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Most people know that saying ‘Bless you’ after someone sneezes dates back to the 17th century – when sneezing was an early symptom of the bubonic plague, but what about those less well-known sayings and traditions? 


Every family has little habits or expressions which, while they may not have made it into the history books, nevertheless get passed along to the next generation.


Here are some from my house:


‘Lah-lah, chop-chop, kiss-kiss, see you in the morning.’

When Senior Management was a child, her mum - a lovely lady, sadly no longer with us - used to bid her kids goodnight with the words ‘Lah-lah, chop-chop, kiss-kiss, see you in the morning’ (just as her own mother had done). 

Since the day our own children were born, we’ve carried on that tradition in our house.


‘Got your keys?’

When her children got older, Senior Management-in-law got a new catchphrase, ‘Got your keys’. Even though she died before he was born, my son knows this one started with his grandmother.


My own mum preferred to say ‘Mind how you go’ when we left the house. She also insisted on asking if you had on clean underwear, ‘just in case you get run over’.


It weren’t me. It must have been the dog!

Also from the Gibbs side of the family, we have two of my old gran’s most common dinner time phrases, ‘There’s always room at the table for Mr. Manners’ and ‘It weren’t me. It must have been the dog’. I confess I never did understand this last one since, as far as I’m aware, grandma never had a pet.  


It’s not just phrases that live on. Lullabies and popular songs from our parent’s childhood get passed down to us.


Dance To Thy Daddy.

At weekends, my dad’s job was to bath the kids. Some of my earliest memories of him are from when he used to sing Dance To Thy Daddy (aka When the Boat Comes In) to me while I was in the bath.


I tried to pass this on, but I’m sorry to say that I expect this one to end with me – at least as far as my own descendants are concerned. Kids these days prefer a shower, and in any case my 15-yr-old son says it makes him uncomfortable and has asked me to stop.


Round and Round the Garden, like a teddy bear.

Not a song, but a nursery rhyme/tickling game. All my kids used to love this one.   I don’t know when it first started. However, teddy bears are relatively recent, so I shouldn’t think it’s been around for more than about sixty years or so (unless the words have changed from the original) 


How about you?


What sayings, nursery rhymes or family traditions do you remember from childhood?


Have you passed any on to your own children?


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( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 19th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
Ours were mostly from books. When I was a kid, we had a book about a tiny dog who was in a circus for being so tiny. The catch phrase was "Everybody, everybody, come see little Pee Wee!" Which my mother used to call us to dinner or whenever we needed to assemble.

With my own kids, the one catch phrase they both recognize is from a Sesame Street book about the Cookie Monster and a witch with a cookie tree. She put a spell on the tree to only let people who would share have the cookies. Cookie Monster said, "That dumb thing to do!" We adopted that as the phrase to use whenever anyone did something like walk into a door because they weren't looking where they were going. It came in handy all too often!

Sep. 19th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
Lol, I like that Cookie Monster quote. Do you think your kids will pass it on to their children?
(no subject) - karen_w_newton - Sep. 19th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 19th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karen_w_newton - Sep. 19th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 19th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
My mother used to sing I love you a bushel and a peck to us.

I used the same song, although the lyrics morphed:
I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a wring around the neck
A wring around the neck and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap 'cause you're such a little creep,
I love you!

You can only imagine the dismay that ensued when the middle child finally learned that our lyrics were not the actual lyrics and shared it with his siblings. He was in college.

Yes, warping children does happen to be a favorite pastime of ours. *g* I rather hope our version sticks when the grandkids arrive.
Sep. 19th, 2009 05:44 pm (UTC)
'... warping children...'

Lol, I suspect that's a whole post on its own :)

Sep. 19th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
"Did you ever think when a hearse went by
that you may be the next to die?
They cover you up in a bloody sheet
and bury you under, seven feet deep.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
the ants play pinochle on your snout.
You stomach turns into a slimy green
and your guts pop out like whipping cream!"

(which is a great song to sing to yourself while swimming, the rhythm is perfect)

Also, my dad's saying has been shortened to 'sucks bunnies' from 'sucks dead bunnies through a garden hose'. I've passed that one on to a lot of people.

AND! Very important - every good story starts with 'There I was, this is no shit, thought I was gonna die'.

Thankfully, I do not have, nor will I ever have, children to corrupt.
Sep. 19th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Lol, I hope that hearse song isn't a lullaby ;)

Thanks for sharing :)
Sep. 19th, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
I don't have children YET (the nagging of the hubby has to work sometime soon!) but I am taking notes. :)

Thanks for sharing!!
Sep. 19th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Well, if and when they come, I'm sure you'll be a great mom :)
Sep. 19th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
My father use to always do chin-chopper, chin-chopper with us. And "Go to Bed Tom. "

And I remember

Holy Mary, full of Grace
send me down a boot lace

Holy Mary, Mother of God
send me down a Tommy Cod
(I don't know where they originated from)
Sep. 19th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Interesting. What's a Tommy Cod?
(no subject) - maryjdal - Sep. 19th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 19th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 19th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Southern Prases
In school we had a coach that had a unique curse whenever he got angry: "God bless a milkcow!" We all started saying that one.

A common Southern greeting: "How'boutchya?" *said really fast and pronounced somewhat like a Japenese grill* I've lived here a long time and still am unsure how to respond to this greeting. ("Uh...good?")
Sep. 19th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Southern Prases
God bless a milkcow? He must have been in the armed forces to learn curses like that ;)

Thanks for sharing :)
Sep. 19th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
God love grandmothers
I remember my grandmother saying two things in particular from my childhood:

How now, brown cow?

Crap, house, mouse.

Her lastest catch phrase (that she taught my husband) is to use "compound hell," as in "you scared the compound hell out of me."
Sep. 19th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
Re: God love grandmothers
How now, brown cow, sounds like a line from Pygmalion :)
Sep. 20th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
My grandma used to say "San ferry anne" when something bad happened but there was no use bemoaning your lot. I googled the phrase and found out that it's a saying from WW1 and stems from Britsh and Australian soldiers misunderstanding their French allies, who were saying (I think), "C'est ne fait rien," meaning "So be it" or something like that. I haven't passed this to my daughter yet but I have written a novelette called San Ferry Anne. I wish my grandma had been around to read it. I think she would have liked it.

Another family saying is "S'common knowledge!" This one stems from my dad's uncle who was a voracious reader and liked to impress people with titbits of obscure information then make light of it with "Dint yer know that? S'common knowledge!"
Sep. 20th, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)
You gotta love those mistranslations, like 'murky beans' and 'grassy arse' :)

I think something like 'S'common knowledge innit' might make a good catchphrase for a character.
Sep. 20th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
We have a few:
From my late-husband's family, when you referred to a lady by anything but her name would say, "SHE is the cat's mother!" No idea what that's supposed to mean.

From my grandmother when someone belched: 'Scuse the pig the hog's coming later.

Sep. 20th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
We had 'Who's 'she', tha cat's mother?'

When someone belched we had 'More tea, vicar?' :)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Sep. 20th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 20th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Sep. 20th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 20th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 20th, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)
Cool post Jon ...

I've lovingly passed on to my children (from my father), the touching and whimsical expression: "Quit that damned racket or I'm going to kick your butt up around your neck for a collar."

Times have changed, apparently, it seems my children are not intimidated in the least, and the threat just invokes slightly confused giggles. Go figure. ;)
Sep. 20th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 20th, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 20th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
My grandmother was big on "If wishes were horses then beggars would ride", and I still use that one, although I think of it far more often than I say it aloud.

The entire family (both parents' sides) used "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite." I've only used it a few times, but my kids know the phrase at least.
Sep. 20th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
I've heard both of those. There was another one, similar to wishes were horses, but I can't remember it.

Thanks for sharing :)
Sep. 20th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
How about, "If wishes and buts were clusters and nuts we'd all have a bowl of granola."
Sep. 20th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 20th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
'..."What ails this thing?"...'

That's a heck of a lot more polite than what gets said at my house when the lights cause a problem :)

Any idea where 'Al's not here.' comes from?
Sep. 20th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
Kathryn's family sayings
I loved these, Jon! It immediately brought back memories of funky sayings generated by my own boys and perpetuated by us all. The older one, after I tucked him in at night, always said "Mommy, I love you more than a pig." Not so hard to explain when you realize he really liked pigs. And here's one an Englishman will love: when my younger son was ticked off he would tap his youthful underbite to give me one huge lower lip. I often told him the shelf was big enough to balance a tea cup on. Later, this was shortened to, "Could I have a cup of tea with that pout?"
Sep. 20th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Kathryn's family sayings
Sorry: hadn't realized I was anonymous until after I posted! But then you know who I am by now, right? :)
Re: Kathryn's family sayings - jongibbs - Sep. 20th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Kathryn's family sayings - jongibbs - Sep. 20th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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