My Mom was born on November 20th more than 100 years ago. She’s gone now, but I think of her often. The sweetest lady you could ever meet. Let me tell you about some of her favorite expressions.
“He’s very down to Earth.” Mom reserved this description for people who had a view of reality that was similar to her’s. Pragmatic, not dreamy. People who might have already been knocked about by fate. People who resisted the temptation to believe that they were more important and more entitled than others. Sadly, the very fact that she had to use this expression meant that she frequently met people “with their head in the clouds” or people who “were putting on airs.” She always preferred to spend time with folks who “had their feet on the ground.”
“She is a pill.” This expression was reserved for any person Mom believed was difficult to satisfy or a steady source of irritation. People who are hard to swallow. Avoiding them and their unending complaints is an excellent strategy. But when you cannot escape “a pill,” you take it without complaint and move on.
“He needs to get his head on straight.” This expression referred to someone who was confused, discombobulated, or addled. There are many causes of this kind of confusion. For Mom, all of them should be avoided. The notion of intentionally using drugs or alcohol was insane because it is always an advantage to have one’s head on straight.
Tip: In Mom’s world, a good cup of coffee was often a perfect way to help get one’s head on straight. That’s my belief too.
“Help me redd up the house.” In many parts of Pennsylvania, residents know that “redd up” means to clean or clear up a mess—to make things tidy. This expression comes from “redden” a Middle English verb meaning to clear an area or make it tidy. The term arrived in Pennsylvania with the early Scottish settlers and stuck. Mom grew up in Coatesville and Lancaster, so she would have heard this expression constantly. It stuck.
I live in Pittsburgh and still hear this expression frequently. It always reminds me of Mom.
“Whatever blows your hair back.” This was a phrase that Mom used to acknowledge that people are diverse and their preferences are correspondingly diverse. She preferred pinochle, sauerkraut, and classic fashions. Other people might prefer solitaire, hot peppers, and loud neckties. “Whatever blows your hair back.”
Although she was expressing characteristic tolerance of the preferences of others, there was also, in this expression, an indication that the choices of others baffled her—a tiny hint that the tastes of others were bizarre, incorrect, and impossible to justify.
I find that I carry this view myself. Like Mom, I believe that all other people are entitled to their own notions—no matter how foolish, pathetic, and ridiculous they are. She didn’t start using this expression until she was 80. Of course, by the time one is an octogenarian, you have seen an awful lot of foolish, pathetic, and ridiculous notions.
Can you recall any expressions that you link with your parents?
Pittsburgh, November 1, 2018