In the Year of the Flood…and Other Pearls of Wisdom

Whenever one of my mother’s tried and true sayings comes out of my mouth, my daughter laughs at me. She really enjoys hearing these antiquated expressions being applied to modern life. I think they are called aphorisms.

“An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic (concise) and memorable form. Aphorism literally means a “distinction” or “definition”. In modern usage an aphorism is generally understood to be a concise statement containing a subjective truth or observation cleverly and pithily written.”

For some time I have had a fantasy about making an art installation piece that would be the foam head of a mannequin, and from it somehow would be spewing all the words of wisdom that my Mom repeated whenever the need arose. This would have to be an auditory installation since part of the experience is hearing the actual words being spoken in a certain tone.

For the most part, I hated these expressions. To me they seem judgmental; they dismiss too summarily the nuances of any situation that can arise between human beings. Birds of a feather flock together. That one can be both positive and negative, but for the most part it was meant to be a criticism because that’s the way my mother was…totally judgmental.

She had one of these sayings for every occasion. Some children are raised according to words from the Bible or the Torah or the Koran. I was raised according to the Telegraphic Wisdom of Ida. Most of the time, when a situation arose that she felt compelled to comment upon, I could hear the words before she even began to say them.

I suspect that many of us Boomers had this same experience. I haven’t given it enough thought to figure out why these statements were so popular in the post-WWII years. Maybe it was because child psychology hadn’t yet taken hold, so parents needed some kind of moral compass to guide us through life. My husband just expressed his belief that our parents probably heard them from their parents and that they probably existed even back in the 18th century. Perhaps it was a kind of folk wisdom that grew as the nation began to come of age and needed a way to codify everyone’s experiences.

…As old as Methuselah; When it rains, it pours; There’s no fool like an old fool; Don’t count your chickens before they hatch…the list is endless. How many do you know, or were you subjected to in your childhood? I have always tried not to inflict them on my own children, but because my daughter is back home now, she gets to hear my occasional lapses..and then we laugh together. After all, “He who laughs last, laughs best!”


10 thoughts on “In the Year of the Flood…and Other Pearls of Wisdom”

  1. Though I am a tried and true Noo Yawka, my family roots are very southern. There’s the all the well-known plus the many colloquialisms that are uniquely southern. So I know your and your daughter’s “pain” lol. Language unused is language lost. I view it as a part of their personalities and now a part of mine as I toss one out now and again, granted not always on purpose, to bemused, and sometimes befuddled looks. It’s a part of how I remember them.


  2. The only saying I remember from my mom was related to an incident that happened when my dad was little. I didn’t know it wasn’t a common saying until I used it once and no one understood what I was talking about.


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