It's like cake on a fork!
October 5, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Hivemind, please help me come up with weird sayings for the RPG I'm in.

So, I'm playing Burning Wheel with a group of friends. The GM assigned my character the "folksy wisdom" trait.

Since my character is the only one in this game from her particular "cultural background," and since people from her culture are known (in our game's context) for being "mysterious" and "opaque," I've been scoring artha for spouting semi-nonsensical sayings during roleplay. I like ones that are (kind of) easy to understand in the game context, but that also make little (or no) sense when taken at face value.

Some I've used already:
  • It's like cake on a fork! Meaning: Hey, this is easy/good!
  • Why not just start a fire in your hat? You're wasting your time on something potentially dangerous.
  • You're like a dog with shoes! general exasperation
  • Frogs, then apples. just straight-up nonsense
Help me come up with others? Meanings totally optional. The only limitation I can think of is that this game is set in a medieval-type time frame, so references to more advanced technology would be odd. But possibly workable, if they're truly funny/baffling.

Bees of the webs, lend me your oars!
posted by mon-ma-tron to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Mixing and matching aphorisms is a favorite pastime:

If wishes were fishes then horses would ride.
Life is a bowl of cherry pits.
Desperate times call for desperate pleasures.

There are lists around.
posted by carsonb at 1:57 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yogi Berra quotes are all you need.
posted by jabes at 1:59 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your beer's foaming over! Meaning: Too much!

Like a brick in the stream. Meaning: You may be heavy, but we're rolling right over you. Alternate: It looks like an obsticle, but it isn't really.

Like a Lady Day Hiring Fair. Meaning: Crowded, and jovial, and bustling and while it appears fun, there's business to transact.

All cart, no ox. Meaning: Looks like he's got his shit together, but doesn't.

I'll cogitate on this and see if I can come up with some more.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:00 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

This was a specialty of the Seventh Doctor.

"Time and tide melt the snowman!"
posted by MsMolly at 2:01 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's only one grip on a sword! Stop trying to help, you're just making it worse

Yeah, well, fish have scales. You're stating the obvious.

This is like chewing a brick. Difficult, unpleasant, and probably not even doing any good.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:01 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why buy a bucket when the river's right there?

A sword only has one hilt. edit: dammit, tomorrowful!

An axe is made for chopping wood

Wine tastes the same in pewter tankards or golden goblets

You can only ride one horse at a time.
posted by dubold at 2:02 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My hovercraft is full of eels!
posted by jozxyqk at 2:04 PM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sometimes you need to shave down your shell for speed.
A reference to the tortoise-races of your homeland - means "Sometimes you have to change your approach in order to win."

You're trying to eat the golden turkey.
If your culture's term for the mythical phoenix (which self-immolates shortly after death) is "golden turkey" then this phrase indicates somebody who is being too greedy for their own good.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:04 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You'll want to get a list of non-english idioms and aphorisms and translate them word for word.

Here's one list, some googling should get you more.
posted by empath at 2:09 PM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

You're just swimming in a tree (that's futile)

Lady Cantwell's ass itches just the same as mine (the rich are just like us)

If someone is selling Pelligran wine cheap, I hold on to my purse and run away (if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is)

Like a bee in a henhouse (I have no idea what this is supposed to mean)
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:23 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

A wingless beedog is better than a hive.

That's the cat's ass!
posted by benzenedream at 2:28 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does a cat sneeze on Sunday? (yes, isn't it obvious?)
posted by platinum at 2:29 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Twice the crabs, four times the pinching. (This kind of trouble multiples quickly)

A slow goose makes a fine sauce. (Don't complain that the job is too easy)

When the birds are talking, fine for walking; when fowl are quiet, rain or riot.

Like an old tooth for a new penny (a good bargain)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:34 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

"The waterwheel turns, no matter what liquid it's in."

"Even the biggest bird still has no teeth."

"Cheese always smells bad, until you know it's cheese."

"Be mindful about which end of the sheep you kiss."
posted by Greg Nog at 2:34 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Borrow heavily from Jabberwocky. Snicker-snack! Hark, the manxome foe!
posted by mochapickle at 2:37 PM on October 5, 2012

* beware the dog that bites
* that's like a unicorn eating cupcakes and pooping gold in my kitchen
* you can't thread the needle if it keeps moving
* a favorite from the Mandarin, cover it in gold but it's still donkey poop
* cream is not the only thing that floats on top
* That's smooth, like two cold pats of butter on bread level of smooth

Oh dear, I am afraid I actually have used these phrases while lecturing.
posted by jadepearl at 2:37 PM on October 5, 2012

A rolling stone is worth two in the bush. I have recently watched Robocop 2.
posted by Artw at 2:39 PM on October 5, 2012

If you need to be mysterious and wise-sounding, rather than/in additional to folksy, try the Vorlons!

Understanding is a three-edged sword.
The avalanche has already started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
A stroke of the brush does not guarantee art from the bristles.
posted by stevis23 at 2:52 PM on October 5, 2012

Focus on meanings you might want to express in the game setting and then find sayings to fit, viz:

A pack of wolves comes from all directions. We should split up.
Puddings and rinds are all the same to the rat. Don't get greedy.
You never see the smart mouse. We should hide or wait in ambush.
The smith engraves not the anvil. Keep it simple, stupid.
Better tired than dead. Retreat and regroup.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:53 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. (It's all about strategery my friend, strategery.)

Or you could just refer to your favorite political meme, they're always full of good ones.

Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.
Anything with the word: misunderestimate in it.
Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?
The German asparagus are fabulous.

You know, substituting something pertinent to the campaign or world they're in.
posted by Blue_Villain at 3:08 PM on October 5, 2012

It's hardly time to flog the scribe.
Poison in the eye saves needles.
Melted butter hardens naught.
If he can't reach the withers, he can't complain to the horse.
It is futile to throw stones at falcons.
Alternatively, Is it futile to throw stones at falcons?
Toads cannot move roads.
The unknown path is thickest at Christmas.
A full belly or a mason's trowel?
A child with a knife should be kept from the cheese.
The sick dog predicts evening fog.
Spice the mead or fluff the straw.

[k, that was fun]
posted by Glinn at 3:15 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

It takes a big dog to weigh a ton.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:19 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are some fun ones you could crib from the character of Sensei Ping in the cult tv series The Middleman:

"The Turtle Dove who grows content in the nest loses his wings at dawn."
"The Goat who tarries is a friend of death."
"The badger shouldn't bare its teeth when peace sits at the tea table."
"Study the fish's tail if you want to know how to move forward."
posted by gudrun at 4:01 PM on October 5, 2012

Finnish idioms and proverbs to the rescue! They tend to be a little weird, opaque and/or medieval. Here are some of my favourites; I've included an approximation of the real meaning (although I doubt anyone will be fact checking if you misappropriate):

- Not the son of yesterday's grouse (= nobody's fool)
- There's a dog buried here (= the situation is not what it appears to be)
- Drinking tar (= doing something with difficulty or reluctance)
- A pot of buttermilk (= very calm person)
- A louse in tar (= stuck)
- Hang one's gloves on a nail (= give up)
- Speak holes into one's head (= nonsense)
- Listen to the spruce three under which you dwell (= pay attention to the thing you're dependent on)
- Throw the spoon into the corner (= kick the bucket)
- We have a chicken to pluck (= a bone to pick)
- Snows of winters past (= byegones)
- It went gingerbread (= completely wrong)
- Have one's own cow in the ditch (= have a personal interest in the matter)
- Climb arse first into a tree (= do something in a needlessly complicated way)
- Have rye in one's wrist (= strong)
- A bear shot in the ass (= in a foul mood)
- Like two berries (= identical)
- A fish of the opposite shore (= someone who constantly disagrees)
- Pull a pea up one's nose (= get provoked)
- Cat circling hot porridge (= obviously wanting something but not daring to approach directly)

And whereas the English speaking world advises against counting the chicken before they're hatched, we caution against skinning the bear before it's been killed. A bit of a badass tinge, if you like.
posted by sively at 4:57 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

From my Romanian colleague yesterday: "you have your grandmother in your bag", it equates to the Britishism of carrying everything including the kitchen sink.
posted by arcticseal at 5:26 PM on October 5, 2012

The sweetest pear is the one with teeth.
Mallets don't need ink.
A gnome in the bluebird's nest
Making hats for hills
Riding the trout

It seems to me that in general this works better if you use "the" in preference to "a" -- "riding the trout" instead of "riding a trout", for example. It suggests that you're alluding to a familiar story that of course everyone knows.
posted by baf at 5:52 PM on October 5, 2012

It's not summer 'til the dog dies.
You can't throw a sword through a keyhole.
The sky tells the ground and the ground tells the man.
Grandfathers ate this one and shat it out.
Ten apples for health, twelve for wealth.
Don't they have ears that have fears?
Putting curdled milk by the door never got an answer for no one.
The top of the lake is just as wet as the bottom.
posted by 256 at 7:03 PM on October 5, 2012

My father once said "The slower, the faster."

Context: "Helping" him saw something when I was a young'un, my quick, shallow sawing wasnt as effective as a sure, steady motion.
posted by Occula at 9:29 PM on October 5, 2012

"I'm not as green as I am cabbage-looking".

I have a book that says that is an actual Irish expression, although I've never heard it used in reality - I assume it means something like "I'm not as old/inexperienced as I look," because "green=young/inexperienced," and cabbages are wrinkly so wrinkles=age=experience. But that's a guess.

And it's weird, so perfect.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on October 6, 2012

These were all great! Thanks, everyone!

I marked as best the ones that were more nonsensical/medieval-sounding. Also those that made me larff (Omg, wingless beedog, benzenedream? And gudrun! I can't believe I forgot about Sensei Ping!)

Truly, my hovercraft is full of eels.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 9:42 AM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

"I am going where even the king has to go on foot", i.e. I'm going to the bathroom (meta-metaquote since I stole it from Tom Lehrer's song about plagiarizing).
posted by anaelith at 6:45 PM on October 13, 2012

« Older Travel to Cuba - last minute worries.   |   What's that Wedding Planning Movie? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.