My Week 187: Things I Say That No One Understands

I’m currently navigating myself through the 7 circles of hell, also known as Mississauga, and I think I’m at about 5 and a half, so I’ve moved on from wrathful to just damned sullen. Here’s a little something to make you giggle.

Wednesday: I have a lot of sayings that apparently no one else understands.

So a while ago, I was talking with some colleagues about the similarities between two pieces of writing that we were looking at. I happened to remark, “It’s probably just a coincidence—you know, a million monkeys and a million typewriters, right?” Everyone looked puzzled and a little confused, so I clarified—“If you give a million monkeys each a typewriter….?” In retrospect, this was NOT a clarification, and everyone continued to look at me with confusion. I tried again.

Me: If you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, eventually one of them will write the bible. You’ve heard that saying before, right?
Colleague: Why would a monkey write a bible?
Me: No, it’s a saying. It’s the idea that random events can happen if you have enough time—and monkeys. So eventually, after hammering away, one of the monkeys might just randomly hit the right keys to recreate the words in the bible…sorry, it’s just a saying. I’m not implying that the person who wrote this, or the bible, is a monkey…

At that point, I started to get panicky, because I want my colleagues to think that I’m at least a little bit mentally competent, and I was starting to sound kind of like a crazy monkey-lady, which is like a crazy cat-lady, but with monkeys. Obviously. Then it occurred to me that I have a lot of strange sayings that I expect other people to understand, but a lot of the time (I’ve come to realize) they DON’T.

Once when I was still teaching, I was discussing Hamlet with my students. It was the scene where Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend, gives him back all the ‘remembrances’ he’s given her, under the direction of her father. Hamlet freaks out, tells her to get to a nunnery, and curses her out, even though he loves her. So I said, “That Hamlet—talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, right?” The kids were like, “Why would Hamlet cut off his nose? What does that mean?” So I went into this lengthy explanation of how if you’re mad at your face and you cut off your own nose just to piss off your face (I didn’t say piss, of course, but something innocuous like ‘tick’), then all you’ve done is wreck your own face, because you’re mad at yourself, and now you’ve made yourself more unhappy—AND noseless. I said, “Come on—none of you have EVER heard that expression? No one’s parents or grandparents have EVER used that expression?” To which one student replied, “My grandparents aren’t that old.” Ouch. Wow, really? Because I’ve inherited a lot of my weird sayings from my family, over the course of many years. Here are a few of my favourites, and I’ll be honest—even I’m not sure exactly what they mean.

1) “If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers.”

I have, after many years, interpreted this to mean that if you go to the Lagostina store a lot, you put pot-repair people out of business. This saying has numerous applications because it sounds very charming and clever, and it makes people think twice before they wish they had more pots.

2)“If hell was in Yoker, you’d get over for a penny.”

Where the hell IS Yoker? Plus, I would think that going to hell wouldn’t cost a measly penny—it would cost your ETERNAL SOUL. That one, I don’t even begin to understand. My dad knows what it means, mostly because I think he made it up. Or one of his Scottish ancestors did, when he was drunk on Scotch at a bar in Yoker.

3) “You’re such a dog in the manger.”

This is a very unusual saying, and I don’t know where it comes from (Ken), but it refers to a dog that doesn’t really want to BE in the manger (which is like a cattle stall), but he stays in there only because he doesn’t want the cow to enjoy the manger. Ken grew up on a dairy farm, so I imagine this happened a lot, with people constantly chasing dogs out of cattle stalls and whatnot. In human terms, this would be like a person who has called dibs on the long spot on the sectional couch, then won’t give it up to someone else, even if they’re really uncomfortable after watching the first 5 episodes of “Stranger Things Season Two.” Of course, I would NEVER do that.

4) “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

No they wouldn’t. From what I’ve seen of the local panhandlers in my neighbourhood, if wishes were horses, beggars would sell them for a hot meal and a warm bed. What would a panhandler do in downtown Toronto with a horse? First, they would have to feed their horses, and most of them don’t have enough money to feed themselves. This would most likely result in people sitting on sidewalks with signs that said, “Help me feed my horse.” Would you feel sorry for someone with a sign like that? My favourite homeless guy, who sits outside of Loblaws, has an adorable little terrier named Onyx, but he’s smart enough to keep a bag of dog treats next to his sleeping bag as a way to engage people. When someone says, “What a cute dog,” he asks if they would like to give Onyx a treat. Then people feel so sorry that Onyx is homeless too that they give him money to help feed the dog. And it works. Over the last 2 weeks, I must have given him at least 10 dollars, and one day he remarked that he had just run out of treats for Onyx, so I bought him a bag when I went into Loblaws. He was very grateful and blessed me, which was nice, all things considered. I can’t see that happening with a horse though. I definitely wouldn’t buy a bag of apples for a homeless guy’s horse. Even if he was my favourite panhandler like Francis (that’s not actually his name, but it’s what I call him in my head). I have a least favourite panhandler too—he’s the guy at the entrance to the Gardiner Expressway who has a sign with the Macdonald’s logo on it that says “Hungry and not lovin’ it”. While the sign is clever, he isn’t—he runs in and out of traffic with the sign and a coffee cup, banging on windows, and almost causing car crashes. A lot of panhandlers try to brand themselves with signs like “Can’t work, brain injury, please help”, or “Give a nickel for a kid in a pickle”, but Francis is more subtle—he doesn’t have a sign. He just sits wrapped in a sleeping bag, with a ball cap in front of him, and then he just smiles at everyone and says “hello” in a very pleasant way that makes you WANT to give him money. I’ll bet if he had one wish, it wouldn’t be for a horse, it would be for world peace, because that’s the kind of guy Francis is. I think.

5)“What you lose on the roundabout, you save on the swings.”

I love this saying. It basically means the same as “6 of one, half a dozen of the other”, so essentially, everything balances out. But it makes me think of carnivals, and that puts me in a festive mood. Of course, it could also refer to people with inner ear disorders, like Ken. Once, we went to a carnival in New Hamburg and I convinced him to go on the Tilt-A-Whirl. So we paid “for the roundabout”. Then he got so sick and dizzy that he couldn’t go on any more rides. I had to half-carry him home because he could barely walk. Except we didn’t really “save on the swings” because we had already bought tickets for some other rides, and ended up giving them away to random people because Ken was like, “Ooh, I feel like throwing up. Ooh, please take me home.” So technically, we lost on the roundabout AND the swings because Ken was a big baby. A big, nauseated baby.

I asked K what kind of sayings I use that she thinks are weird, and this was the conversation:
K: Well, you say f*ck a lot.
Me: That’s not a saying, that’s a swear word.
K: But I tell my friends, “Like my mom always says, ‘F*ck.”
Me: *laughs hysterically*

When she read this, she got upset and said I was making her sound like she talked with an English accent. I don’t know how that’s even possible, but I encourage all of you to imagine that she DID say all that with an English accent. And speaking of English accents, I leave you with this saying, in the immortal words of Oscar Wilde: “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying”.

40 thoughts on “My Week 187: Things I Say That No One Understands

  1. like Sara...but with a d says:

    I have heard the monkey and nose saying before if that is any consolation. Also, my mom says a really fun one “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” I’m not sure if that one is common but it does bring a disturbing visual, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So I Googled Mississauga and tinkers. I guess the pots and pans wouldn’t need to be repaired if there were more of them? Seriously I have no idea what is happening there. You did make mention of monkeys on my FB page this week but that was “Not my circus, not my monkeys” so I think maybe…um, well this is difficult….perhaps, it’s possible….you may have a monkey problem. Or maybe that’s a Canadian thing? Lord, knows I’m in no place to judge I live in America with a really bad orange reality TV star as the President (it still sounds like fiction and yet, no).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always loved idiomatic expressions, so I really loved this post of yours. I’ve only ever heard the monkey one before, so I really enjoyed the other ones that I hadn’t heard before (and the monkey one, too).

    I grew up in the Deep South (south-eastern US) and pretty much everything Southerners say is an idiomatic expression or slang. I didn’t realize that growing up and when I finally graduated college and moved to Dallas, my new coworkers would look at me strange when I would say a thing I thought nothing of.

    That is starting to happen again now that I’m an old geezer and my co-workers keep getting younger and younger.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love idiomatic expressions. I was just googling our Newfoundland, and they probably have as many as you do in the South. Which southern expression is the weirdest/most inexplicable in your opinion? I’m trying to round up something new to dazzle my coworkers with!


      • Oh gosh … I’ll have to try and remember some of them. Living in Dallas now, I don’t get to hear them as often as I used to. Here are a few off the top of my head.

        1. He/she was grinning like a mule eating cuckleburrs.

        2. He/she is more worthless than teats on a boar-hog.

        3. He/she has more teeth than Carter’s got pills.

        4. I’ll be there if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.

        5. He/she was madder than a wet hen. (Similar to “He/she was fit to be tied.”)

        6. He/she was happier than a dead pig in the sunshine. (I never really understood this one.)

        7. They were poorer than Job’s turkey.

        There’s lots more. I’ll have to try and remember them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Here from the reblog. I’ve heard the money one before, but I’m not sure of the others. However, I find some of them to be “pretty obvious”. How could those students of yours not get the “nose” one? It seems like the lack some creative thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I may be barking up the wrong tree with this response, or biting off more than I can chew, but you might think of it as a blessing in disguise. If none of this makes sense, it’s because I’m a bit under the weather from burning the midnight oil all weekend. In fact, I didn’t hit the sack until 3 on Sunday morning after having a once in a blue moon house party. Talk about not playing with a full deck! We were off our rocker that night and really took in the whole nine yards.

    But that’s a horse of a different color.

    Let me just say that this post was really on the ball; your picture painted a thousand words. Or vice versa. Oh well, I should let sleeping dogs lie now, but I really feel I killed two birds with one stone here!

    Now I just hope I didn’t steal your thunder … but, honestly, this was no piece of cake!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m sure you’ve read some of Aesop’s fables so I’m surprised you don’t know that’s where “The Dog In The Manger” is from. The cow gives the dog quite a dressing down because the dog is preventing the cow from eating the hay but gets no real benefit from it—at least that’s the allegory, someone who can’t benefit from something keeping it from others who could, although the dog does get a comfy place to sleep.
    Another Aesop’s fable that baffles me is the fox and the sour grapes. Do foxes eat grapes? And if you can’t have something isn’t it better to assume you’re happier without it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s pretty similar to Ken’s explanation, only without the hay eating–I didn’t know it came from Aesop so thanks for that! As for sour grapes, I think that’s like saying “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member!”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s some good ones there. I’m front England and sayings can be regional and there’s many of them. If your really full after a meal some say here ‘I’m Podged up to the eyeballs’ 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I say a lot of things even I don’t understand. For instance, we were vacationing on Friday Harbor and Alex asked a question–I don’t remember what it was–but I responded, “Don’t be the last stop on the tour.” Nate and Alex burst out laughing and so did I because I had no idea what that meant, but it stuck. We say it all the time now, for no reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve heard of the typewriter monkeys but then I remembered that it isn’t my circus and those aren’t my monkeys. I also realized that all my southern sayings have curse words. Like when you are happier than a pig in sh*t. Or don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. God willing and the creek (my husband calls it the ‘crick’) don’t rise, the sun will shine on a dog’s ass every now and then.

    Liked by 1 person

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