Things Mom Told Us
July 14, 2013 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to think of Things that Our Moms (or possibly Public Service Announcements) taught us while growing up, things that most of us learned are the 'right' way to behave, and that have ended up as commonly-held edicts for those of us who grew up in North America. Stuff like 'chew with your mouth closed' or 'it's rude to stare' or 'look both ways before crossing the street' or 'don't take candy from strangers'.

I'm not so much interested for the purposes of this question in things that you learned that were unique to your family, more things that many people growing up in Canada or the US had in common in terms of received advice, perhaps to the extent that we don't really question them, they just seem common-sensical (even when they're not).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken to Human Relations (106 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
No elbows on the table.
Sit with your legs closed (girls).
posted by oflinkey at 7:26 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stay in school. Don't do drugs. Use a condom. Floss. Call me no matter when/where and I will get you home safely no questions asked.
posted by headnsouth at 7:27 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


wash your hands
don't touch your face
drink your milk
eat everything on your plate
posted by marimeko at 7:28 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wear a jacket or you'll catch a cold.
Don't swim after eating.
Take off your hat inside.
Finish your dinner because there are starving children in Africa.
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 PM on July 14, 2013


Sneeze into your elbow.
Dish sponges are unsanitary.
Wash the dishes before you wash them (rinse before dishwasher).
Obey the best by date on milk as law.
Don't chew gum in school.
Don't drink milk when you have a cold.
Don't put your feet up on the furniture.
posted by strixus at 7:31 PM on July 14, 2013


No elbows on the table.
Sit up straight -- don't hunch.
Don't take your shoes off in a room.
Don't put your feet up on things.
Guests take first.
Don't double-dip with the same piece of food.
Don't talk about money.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:31 PM on July 14, 2013


Don't run with scissors.

Don't play with matches.

If you're home alone and someone calls/knocks on the door, don't tell them your parents aren't home.
posted by Sara C. at 7:33 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident.
posted by discopolo at 7:38 PM on July 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Be kind to everyone.

Don't wipe your nose with your fingers.

Cover your mouth when you sneeze.

Don't drink straight from the milk jug.

Clean up after yourself.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:38 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Close the door! I'm not trying to heat/cool the whole neighborhood!
posted by chiababe at 7:40 PM on July 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


Write a thank you note. Do it now.
posted by dismas at 7:42 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Make new friends, but keep the old,
One is silver and the other's gold.
posted by michaelh at 7:42 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Only you can stop forest fires. (Corollary, NEVER SMOKE IN BED!; Related - don't smoke ever. I would come home from health class to rip up my father's Benson & Hedges.)
The More You Know. (I wasn't ever sure what I was supposed to know, but knowing was definitely a good thing)
Don't litter, thanks to Keep America Beautiful and all those Adopt a Highway signs... oh and also Give a Hoot and Don't Pollute

Lastly, "sneeze into your elbow" -- was this promulgated after the late 1980s because I totally didn't get the memo until very recently that sneezing into my hand was gross.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:43 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't pick that up; you don't know where it's been.
posted by Morrigan at 7:43 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't pick at it, that's how little Morty Fischbein lost his toe!
posted by elizardbits at 7:43 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Things that indisputably cause the flu virus include:

- going to sleep with wet hair
- eating too much halloween candy
- not wearing a heavy winter coat over your halloween costume no matter how mild the weather is
- letting the dog kiss you on the mouth
- not wearing socks

Also swimming within 3 hours of consuming even the smallest bite of food causes instant death.
posted by elizardbits at 7:46 PM on July 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


You may enjoy Because I Said So, the most recent book by Ken Jennings. He takes many of these bits of advice and discusses how true (or not) they are.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:46 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


- Treat people the way you want to be treated.
- Wash your hands before eating
- Always say please and thank you
posted by radioamy at 7:46 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't go out with wet hair.
If you're too sick to go to school, you're too sick to go out anywhere else, except to the doctor.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:51 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


- eating too much halloween candy

Also, for 80s/90s kids, eating any Halloween candy at all before your parents sifted through the whole pile to pick out their favorites HORRIBLE POISONED TREATS THAT WILL KILL YOU

Don't drink coffee, it'll stunt your growth (not actually true.)
posted by kagredon at 7:56 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stop, drop, and roll. (It is what you do if your clothes are on fire.)
posted by fancyoats at 7:59 PM on July 14, 2013


fill up the ice cube tray with water before you stick it back in the freezer, if there's only a few cubes left.
posted by sweetkid at 8:04 PM on July 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Ignore bullies, and they'll leave you alone. Besides, they're just jealous." (Le sigh.)
posted by Coatlicue at 8:09 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can do anything if you just set your mind to it.
posted by jaguar at 8:14 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


No singing at the table.
When eating, keep your left hand in your lap (unless you're cutting food).
Always say "please" and "thank you".
posted by dbmcd at 8:14 PM on July 14, 2013


Don't chew with your mouth open.
posted by Sara C. at 8:15 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dish sponges are unsanitary.

One boyfriend and I had very different instruction on this, leading to us never cooking together again.

(I thought spunges were ick colonies, complete with ick schools, hospitals, and dive bars, and he thought just washing with your nice clean fingers was barbaric.)
posted by sweetkid at 8:19 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"remember that manners exist to make people more comfortable, not less"
"you can always get seconds - don't take more food than you can eat"
"when you find something you like, buy two"
posted by belau at 8:23 PM on July 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Say please and thank you.
Don't chew with your mouth open.
Don't be rude.
posted by teleri025 at 8:24 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone else can break the law 100 times, but if you do it once, you'll get caught.
posted by telegraph at 8:34 PM on July 14, 2013


Don't point, don't stare, don't pick. Keep your knees together when you sit. Always have clean underwear. Don't swear. Take the smaller piece. Green means go, yellow means floor it*. Don't take any wooden nickels*.

*Dad
posted by jamaro at 8:35 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You must wear underpants if you're going to go outside.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:35 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never throw money at someone in anger - this might be a family/Indian thing but it's a good carryover I think.
posted by sweetkid at 8:37 PM on July 14, 2013


Don't cross your eyes or they'll get stuck like that.
posted by 445supermag at 8:37 PM on July 14, 2013


It is better to submit and maybe get away than fight back and be killed.

(Aka my mother's answer to why I shouldn't ever fight back against someone infringing upon my personal space and/or safety.)

Keep your hands to yourself.

Don't stare.

Never talk to strangers.

Wash your hands often.

Don't forget to turn off the lights when you leave a room.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:39 PM on July 14, 2013


Great stuff so far, folks, thanks!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:44 PM on July 14, 2013


Graciously accept gifts, even if you don't really like what you've been given.

*Just a thought - framing this as "stuff your mom taught you" reinforces ideals about gender roles and parenting that you might want to move away from by using more neutral language.
posted by kitty teeth at 8:50 PM on July 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


School is not a fashion show.
posted by discopolo at 8:52 PM on July 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not my mum, but my dad (because he was the stay at home parent).

If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
Don't mix ammonia and bleach
If there is a bushfire around the house, put on wool clothes then soak yourself in water.
Don't ignore the oil light.
You can call me anything you like except late for dinner.
posted by Kerasia at 8:52 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Because I said so.'
posted by hydra77 at 9:03 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the wind changes direction while you are pulling a face, it will stay that way. Forever.
posted by MT at 9:09 PM on July 14, 2013


I'm limiting myself to things not covered by others, I have plenty of overlap!

Don't point.
If you break it, I have to buy it so DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING.
Chewing gum makes you look like a cow.
If you don't want to eat your dinner, you don't get dessert.
If you put the same amount of food on a small plate rather than a big one, it takes up more room so it makes it seem like you're eating more food.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:16 PM on July 14, 2013


If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Keep language clean when in mixed company or different ages.

Treat others as you want to be treated. (The Golden Rule.)

One I used with my son before I knew he had vision issues (and my mother used with all of us kids.)

Look with your eyes, not your hands.


Wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 9:19 PM on July 14, 2013


From those who have been given much, much is expected.

Offer it up for a higher place in heaven.
posted by TDIpod at 9:21 PM on July 14, 2013


Always wear shoes. Always! You could step on a nail.
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:25 PM on July 14, 2013


Don't eat in public unless you have enough to offer everyone.

Don't put loose change in your mouth because it's been in men's pockets alongside their used handkerchiefs. (I know... I don't even want to touch coins now.)

If you hurt yourself, quickly offer the pain up to the poor souls in Purgatory.
posted by OolooKitty at 9:26 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't get into a car with a strange man unless he offers you candy.

I heard the real version when I was little, and this version when I was old enough to get the joke.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:32 PM on July 14, 2013


What are you getting touchy about, I just wondered if that's what you're wearing.
posted by third rail at 9:45 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Make your bed...which is a secret of the universe hidden in plain sight.
posted by idb at 9:59 PM on July 14, 2013


Don't scratch, you'll just make it worse.
Don't point.
He's only teasing you because he likes you.
posted by sculpin at 10:12 PM on July 14, 2013


If you're that bored, I'll find you something to do.

Homework first.

Wash behind your ears.

Never go to bed mad.

Use your words.

Turn off the TV and go outside!

Take out the garbage.

If everybody jumps off a cliff, are you going to do it, too?

We'll see.

Don't fight. He/She's the only sister/brother you'll get in this life.

Don't talk to me in that tone of voice.

God gave you a brain, use it.

Stop interrupting.

Adults are talking here.

Children are to be seen and not heard.

Your room looks like a cyclone hit.
Pick up your ________

One more time and I'm turning this car around.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:17 PM on July 14, 2013


Are you thirsty? Do you want a glass of water? Are you sure? You're sure you're not thirsty? You seem like you might be thirsty.
posted by deathpanels at 10:18 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Well if Sally told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too?"
posted by JenMarie at 10:23 PM on July 14, 2013


Don't pick at it or you'll get impetigo. (My mother was finally vindicated when I actually did get impetigo at age 35.)
Sitting on cold ground gives you hemorrhoids.
"Whistling girls and crowing hens, always come to some bad end."
"Your face will stay like that if the wind changes."
"Pretty is as pretty does."
posted by atropos at 10:23 PM on July 14, 2013


*Just a thought - framing this as "stuff your mom taught you" reinforces ideals about gender roles and parenting that you might want to move away from by using more neutral language.

I appreciate what you're getting at, but my framing here is deliberate and specific to what I was hoping to get from this question. Apologies to anyone offended by the gender normativeration.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:25 PM on July 14, 2013


It is bad luck to open an umbrella in the house. Also, don't wear a hat in a building (religious headwear excepted.)

Try to use the restroom even if you think you don't need to. This is the advice the young Queen Elizabeth gave, and who better than a monarch to know that you might get stuck in some long boring ceremony or be unable to leave when you really need to, and then you'll wish you'd gone before you left. Story must be told every time you leave the house.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:27 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


-"only boring people get bored"
-"nobody ever said life was fair"
posted by JenMarie at 10:27 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Make sure you go to the bathroom before leaving the house, even if you don't think you need to go. (my father hated stopping the car on a road trip, three kids)

Always have a dime on you. (before cell phones, so you could always make a phone call for help)

You don't need to die just to be right.
posted by JujuB at 10:29 PM on July 14, 2013


Poor writing is evidence of poor thinking ability.

Use words correctly and pronounce them correctly, or people will judge you and me as your mother, for teaching you poorly.

A lady or a gentleman is someone who takes care to make sure the people around them are comfortable.

At the table, do whatever the host does, even if they use the wrong fork.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:31 PM on July 14, 2013


Never telephone anyone after 9PM or before 10AM for any reason unless it is a life-or-death emergency.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:34 PM on July 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Are you thirsty? Do you want a glass of water? Are you sure? You're sure you're not thirsty? You seem like you might be thirsty.

Oh, man, this one just reminded me of one I'd forgotten.

"Are you feeling tired? I bet you're tired. You're behaving like someone who needs a nap."

Also, unrelated:

"Are you sure you don't need to go to the bathroom?"
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lots of the stuff above, and one I don't see here that startled me when someone broke it -- "Don't put your shoes on the furniture".

and I suppose, "Don't eat in bed" too.
posted by Lady Li at 10:35 PM on July 14, 2013


Life isn't fair.

And I want to be an astronaut (said by my father whenever I expressed a desire that he thought was exaggeratedly out-of-bounds)
posted by jaguar at 10:40 PM on July 14, 2013


Brush your teeth when you get up, after every meal and before bed.

Go to the bathroom before you leave anywhere.

If you're hungry, eat an apple. Oh, you don't want an apple? You must not be that hungry.

It's better to be alone than to wish you were alone. (Best relationship advice, EVER!)

Don't worry that you don't have what you want. Be grateful you don't have what you don't want.

Write that thank you note today.

Open restroom doors with a paper towel, not your bare, just-washed hands.

Put your elbows down when you're cutting your meat. You look like you're trying to get airborne.

Eat. There are staving children in [insert developing country] who would be glad for it.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:46 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't take a bath when you have your period. A quick shower is ok.
posted by Linnee at 10:50 PM on July 14, 2013


Things mom said to me as a young child:

It may be that life's purpose is not happiness.

Stand up straight. Shoulders back. No elbows on the table, and don't hold your silverware like a cudgel. Don't judge others on the way that they look.

No cursing. No slang. No regional dialect. Don't judge others on their manner of speaking.

Don't be sarcastic.
posted by rub scupper cult at 12:01 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't lean chairs back on two legs.

Don't jiggle your leg. Stop fidgiting.

Never say you're "hot". Say you're "too warm".
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:47 AM on July 15, 2013


Do not drive the car barefoot.
posted by Cranberry at 12:49 AM on July 15, 2013


Put the seat down.
Wipe your feet.

If you don't have anything to say, don't say anything.
Be polite - even when others are not.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:17 AM on July 15, 2013


My Dad's response to many complaints, irrespective of degree, was "Into every life a little rain must fall."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:37 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't yell to someone from another room, walk over and talk to them where they are.
posted by third rail at 3:52 AM on July 15, 2013


Put it back where you found it.
posted by smirkyfodder at 3:55 AM on July 15, 2013


Tea was either satisfyingly scalding or it was disgustingly cold. There were no temperatures in between.
You kept your fork in the left hand and your knife in your right hand. ("Dinna eat like the Americans.")
Also:
Dinna speak with yer mooth full.
Clean your feet.
Dinna pick yer beak.
Dry up (wheesht).
posted by pracowity at 4:33 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you take it out, put it back.
Don't invite yourself over to someone else's house.
Turn a light on when you're reading.
Don't put your feet on the couch!
Don't stand there with the refrigerator door open deciding what you want.
posted by drlith at 4:50 AM on July 15, 2013


The Way of Mrs. Cosmopolite may be in jest, but it hits home:

If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all
If you don't clean your plate, you won't get any dessert
If you have another one you won't have an appetite for your dinner.
Don't go out with a wet head, you'll catch cold
Don't talk with your mouth full.
Don't put that in your mouth, you don't know where it's been.
Eat it up, it'll make your hair curly.
Go to your room and think about what you did!
Hard work never did anybody any harm.
How do you know you don't like it you haven't tasted it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:53 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scissors go handle first. (when you're handing them to someone.) Don't just leave your socks there, put them in the hamper. If you knock something down, pick it up!
posted by lemniskate at 4:56 AM on July 15, 2013


If you sneak and do (bad thing) I might never find out, but God will know.

If you get spanked at school, expect another spanking when you get home.

You will catch a cold if you go out on a chilly day with wet hair.

You will catch a cold if you go out on a chilly day without a jacket.

You will catch a cold if you go barefoot when it's wet outside.

Drinking orange juice is good for you and will help keep you from catching cold.

Don't sit so close to the TV. You'll ruin your eyes.

Don't ready in that dim light. You'll ruin your eyes.

Eat your carrots. They're good for your eyes.

If you don't have room to finish your vegetables then you don't have room for dessert.

Shaving your legs will make the hair grow back darker and thicker.

It's rude to help yourself to candy out of someone's candy dish. It's also rude to ask if you can have a piece of candy. You must wait until the person offers. (This is how Guess people are made.)

It's rude to call adults by their first names. Your friend's mom is Mrs. Jones, not Shirley. Your parents' close friends are Aunt Pat and Uncle Andy.

You have to share your toys when your friends come over. If you don't want to share it, put it away before they come over.

Shoving everything under the bed and in the closet does not count as "cleaning your room."

Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:00 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I GAVE you life, buster.
posted by dismas at 5:01 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't want you running around with (favorite friend). She's a bad influence.

Don't stick your gum under the coffee table.

Don't wipe your boogers under the coffee table.

Don't wipe your boogers on the carpet.

FOR GOD'S SAKE, GO GET A TISSUE!

Don't use your fingers to push your peas onto your spoon. I don't know what you are supposed to do. Figure it out. But don't use your fingers!

Stop making yourself burp on purpose! It's not funny, it's gross.

Don't laugh when you burp/fart. Say "excuse me".

Don't say "fart". Say "stinker". (Because that's classier, I guess.)

Don't say "poop". Say "number 2" or "I need to do a job."

You don't need that huge wad of toilet paper! You only need a couple of sheets. Do I look like I'm made of money?

Don't eat in front of people. It's rude.

No, you can't give popsicles to all your friends. Do I look like I'm made of money?

What happened to your sweater? Well, get back out there and find it. Do I look like I'm made of money?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:30 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Always, ALWAYS drive with the car window cracked or you will absolutely die.

My mother firmly believes that carbon monoxide is both sentient and malevolent. It can get into the car if it wants to (and boy does it want to) and will gleefully build up and kill you deader than disco unless you leave the driver's side window cracked so gets sucked out by the wind, snarling in rage and swearing it will get you next time.)
posted by Naberius at 5:33 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't go to bed with your hair wet.
Don't walk around the house (cold floors) barefoot.
Never leave the house looking a mess. You'll never know who you will see.
Never travel on Tuesdays (coming from the phrase Martes no te cases ni te embarques)
Go to mass on Sundays. Okay on Saturdays. Okay on Wednesdays, just make it to mass once a week!
You want me to teach you to make (insert dish here)? First you do (insert step 1 here). Then (insert step 2 here)... look just come over and I'll make it for you.
Cover your head with a towel when there is a really bad lightening storm.
posted by xicana63 at 5:34 AM on July 15, 2013


Don't scream unless someone is bleeding or otherwise hurt.

The bathroom is the only place you can pass gas without saying excuse me.
posted by youngergirl44 at 5:39 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't raise your voice.
Act up all you like at home, but DO NOT embarrass me in public.
Don't kiss the cat/dog on the lips.
Take the piece you touched.
Don't sit too close to the TV; you'll ruin your eyes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:33 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Remember who you are and what you represent.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:53 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, of course, the published version of all the preceding, Momilies.
posted by Elsie at 6:59 AM on July 15, 2013


Don't wipe your mouth on your sleeve.

Don't wipe your mouth on the front of your shirt.

Don't wipe your mouth on the tablecloth.

Where the hell is your napkin?

Don't wipe your nose on the back of your hand.

Don't wipe your nose on your napkin... go get a tissue!

Ask to be excused before you leave the table.

Don't interrupt when grownups are talking.

If you knew you were going to throw up, why didn't you run to the bathroom? Well next time you don't have to wait to be excused for that, just go.

If you bite your fingernails you will get worms.

No jumping on the bed.

Don't climb from the back seat to the front seat while I'm trying to drive.

Stay on your own side of the back seat.

Stop touching him.

Stop putting your finger by his face and saying "I'm not touching you!"

Stop kicking the back of my seat.

I SAID STOP IT!

Stop clicking the ashtray.

I SAID STOP IT!

If you spill that drink in here, you're dead.

Pick up those french fries you dropped on the floor or we'll have bugs in here.

Get those french fries out of your nose before you get one stuck up there.

I'm telling your dad. Nope, too late, you had your chance.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:13 AM on July 15, 2013


stick your elbow out too far, and it may go home in another car.

don't stand too close to the microwave.

don't eat in the living room.

don't have a snack between 5 and 6 pm, it will ruin your appetite.

don't call anyone on the phone between 6 pm and 7 pm, because they might be eating dinner.

act like you're pretty, and people will believe that you are.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:17 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Close cabinets and drawers when you're finished with whatever's inside.

Push in your chair when you leave the dining room table.

And, probably the most memorable from my childhood: Don't make personal comments, it's rude. (Told to me for the first time when I commented on how fat a teenage boy was when I saw him in a restaurant.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:30 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


All of these things set to the William Tell Overture: The Mom Song.
posted by colfax at 7:31 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wear clean underwear, because what if you're in an accident and wind up in the hospital?

Now, I always wear clean underwear for many reasons, and despite my mother's admonishments, the above was never one of them. Until two weeks ago, when I was in a serious bicycle accident and wound up carted to the ER and needed surgery. They were trying to wrangle me out of my underwear -- I was not wearing a chamois and that probably would have simplified things -- and I started laughing wildly because despite my body being pretty thoroughly mangled, all I could think about was how glad I was that my underwear was clean and new.
posted by Marit at 7:59 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


If she did that, she wasn't your friend in the first place.

And dating advice:

Vans are just beds on wheels.

Never accept expensive gifts from men, but only small items such as books or candy. Never clothing or jewelry and never ever money.

Boyfriends come and go but friends are forever.
posted by janey47 at 9:11 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't like to eat the crust on bread when I was a kid. My dad would always say, "Eat that crust! It'll put hair on your chest!" There were lots of other things that would "put hair on your chest," according to my dad.

Serene Empress Dork: I think we had the same parents.
posted by smich at 9:51 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't mix silver and gold jewelry.
Don't wear white shoes before Memorial Day.
Get dressed, then take off one accessory.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:52 AM on July 15, 2013


"I brought you into this world and I WILL take you back out of it if you don't quit it RIGHT NOW young lady!!"
posted by ramix at 12:01 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Shut the door! Were you born in a barn?"
"Get up -- you'll sleep your life away!"
"We'll see ..."
"Don't wish your life away."
posted by jgirl at 8:15 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friend once told me that she always wore clean underwear just like her mom told her. She was in an accident and when the car rolled over, she was so scared, she peed her pants. Exactly what good is clean underwear in an accident?
posted by BlueHorse at 8:18 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


More from my mum's store of wisdom:

Never run for a boy or a bus; there's always another one coming around the corner.

Regarding how many pieces of jewellery to wear at once: one for class, two for trash

Eating raw potatoes will give you worms.

Eating cheese before bed will give you nightmares.

Dogs get shots; people get injections.

Dogs go mad; people get angry.

Don't say you hate so-and-so. The only people worth hating are the devil and Hitler.
posted by atropos at 8:38 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit.

I don't know, can you? (when using "Can I?" instead of "May I?")

Go wash an elephant (courtesy of my grandfather when I was underfoot)
posted by jaksemas at 9:37 PM on July 15, 2013


French: keep your hands on the dinner table
posted by jander03 at 10:30 PM on July 15, 2013


Here's a good one:

It's rude to eat in front of people who aren't eating.

So, if I'm on my way to a friend's house, and I'm hungry so I stop to get burgers, I will either finish eating before I get to their house, or buy extras to share -- I never just take in a bag of food to eat there.
posted by teatime at 11:31 PM on July 15, 2013


Well you know, very few of these are specifically North American. Lets see. It's such a long list.

Dogs get shots; people get injections. Dogs go mad; people get angry. This one is reacting against idiomatic American usage - so, American but probably from an immigrant household, like pracowity's Scottish ones.

Two are specifically Catholic, not American: offering things up for the holy souls.

Only you can stop forest fires. (Corollary, NEVER SMOKE IN BED!; Related - don't smoke ever. I would come home from health class to rip up my father's Benson & Hedges.)
The More You Know. (I wasn't ever sure what I was supposed to know, but knowing was definitely a good thing)
Don't litter, thanks to Keep America Beautiful and all those Adopt a Highway signs... oh and also Give a Hoot and Don't Pollute.
These I'd never heard of; I guess they are based on public info campaigns, so yes, specifically American.

If there is a bushfire around the house, put on wool clothes then soak yourself in water. Regional, not general, surely? Do Australians have similar sayings?

Ok, the following are about the only ones - apart from the Indian saying about throwing money in anger - oh and even the Halloween ones have Brit. use equivalents - that weren't part of my childhood (brought up by an Englishwoman):
Obey the best by date on milk as law.
Floss.
Sneeze into your elbow.
When eating, keep your left hand in your lap (unless you're cutting food).
(but why?)
Don't pick at it, that's how little Morty Fischbein lost his toe!
Don't say "fart". Say "stinker".
Don't take any wooden nickels.


And for a North East England variation on atropos' comment, 'a whistling woman and a crowing hen, brings Old Nick out of his den.' Which is funny, because girls aren't supposed to whistle in Nigeria either, for much the same reason.
posted by glasseyes at 6:22 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't ever talk about how "gross" someone's food is while they're eating it. "Tuna salad? I hate that, it makes me gag! How can you eat that?"

I feel like very few people learned this one, though.
posted by sweetkid at 8:58 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Only pigs eat and then go to sleep.
If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.
Stop daydreaming. Someday you're going to wake up and it's going to scare you half to death.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't eat snacks in front of others unless you're prepared to share.
posted by yaymukund at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2013


Oh I forgot this one. My mother had a rule that I was not allowed to ask if I could go to someone's house in front of them.

So if Jackie asked me to a sleepover, I could not ask my mother if I could go in front of Jackie. This was because my mother detested being put on the spot and looking like the bad guy. In order to prevent this, the rule became if you ask in front of the asker, the answer will always be no.

I learned two very important things from this:
- don't put someone on the spot unless you're okay with answer being no.
- sometimes a family rule like this is awesome. A number of times, I intentionally asked in front of the asker so I could have a valid excuse for not going.
posted by teleri025 at 1:27 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Probably too late, but I can't imagine why I forgot one of the most important, which I'm still trying to drill into my kids:

If you use something up (or, for extra special points, if something is getting low and will be used up soon), for God's sakes put it on the shopping list. (There was/is always an ongoing one--on a note pad in my parents' home and on a white board in mine.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:40 AM on July 29, 2013


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