle sandwich?

You're slower than molasses in January.
posted by chillmost at 12:00 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Don't burn your bridges before you come to them."
"You only live once in a while."
"Hindsight is 50-50."
"Don't put all your chickens in one basket."
And my favorite: "Put on a sweater, I'm cold."

Love ya, mom!
posted by Floydd at 12:00 PM on October 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

Wait 'til your father gets home
posted by chillmost at 12:01 PM on October 14, 2008

"Hold your horses"
"Hold your jets"
"Tough titties, said the kitties"
posted by triggerfinger at 12:02 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're gonna put somebody's eye out with that.
posted by amyms at 12:03 PM on October 14, 2008

"If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you?"
posted by Wet Spot at 12:03 PM on October 14, 2008

"Finish your dinner... kids are starving in Africa."
posted by rokusan at 12:03 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"If you don't know something, you just get a tutor, that's what they're for."

"You'll have more fun once you get to college."

"Walk in there like you own the place."

"Don't ask the question if you don't want to know the answer."

"Whatever you do is right."

All from my dad; my mom said plenty of funny stuff but only once, whereas I heard these several times. Still do hear them, actually.
posted by shirobara at 12:03 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do as I say, not as I do.
posted by adiabat at 12:03 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Per amyms, my version was "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye."
posted by rokusan at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2008

"I gotta go talk to a man about a horse"
posted by sanka at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2008

One of my mom's favorites--said when it was raining outside:

"Well, go're not made of sugar. You won't melt."
posted by divka at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

"If you're going to tiptoe through the tulips, wear a slipper."
posted by piedmont at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

These have already helped me remember that my grandmother liked to use the word "malarkey" as often as possible.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:07 PM on October 14, 2008

Why? Because I said so.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:07 PM on October 14, 2008

My dad's standard response whenever I or my stepsiblings asked for something: "People in hell want ice water."
posted by amyms at 12:09 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"You're not your sister." (in response to any "But you let HER do it...")
posted by rokusan at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2008

"You're cruisin' for a bruisin'!"

My Grandma's favorite: "Law sakes!" -- similar to "oh my!"

Grandpa would always ask, "Whata'ya say?" as a way of saying, "what's up?" or "what's going on?" I always took it literally. Gee gramps, I don't say much.

"Slicker than snot on a door knob."

"We're way out near Robin Hood's barn," as a way to describe how lost you were.

"Hotter than blue blazes."
posted by nitsuj at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not from my parents of course, but "DANGER POINT! YOU LEFT THE OVEN ON!!" is my favorite.

I always thought it was hilarious when my mom called my brother a son of a bitch.

Me: Where are we going?
Mom: To hell.
Dad: In a handbasket.
Together: If we don't change our ways.

You want a knuckle sandwich? With fist sauce?
posted by sephira at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

My father was partial to "hooligans", for any undesireables or nighttime noise-makers.
posted by rokusan at 12:11 PM on October 14, 2008

Not one from my parents, but I seem to use it a lot with my five year old:

You don't have to like it, but you do have to do it.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 12:12 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whenever I or my stepsiblings asked my dad anything along the lines of "Where are you going?" or "What are you doing?" his standard "none of your business" response was "I'm goin' to Fort Worth to pick up a load of hogs"... We lived nowhere near Fort Worth and his line of work had nothing to do with hogs.
posted by amyms at 12:12 PM on October 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

From my dad, whenever I got picked on or beat up at school, which was often:

“Just kick him in the family jewel.”
posted by bondcliff at 12:13 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Er, I mean Jewels. Well, except for that time when ol' Oneball McGee bothered me.
posted by bondcliff at 12:14 PM on October 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

I always say:

I'll beat you like a rented mule. (Of course I never beat them, except sometimes to the dinner table.)

My father always said:

It takes a good driver to hit all the bumps.

We're off, like a herd of turtles.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 12:15 PM on October 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

When I was a youngster, my friend's mom always used to admonish us when we left her house in cold or inclement weather: "You girls should wear babushkas; you're going to catch your death of foolishness!"

This was not an admonishment, but an ethnic best friend's mom, who was born and raised in Dublin, always commented when she'd see a British performer on TV or in a film: "You can always tell when a man's from England - you could drive a horse and cart across his chin!"

My cranky ol' Dad's two favorite sayings when reviewing an actor or singer or other entertainer he disliked: "I wouldn't walk across the street to see him!" -or- (if he thought the performer was particularly lame) "He is strictly from hunger!" (pronounced emphatically HUN-ger!!)
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:15 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Some of my grandfather and father's favorites:

"Be good. But if you can't be good, be careful!"
"There's a fever in the south and no doctor." - said when you have a good card hand
"If size meant anything, a cow could catch a rabbit."
"He's happier than a mule eating briars."
"Holy Toledo!" / "Good Gravy!"
"She's cuter than a bug's ear!"
"I've really been sucking the hind teat today."
posted by bjork24 at 12:18 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"I know where you came from, and I can put you back in there."
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 12:18 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

One more:

Me: I'm hungry!
Dad: Nice to meet you, Hungry. I'm Dan.
posted by bjork24 at 12:19 PM on October 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

If your arm [etc] hurts when you move it that way [etc], then don't move it that way. A lot of doctor's [grand]children suffer variations on that one.
posted by kmennie at 12:20 PM on October 14, 2008

@bjork24 - love your dad's snappy answer. We had a similar routine in our house.

Me: "Make me a peanut butter sandwich!"
Dad: "Poof! You're a peanut butter sandwich."
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

from my dad I heard a lot of "honor thy father and thy mother" his favorite commandment. also "people in hell want ice water" and "because I said so".
Mom didn't bother with any trite phrases, she knew an actual reason would work better on me. But she did say "shit" a lot. She still does, actually.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:24 PM on October 14, 2008

Don't make me stop this car.

Has any parent ever really stopped the car?
posted by COD at 12:24 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My Dad was famous for the ".... I went to school with him/her." He'd tack this onto anything someone said that resembled a name.

For instance, I'd comment how our new car had a lot Less Legroom than the other one, and he'd follow with, "...I went to high school with him." It was my job, then, to figure out what I had said that resembled a name.
posted by nitsuj at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

One of my favorites from my dad, that I've passed on to my own kids: When tired and stretching, let out a satisfied "Ahhh, I'd stretch a mile if I didn't have to walk back."
posted by amyms at 12:26 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

COD: yes, but the immediate apologies and promises of good behavior made it go again.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2008

"Dad, when you were my age, didn't you--"
"When I was your age, I was 21."

Always helpful. Also, to be said specifically to me only when my mother was in the room:

"Son, don't ever get married." (They are still married.)
posted by Skot at 12:28 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Don't assume. It makes an ASS out of U and ME.

Don't make me count to 3!

My full name.

Get you head outta yer ass! - This is legendary and might end up on my father's tombstone.
posted by chillmost at 12:29 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

If I came in after playing and I was covered in dirt and my clothes were ripped or dirty:

You look like you were sent for and didn't make it.
posted by chillmost at 12:31 PM on October 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

@COD: Yes, I actually had to once.
posted by bricoleur at 12:32 PM on October 14, 2008

Eat what you can and then finish the rest.
posted by milarepa at 12:32 PM on October 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

"Mildew" as an answer to "there's nothing to do".

How's that for musty?
posted by dirtdirt at 12:34 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Close the door! Were you raised in a barn?

Close the door! You think I'm air-conditioning the whole goddamn neighborhood?

When my fly was down:
Look out! you cow is getting out of the barn!

or alternatively,

Your barn doors are open!
posted by chillmost at 12:34 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

MY grandfathers 2 favorites were:
Its colder then a witches tit.
The dog would have caught the rabbit if he hadnt stopped to take a piss.
posted by ShawnString at 12:35 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Always remember to marry for money. Either you'll learn to love her or you can just divorce and take half.
posted by Autarky at 12:36 PM on October 14, 2008

My mom didn't have many catchphrases, but she refers to toilets as either "stools" or "turlets."
posted by bjork24 at 12:37 PM on October 14, 2008

You'll get nothing and like it.
If I find it, can I spank you?
If wishes were horses than beggars would ride.
posted by plinth at 12:38 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and my grandparents always made me laugh with this exchange, repeated thousands of times over thousands of hands of canasta. It's weird to say, but I miss canasta now.

"Well, time to shit or get off the pot."
(Young Skot cracks up)
posted by Skot at 12:38 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Don't let your mouth write a check that your ass can't cash."
posted by purplemonkie at 12:39 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

  • There's worse things happen at sea.
  • Don't trip over your bottom lip.
  • Don't take that tone with me.
  • The wind will change and you'll get stuck like that.
  • It's not a debate.
  • What have I told you about [insert something previously unmentioned].
  • Don't make me have to repeat myself.

posted by mandal at 12:48 PM on October 14, 2008

From my dad:
"Don't get smart with me! I MADE you!"
posted by kidsleepy at 12:48 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My favorite from an Irish friend's mom was "I can't have you gallivanting about the countryside."

My grandpa always used to say, when we were leaving "Well, I'm glad you got to see me."
posted by abkadefgee at 12:50 PM on October 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

My grandfather doesn't have many catchphrases, but I picked up the word "whatnot" from him.

From my mother: "Cease and desist!"
posted by clerestory at 12:52 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"You're 5 years old? Why, just last year you were 4" (Kid works it out, adults all groan)

And my favorite saying that my mother passed on to me when I was seven (because I cursed too much, oy). "Piss, shit and corruption!"
posted by nax at 12:53 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is for your own good.
posted by now i'm piste at 12:53 PM on October 14, 2008

"Now we're cooking with gas."

Used to mean we were finally on the right track. I have no idea why.

"Isn't she just precious?"

Translation: She's a cheap, nasty whore.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:54 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"If you want to get back on your feet, you've got to get up off your ass."

A couple from my grandmother (Scottish): "... if I'm spared" appended to the end of any query in the future ("I'll see you next week, if I'm spared"); "If it's for you, it'll no' go by you" (applied usually to bad things happening to deservedly bad people [ie, most of us], or very rarely, good things coming your way).
posted by scruss at 12:57 PM on October 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

"If you don't be careful, your face might freeze that way." (Scowling, that is.)
posted by dreamphone at 1:00 PM on October 14, 2008

"Your face is going to freeze that way."

"Not in my house you won't."

"I'm not so-and-so's mother. I'm YOUR mother."

"Into every life, a little rain must fall."

"I may not know when you're being bad, but God does."
posted by jeanmari at 1:03 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you complained about having to take a jacket or wear boots etc. my mom always said: "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it."

When asking for some spending money, my dad's favorite line was:
"If I had half your money, I'd burn mine."

When you complained about something not being as good as you thought it was going to be, my dad's standard answer was: "Well, it's better than a kick in the bum."

And one of my dad's that we never understood: "He's got more _________ than Carter's got pills."
posted by pixlboi at 1:03 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Are you an Ameri-can or an Ameri-can't?

(My wife got this one)
posted by O9scar at 1:04 PM on October 14, 2008

"We'll see."

This would be in response to questions like:
"Can we please get a dog?"

It isn't no, and it isn't yes, and it's maddening.
posted by Kangaroo at 1:05 PM on October 14, 2008

@pilxboi: "...than Carter has pills" was big in our house, too.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:08 PM on October 14, 2008

When we were little kids, our parents never swore in font of us. Instead, when my dad was frustrated with us he would bark out, "God bless it!!" with such force and obvious frustration that it was actually a relief when we got older, and he let down his guard enough to (mildly) swear in front of us.

Of course now, as an adult, I have to explain that some of his emails are NSFW...
posted by mosk at 1:09 PM on October 14, 2008

These were my college roommate's (originally her mother's). My parents didn't have folksy catchphrases--unless you count "Just an A? Where are the pluses?"--so I was DELIGHTED when I heard these:

"Hold on, Buster Brown, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck!" (translation: I wasn't born yesterday)

"I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers." (translation: He's hot/charming/adorable/etc.)
posted by Ms. Informed at 1:10 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oy vey. Just reading many of these has regressed me to 9 years old. My father, the Fort Worth-born son of a rodeo rider, had so, so many of these hokey weird sayings. Most common around my house:
  • "It's time to fish or cut bait"*
  • "don't do the crime if you can't do the time" (used in our house toward errant children and teens, viz. "you know what the punishment will be, so don't break the rules if you can't handle the consequences")
  • He/she "looks rode hard and put away wet"*
  • "You've really got something there!" (used to "compliment" an ugly baby, or any other thing that is not compliment-worthy but for which a compliment is expected. Immediately became family code for "hooboy that's a face only a mother could love")
  • "Enough blue to make a pair of overalls" (a way to gauge a partly cloudy sky and decide whether it's actually going to rain)
  • so-and-so is "full of shit as a Christmas turkey"*
  • "you can't bullshit a fellow bullshitter"*
  • Response to whiny child: "well, wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first."
  • If someone was being bossy, he'd say, "want me to just come in the back door next time?", which I never quite understood but assumed it meant, "you're treating me like the help, should I come in the servant's door?"
  • Referring to someone whose actions he can't control: "She's free, white and 21"
Similar to others upthread, we also heard a lot of "if you can't be good, be good at it", "don't let your mouth write a check...",

Interestingly, my mother didn't have too many of these, and didn't really care for my dad's colloquialisms. The only idiom that I remember her using regularly was "You can get glad in the same pants you got mad in," and "It's just as easy to marry a rich man as it is to marry a poor man." (which in hindsight, might explain a lot?)

*These are the ones that I catch myself saying, and then have a panicky frisson of "OMG I'VE TURNED OLD/INTO MY FATHER".

>>"Now we're cooking with gas."

DarlingBri, my spouse also says this, in the exact same vein. I asked him where he got it, and he said from his mother, who grew up in New York State. Any help there? I'm really curious as to the origin.
posted by pineapple at 1:10 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"Prevention is the best policy." This is in response to anything I couldn't see a good reason for.

"Honesty is the best policy."

"You kids think you know everything - but I have experience!"

"If you get emotional, you let the other person win." This one was pulled out whenever I tried to argue a point.

"Sighing takes three years off your life." Seriously, wtf.

...I think I have issues.
posted by casarkos at 1:13 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"If all the other kids jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?"

This was so annoying that I learned pretty quickly never to ask for something "because all the other kids have one."
posted by chez shoes at 1:14 PM on October 14, 2008

"Have fun!" (cheerfully delivered as I go off to school, and later, work.

IS EVERYTHING OKAY?!??!?! (in response to any reference to being tired, stressed.)

What did you eat today? (holdover from being a picky, underweight kid.)

Huh. My parents are kind of anxious people.
posted by desuetude at 1:15 PM on October 14, 2008

"If it flies, floats, or fucks, rent it"
posted by vito90 at 1:18 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My father-in-law is full of these but right now I can only remember one: "If wishes were fishes we'd all cast nets."
posted by Brittanie at 1:21 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"I'm not your maid."
posted by Lucinda at 1:24 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

don't make me turn this car around!
posted by peep at 1:27 PM on October 14, 2008

"Now we're cooking with gas."

DarlingBri, my spouse also says this, in the exact same vein. I asked him where he got it, and he said from his mother, who grew up in New York State.

My mum grew up in Washington state and went to college at Barnard, so I dunno; possibly it's a regional thing, though that seems tenuous at best. My spouse says he'd heard it before he met me, but only on television, so it must have been in reasonably wide circulation at some point.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on October 14, 2008

Me: I feel cold.
Dad: Really? I feel with my hands.

(Loud fart)
Dad: Damn barking spiders again.

(After doing something reckless like driving over speed bumps at 25 MPH)
Dad: Don't worry; it's a rent-a-car!
(All the kids wanted to ride with him on vacations.)
posted by Alison at 1:38 PM on October 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

My dad's favorite, in response to "Where are we going?": "Crazy, wanna come?"
posted by alpha_betty at 1:39 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kids: What's that ________ doing there?
Father: Looks like the backstroke to me!
posted by matildaben at 1:49 PM on October 14, 2008

@Alison: tag added in honor of your dad.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:49 PM on October 14, 2008

Clean up this pig sty!
What do you want? A medal?
(mom) Time for bed! (us ) Why? (mom) Because I'm tired.
When looking for something:"If it was any closer it'd bite you on the nose"
posted by Gungho at 1:52 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"How would you like a rap in the slats?" - I believe this means a hard slap in the rear.

"I'll slap you from here to Canarsie!" - My family came from Brooklyn.

"You're eating like a starving Armenian!" - I was too young to understand what genocide meant.

And many, many phrases in Polish that I didn't know the meaning of but certainly understood the emotion.
posted by tommasz at 1:53 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"He's got more _________ than Carter's got pills." My dad says this, but stresses that the pills in question are always liver pills. He's also fond of "wish in one hand and shit in the other" and "busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest."

My husband repeats the turnip truck comment, but also says: "Do you think I came down with the last drop of rain?" When my clutzy son or I fall down, trip, etc., you can expect to hear him say "What, did you just get those legs?" from somewhere in the house.

I'd forgotten a lot of the sayings my grandparents had. It seems like a lot of other MeFites' heard all of the same stuff I did as kids. Thanks for the reminders.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 1:59 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"I need (x) like I need a hole in the head."
posted by houseofdanie at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My Nonna always said:

"First comes laughing, then comes crying." (usually when we were roughhousing)

"There's a lid for every pot." (when it came to couples and dating)

and after a sneeze, she'd say, "Bless you and keep you in a plastic container."

OH! And the famous, "Eat it or wear it."
And yes, I wore it.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:06 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

My mother was fond of "I see, I see, said the blind man to his deaf son" in response to a tailing "I see" in conversation. When pressed, she admitted freely that she had no idea what that meant.

My father was never a particularly skilled linguist and often botched his phrases (although reliably so). One that stands out in particular is "Got the picture - the whole picture - the picture in the frame?". Another great one is the addition of "If God says the same." after any statement about the future.
posted by bookwo3107 at 2:07 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're just tired.

BTW, I've always thought the "cooking with gas" reference was derived from the fact that gas stoves cooked more efficiently than wood stoves.
posted by jasper411 at 2:12 PM on October 14, 2008

I'll have to think about the colorful ones from my parents' east Texas raising. But the one that I'll never forget is my dad's advice about posture: "Knockers up!"
posted by immlass at 2:17 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Go soak your head!"

"When pigs fly."

"Hay is for horses." (When we said 'hey'.)
posted by wryly at 2:19 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I assumed that the "cooking with gas" thing was because when you turn on a gas stove, you're turning on a flame. So it's akin to saying "wow, you're on fire!"
posted by desuetude at 2:26 PM on October 14, 2008

Do you think money grows on trees?

If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to really cry about!
posted by Linnee at 2:28 PM on October 14, 2008

My Grandmother had two of my favorites: "It'll never be noticed on a galloping horse," (about less than perfect housecleaning) and "Just cripple it and run it past the fire," (how she liked her meat cooked)--she grew up in pre-statehood New Mexico and Texas.

Mom always says, "Well, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick," about any small pain either emotional or physical. When correcting my posture it was: "Stand up like a puppet on a string!" (Which didn't really make that much sense to me, but I have very good posture nonetheless). She grew up in an Arizona border town and so she often sprinkles Mexicanish words in her speech (Undalay! or Vamoose! when she wants us to hurry)
posted by agatha_magatha at 2:29 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

When looking for something:"If it was any closer it'd bite you on the nose"

That reminds me: my dad's version is "If it was a snake, it would've bit you."
posted by peep at 2:34 PM on October 14, 2008

My mom used to call me "sweetness and light" when she was really pissed. That's when I knew I was in deep shit. "Sweetness and light" was even worse than when she used my full name.

My dad would announce "bedtime for bonzo" whenever it was time for us to go to bed. But his famous catch phrase was "wet leaves are as slippery as ice". He said it more frequently as we got closer to getting our drivers licenses.

I remember "use it or lose it, but you'll look funny without it" being said, also.
posted by paulus andronicus at 2:37 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My sisters and I would always fight over who got to do something first, sit in the front seat, etc., and my parents would say, Remember, girls, the Bible says the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The Bible does indeed say that, but it doesn't mean what they tried to convince us it meant. Bah.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:39 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My dad was always partial to "Quit your grabassing!" when my brother and I were acting up. the visuals on that one still crack me up.
posted by tenderman kingsaver at 2:47 PM on October 14, 2008

(upon finding an open window or door)

What are you trying to do? Heat the great outdoors?
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:11 PM on October 14, 2008

My grandmother would say, "Well, I swan!" as an expression of surprise and "sugar" instead of "shit" -- yes, as in "bullsugar." If someone came to the table after everyone else had started eating, she said, "We waited for you like one dog waits for another!" Also, "mind the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves."

pineapple, I've heard so many of those from my father! If you look like you'd been rode hard and put away wet, you also might have been dragged through a drainpipe backwards. Or maybe you just look like ten miles of bad road (no cause specified).

Also from him and various (mostly male) relatives:

"Ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag."

"Too dumb to pour piss out of a book with instructions on the heel."

"Fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."

"Useless as tits on a boar hog."

"Cold as a well-digger's ass."

"Don't make me tell you twice."

"Who told you life was fair?"

"'Tough titty' said the kitty when the milk went dry."
posted by dogrose at 3:16 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"pour piss out of a BOOT," of course. Since I'm too dumb to preview.
posted by dogrose at 3:17 PM on October 14, 2008

When given pocket money, or money for a birthday gift: "don't spend it all at once!".
posted by Joh at 3:20 PM on October 14, 2008

my dad's way of saying goodbye: "write when you get work!"
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:28 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

When coming out of a pit toilet my father always said " Whew, stagger a maggot!"

"There is nothing sadder than an old fag." (This from a man who died the night his remaining leg was amputated.)

In response to our singing would ask if we had heard the song "Go sing in the closet?" or "Go sing in the freeway"

If any of us said "I want...," he would say "How does it feel to want?" or "Save your pennies."

"Aww go shit in your hat"

"Look forward to wearing hard shoes for the rest of your life" He no like sneakers.

ad infinitum
posted by pianomover at 3:54 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My siblings and I had the following conversation many times with our Dad. We never learned.

Kid: Dad, guess who I saw today?

Dad: Everyone you looked at!
posted by genefinder at 4:02 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Go play in traffic!
God willing and the creek don't rise.
Stick that lip out any further and a bird's gonna poop on it.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:20 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My Mum exclaims "I'll __________ you!" in response to anything she feels is smarty-pants or naughty, selecting the key word out of the sentence you've just used to club you with.

Confusing, I know, so here are a few examples:

Me: "I'll just have to come home late then!"
Mum: "I'll late you!"

Me: "This cake tastes like dust"
Mum: "I'll dust you!"

Me: "I feel like an idiot in this dresss"
Mum: "I'll idiot you!"

I'm not sure if anyone else on earth does this, by the way.
posted by lottie at 4:26 PM on October 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

Standards from my father:

"box of birds/fluffy ducks" in response to "how's things?"
"knock it off, you two"
"I'll bang your heads together and make you walk home!"

My mother said things like:

"you look like the wreck of the Hesperus"
"the wind will change"

While her sister was somewhat more colourful:

"we're out of here like shit on skids"
"we're off like rotten socks"
"now we're cooking with fossil fuel"

And from my Scottish grandparents-in-law:

"if you don't like it, you deserve something better"
"...and you'll no see what I give you"
"all to one side like Guirrich"
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 4:34 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Someone upthread mentioned "I'm glad you got to see me"...

My sister-in-law's retort to that is "The pleasure was all yours."
posted by amyms at 5:05 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Well, that's too bad" = "Toughski crapski!" (Later.. "Toughski shitski!")

"You can't win for losing."
posted by citron at 5:10 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Geeze, my parents must be the king and queen of quirky phrases. I grew up with well over half of these things being said in our house.

Some more:

"Oh now you're crying crocodile tears"
-said when I had a pouty self-pitying cry

"Do you want me to call the toe truck?"
-said when someone stubbed their toe

"That's backi!"
-I have heard this is from Dutch??? Never been able to confirm. It basically means that something is yucky, don't touch it. Have no idea how it's properly spelled, either.

"You're full of beans!"
-Grandpa's way of saying "You're full of it!"

"Shoot a pickle!"
-Both my aunt and my mother-in-law say this. My mom just cut to the chase and said "shit".

"You dum koff!"
-This came from my Dutch grandfather, although I think it's German. It means "dumb head," of course.

I have a whole bunch of Minnesota-specific ones, but a lot of them were already covered upthread. Not too shabby!
posted by bristolcat at 5:15 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

If the Queen had balls, she'd be the King.
posted by junipero at 5:26 PM on October 14, 2008

my father, referring to a large-framed, overweight, or muscular person:

"built like a brick shithouse."
posted by exlotuseater at 5:27 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Us: "Are we there yet?"

Them: "Yup, just looking for parking" (no matter how far from our destination.
posted by Abbril at 5:27 PM on October 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

I want doesn't get! (said in response to childish whinges beginning "I want a...")

Mmmhmmm is not a word! (Said if we tried to grunt rather than using standard English)

You aren't a sweetie mouse, you won't melt in the rain.
posted by Tapioca at 5:28 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

oh, and when I got loud, "hey, keep it down to a dull roar."

there's more, but now I can't think of them and the attempt at recall is making me maudlin.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:30 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

A couple of Belfast parental sayings..

"Do you think I just floated down the Lagan in a bubble?" ( you expect me to believe that?)

"I'll swing with a smile in Crumlin Road." ('re about to push me to the point of murdering you but I'll go happily to the gallows)
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:31 PM on October 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

A few fondly remembered lines

- Whatcha got on? Your mind?

- If I want any shit from you I'll squeeze your head

- See the happy moron (said by my mom whenever I was doing something silly)

- Ratfink (in lieu of the more common curse words)

- It's cold as flugens (no idea how to spell that)

- You don't need it, you want it

- I see said the blind man

- Oh my stars and garters

- God bless your cotton socks

- You're not living up to your potential

A few from my wife:

- Leave your brother alone, one day he'll be bigger than you

- As long as you're living under my roof...

Picked up from other folks over the years

- It's good to want things

- Times are tough

- Get your feet off the table. You'll give everyone diarrhea
posted by wabbittwax at 5:31 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, "Jeeezus Ka-RIST!" was something my Dad said a lot.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:33 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

My dad always says some variance of "Don't have too much fun" but in... strange ways. Such as "Don't knock up TOO many chicks tonight" or "Don't do TOO many drugs". I didn't know whether he was joking and didn't want me to do those things, or whether he was disappointed I wasn't knocking up chicks and doing hardcore drugs, with moderation of course.

Oh, and "Take it easy" which, I say all the time now.
posted by MaHaGoN at 5:33 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"Cool your jets."

(phonetically), "Kaypash dohsetow," which I'm told is Lithuanian for "I'm going to get you."

When I disregarded advice, "You've just gotta learn hard way, don'cha?"

When I addressed Mom too informally, "Save your hey, you may marry a horse."

FWIW, I thought 'cooking with gas' was an old natural gas marketing slogan. I've always heard it used in reference to having taken up the proper tools for the job at hand, working efficiently, being state of the art, etc.
posted by jon1270 at 5:39 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lil' Redsparkler: "Well, I just thought that if--"
Dad: "You know what Thought did..."

And, actually, the one time I remember asking what "Thought" actually did, the reply was something along the lines of "He thought he farted but he really pooped his pants."
Google tells me that there are a variety of things that Thought presumable accomplished.
posted by redsparkler at 5:47 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Two others I liked, but weren't things that MY parent's said:

"Trouble with trouble is it starts out like fun"

"Hurryin' up is the mother of screwin' up."
posted by dirtdirt at 6:11 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

roger ackroyd : tag added in honor of your dad.

I swear I'm going to use that tag in all of my Dad related posts. Thanks!
posted by Alison at 7:07 PM on October 14, 2008

"This isn't a democracy, it's a dictatorship"- Dad

US: So what? MOM: Sew buttons on your underwear.

"You're going to drive me to drink."

"My land!" -- from Canadian grandma. Also: "Well, it wasn't anything to go up on the roof and shout about" or "Well, I wouldn't shoot anyone for it."

"Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!" instead of "Whoop-de-doo!"
posted by landedjentry at 7:24 PM on October 14, 2008

My mother's favourite lines:

"Who wants it first?" (You need multiple, misbehaving children for this one. Just be warned they'll just point at each other say, "He does!" "She does!")

"Can't never tried!" (her response whenever we said we couldn't do something)

"You asked for it!" (her response when I was crying after being spanked)

"If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?"

My dad's favourite lines:

"You have two choices. You can do it with a spanking, or without a spanking."

"Child the goodness, what will you ever do when you have a lot to remember like I have?"
(his response to whenever one of us said we forgot something)\

"You'd forget your head if it wasn't attached."

"Who ever told you life was fair?" (his response whenever we said something wasn't fair)

"You might as well laugh as cry." (his response whenever I got upset with him for laughing at me)

I heard David Duchovny say in an interview that his father's reponse to his children's saying something along the lines of "If it weren't raining, we could go to the park" was always, "And if Grandma had wheels, she'd be a trolley and we could go for a ride."

If I ever have children, I am totally going to use that one. It'll mess with their little minds but good.
posted by orange swan at 7:27 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Me: What are you doing?
Dad: Flyin an airplane.

Me: Where'd you park?
Dad: Out on the back 40! (that's waaay out there, apparently)

When he'd hear me in the other room getting into the snack cabinet he'd say to my mom "I hear a MOUSE in there..."

Or if something in the house would creak or a door would blow closed or something he would say "Harvey?"

"You can just scratch your mad spot"

Me: I wish ____________
Dad: Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one gets filled first

"Hay is for horses, save it, you might marry one someday"

"Dumb as a bag of hammers"

"Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya"

He always called me and whoever my partner was at the time "Mutt n Jeff" - never got that

"She couldn't carry a tune in a bucket"

OH! Finally thought of one Mom-ism "I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut" but funnier because she emphasizes TO so growing up I though she meant a dollar and 2 cents.

Damn, I could fill this thread up. I love my dad. :)
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:43 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Me: "What's that smell?"
Mom: "Maybe it's your upper lip."

"Where ever you go, there you are."

"No matter where you are, always assume someone can see you." (Creepy, but it kept me from adjusting my underwear in public when I thought no one was looking.)
posted by _Mona_ at 9:52 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Judas Priest" or "jeez-o-man" instead of "Jesus Christ," as in "Judas Priest, are you kids fighting again?"
posted by corey flood at 9:54 PM on October 14, 2008

"Do you think I'm made of money?"
"It's enough to gag a maggot"
"Were you born in a barn?"
"I see, said the blind man, as he picked up a hammer and saw"
"I'll pop ya" (meaning I'll smack you)
"Night, night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite"
"Do you want people to think you were raised by wolves?"
"Dad, can I... I don't know, CAN you? (I still hate that one)
"You'll be sorry when I'm gone" (He was right, I am)
posted by BoscosMom at 11:00 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

How about the clean underware deal in case you are in a wreck?
posted by raildr at 11:16 PM on October 14, 2008

Whenever I sneezed:

"God bless you, Miss Mahoney!"

My maternal Grandma's maiden name was Mahoney, so that saying must have been passed down to my mom.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:15 AM on October 15, 2008

"Plunk your magic twanger, froggy!"

"You bet your sweet bippy!"

"Hay is for horses, straw is cheaper, and grass is free."

"If wishes were horse then beggars would ride."

"A gum chewing girl and a cud chewing cow
both look alike yet different somehow.
Ah yes! I have it now.
It's the intelligent look on the face of the cow."
posted by MsMolly at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

In response to an ad for a product he percieved as worthless, my dad would frequently exclaim "I'll take two! I'll need one to shit on, and one to cover it up with." In later years, he shortened it to just "I'll take two!", since everyone knew what he meant.
posted by owtytrof at 1:45 PM on October 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

lottie: My maternal grandmother did that bigtime. My brother loved windmills, so if he happened to mention them (or if she just wanted to remind him that she was onto his secret windmill passion), she'd yelp, "I'll windmill you!"

A hilarious image. I wish she really had windmilled one of us.
posted by Coatlicue at 4:52 PM on October 15, 2008

from my grandma:

(with regards to Brad Pitt) "Well. Jennifer Aniston really shit in her mess kit if you ask me."
"I wouldn't go see [disliked sports team or musician] if they were playing in my driveway!"
"Judas Priest!"
"rode hard and put away wet"
"And then I got three sheets to the wind and threw up in your Aunt Kitty's rhododendrons." (Oh, the 60s.)
posted by palomar at 9:11 PM on October 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Me: "Mom, what's for dinner?"
Mom: "Pig shit and dandelions"

posted by arcticwoman at 8:09 AM on October 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Me: "I'm bored"
Mom: "Spit in your shoe and watch it run through"

This advice never helped. Not once.
posted by pepcorn at 8:30 AM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

One last one

"Out here you're American," then pointing to the bathroom, "In there you're a-peein'."
posted by pianomover at 4:21 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Try not to get raped or murdered" - my Polish grandmother... whenever i left to go back to University.

"Try not to fall in the canal" - my mother... when going on a hike with school.

"If wit was shit, you'd be covered in it" - my uncle.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 5:37 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go shed a tear for Ireland (said by my Donegal nana on the way to the loo)
No force, no flatter, if you don't want it, it doesn't matter (when I didn't want to eat what I was served)
You look like Mary 'Icky! (when I looked a bit "common" or dishevelled. I don't know if it is a dropped "h" or not, sometimes she was called Mary Hickey though)
Get down on your knees and thank the Lord you're on your feet
Pogue mahone (sp? -Gaelic kiss my ass)

I use these saying (and other ones that just pop out) all the time on my kids. At work when I give change back (usually it is a nickel or so) I tell patrons "Don't spend it all in one place!"
posted by saucysault at 8:34 PM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

from my grandmother:
"Goodness gracious, Miss Agnes!"
posted by treefort at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

The husband apparently grew up hearing a variant of "I see, I see, said the blind man to his deaf son" -- he heard, "I see! I see! said the blind man when he picked up the hammer & saw."

I heard bunches of the above. I have no doubt that my own kids will add to the list with, "Epic Fail," "I see what you did there," and a few other similar phrases...
posted by susanbeeswax at 11:01 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your responses exceed anything I could have anticipated. I'm glad your moms and dads are nutty and awesome as mine. MEFI PARENTS FTW!!!1!

A note to anyone who stumbles on this thread in the next year: all responses end up in my RSS feed, so don't hesitate join in.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:02 PM on October 19, 2008

Plan your work, then work your plan.

Thanks dad.
posted by namewithhe1d at 9:44 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Tough it out!" - Dad

Said whenever I fell and hurt myself or something. Sounded ridiculous at the time, but I get it now..
posted by namewithhe1d at 9:45 AM on October 21, 2008

"Mom, what's for dinner?"

"Stewed bugs and onions."
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:14 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whenever I lost an argument, or she was vindicated in some way against what I had said, the inevitable question my mom would ask is:

"How's the crow taste?"
posted by aclevername at 8:19 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think I must have the coolest dad on Metafilter.

To keep my gloating on-topic, he also often says "Hear me now, believe me later, "often in conjunction with one or more of his other statements.
posted by shirobara at 5:28 PM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

@ COD: Has any parent ever really stopped the car?

Actually, yes. My dad once stopped the car to yell at my brother.

"Because I said so." is one of the phrases I despise!
posted by 47triple2 at 5:13 PM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

From my mom:
"I'll skin you alive!"
"I'll tar and feather you!"
"I'll tan your hide!"
When my brother had gas, he was "Mr. Fizzywitz"
Periods of time: Month of Sundays, once in a blue moon

From my dad:
Do you have the time? "Yes." (silence)
Could you tell me the time? "Yes." (silence)
Would you tell me the time? "Yes." (silence)
What time is it? "Well, on this arm, it's (time EST). On this arm, it's (time GMT)."
When strangers would comment about the two watches, he would say with a devilish grin he actually wore three - would they like to see where he kept the third? - it was farther up his left arm, or in his pocket, and set to EST as well)

Passing gas was "stepping on frogs"
posted by figment of my conation at 12:19 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

bristolcat: "Backi" means pick-up truck, in South Africa (Afrikaans maybe?)

Passing gas: "Low flying ducks" (not my parents).

"Can't" never did anything.

I have twisted the ol' "Wish in one hand" saying to: "Wish in one hand, shit in the other. Now clap."
The original version I heard was "Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which comes true."

One from my mom, which still amuses me: "Don't do that, I'm tired." said when something energetic was happening around her, that annoyed her. Sometimes, she couldn't bare that others had fun when she wasn't in the mood.

Generic replacement for bullshit or other exclamation: "Fiddle sticks".

From my Italian first partner's mother: While squeezing her tit, she'd say "This was the first thing out of your mouth!" That woman was insane. Understand, the first time I met her, she threw a fit, over money, in front of me. As a WASP, this was astoundingly wrong! I'm pretty sure that fit included both the squeezed tit thing, as well as waving a knife and declaring she gave him life and could take it away. All on my first visit! LOL, it was a rocky relationship, but went fine...once we moved to the opposite side of the continent.
posted by Goofyy at 2:16 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

From the Caribbean parents I know:

"I'm gonna tan yuh backside! " or "Yuh want licks?"
= I'll spank you if you don't stop it!

"But wait! Kiss meh neck back!"
= Woah! Kiss the back of my neck!
= Wow, I can't believe it!

"This finger never point so."
[Accompanying gestures: First point accusingly at the other person with one index finger. Then awkwardly try to turn it around and point at yourself.
= This finger never points in this direction.
= Your critical wagging index finger points to everyone else's wrongdoings but never your own, you sanctimonious hypocrite.

And my personal favourite:

"Ya pick, ya pick, ya pick, ya pick shit."
= Quit being so picky because eventually nothing will be left but shitty options.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:03 AM on April 29, 2009

Teenaged girl looking for her teenaged brother: MA! Where's Adriano?
Italian mother, annoyed about the yelling: Where do you think he is? Mezzo lanchi! (Between my legs!)
That one made me blink a little.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:06 AM on April 29, 2009

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