Thursday, 16 September 2010

A casual remark

'Everybody uses a lot of phrases without understanding what they really mean, me included'
This is the opening sentence of a recent post from one of my favourite bloggers - Mr London Street. And, as often happens with his writing, it set me thinking - not only about how we use sayings with little thought for their meaning, but also about the way that things we say are perceived and received by others. And how, in turn they come to define who we are and how others think about us and remember us.
A few months ago I was doing the 'concerned mother' bit with my gorgeous daughter, who had been overdoing it a bit and was feeling somewhat jaded. 
'Ok Mum, I know what you're going to say'
'You're going to tell me that I've been burning the candle at both ends. You always say that.'
Not only could I not remember ever having said it, I was dumbfounded to discover that it was something Megan expected me to say.
There are other phrases I know I use - 'you'll miss me when I'm gone' is one I'm least proud of - it usually earns the loving retort 'shall I help you pack' from one or other of my offspring.  
I remember, many years ago, getting stuck in a traffic queue one day, with them all sitting in the car. As we reached the head of the queue we saw a workman operating a 'Stop / Go' board. 


Without any thought, I commented - 'that's where you'll end up if you don't work hard at school'. Not exactly Ideal-Mother-Motivational-Speaking, but I didn't think much more about it, until I later heard it repeated by one of the kids. It's now become a standard 'family phrase' - one of those sayings that everyone in the family knows and expects.
At work, I've developed various coping mechanisms for when it all gets too much. My favourite has always been a shared team shake of the head and a loud shout of 'it's all bollocks' - never fails to bring some perspective.
When I stop to think about it - there are certain phrases, just a few words, in a particular order, that belong to people I know or have known and loved. Words that automatically bring with them a picture of that person. 
I don't have many memories of my Nan - she died when I was quite young, but to this day if anyone was to say to me 'if Ifs and Ands were pots and pans....' I would immediately be a little girl again, sitting in her flat on a Sunday morning, Two-way Family favourites on the radio, and me coveting her kitchen stool with the fold-up steps.


Baglady said...

We have phrases in our family that now get an ending "as my mum's old dad used to say". As in "this won't buy the baby a new bonnet or sell his old one. As my mum's old dad used to say". As I get older I treasure these. Even though I never knew my mum's old dad.

I love the image of you with your nan. Lovely.

Pat said...

We used to have a dear lady who 'did'.
Her stock phrase - come what- was:
'Ne'er mind! Can't be 'elped! Be a'right!'
A most useful phrase which we have adopted.

Philip said...

Me nana used to say "shite and fall back in it" when frustrated. God, she had a way with words. As do you. But a lot less crude and a lot more eloquent.

Philip said...

whoops - should have read she was more crude. Mea culpa.....
You are both less crude and more eloquent, better, cleverer, and very much more beautiful.

Madame DeFarge said...

I suspect that my entire conversation with the world comprises phrases sewn together to make sentences. I'd cringe if I saw it in print.

Haddock said...

All said and done kids always know what is going to come next ....'Ok Mum, I know what you're going to say'

La Belette Rouge said...

My grandmother used to say "You are nuttier than a damn squirrel". Every time I hear the word "nuts" or even see a squirrel I think of her.

Technogran said...

My kids are probably tired of all my sayings,most past down from my Mum and her Mum before her.
'Don't cast a clout till May goes out!' whenever they are tempted to wear thin clothes in Springtime.