A Lick And A Promise


ďIíll just give this a lick and a promise,Ē my mother said as she quickly mopped up a spill on the floor without moving any of the furniture.

ďWhatís that supposed to mean,Ē I asked. In my young mind I envisioned someone licking the floor with his or her tongue.

ďIt means that Iím in a hurry and Iím busy canning tomatoes so I am going to just give it a lick with the mop and promise to come back and do the job right later.

ďA lick and a promiseĒ is just one of the many old phrases that I remember my mother, grandmother, and others using that they probably heard from the generations before them.

With the passing of time, many of the old sayings have become obsolete, or have even disappeared. This is unfortunate because some of them are very appropriate, as well as humorous. Following is a list that I came up with that I remember my parents and grandparents using:

A bone to pick: Someone who wants to discuss a disagreement.

An axe to grind: Someone who has a hidden motive. This phrase is said to have originated from   Benjamin Franklin who told a story about a devious man who asked how a grinding wheel worked. He ended up walking away with his axe sharpened free of charge.


A bad apple spoils the whole barrel: One corrupt person can cause all the others to go bad if you don't  remove the bad one.

Lost at sea: Lost, or not understanding something.

Bad egg: Someone who was not a good person.

Barking at a knot: Means that your efforts were as useless as a dog barking at a knot.

Bee in your bonnet: To have an idea that won't let loose.

Been through the mill: Having a rough time of it.

Between hay and grass: Not a child or an adult.

Blinky: A condition between sweet and sour, as in milk.

Calaboose: A jail.

Cattywampus: Something that sits crooked, such as a piece of furniture placed at an odd angle.

Dicker: To barter or trade.

Feather in your cap: To accomplish a goal. This came from years ago in wartime when warriors might receive a feather they would put in their cap for defeating an enemy.

Hold your horses!: Be patient!

I reckon: I suppose.

Jawing: Talking or arguing.

Kit and caboodle: The whole thing.

Madder than an old wet hen: Really angry about something.

Needs taken down a notch or two. Like notches in a belt, and usually refers to a young person who thinks too highly of himself and needs a lesson.

No spring chicken: Not young anymore.

Persnickety: One who is overly particular or snobbish.

Pert-near: Short for pretty near.

Pretty is as pretty does: Your actions are more important than your looks.

Scalawag: A rascal or unprincipled person.

Scarce as henís teeth: Something difficult to obtain.

Skedaddle: Get out of here quickly.

Sparking: Courting.

Straight from the horseís mouth: Privileged information from the one concerned.

Stringing around, gallivanting around, or piddling: Not doing anything of value.

Sunday go to meetiní dress: The best dress one had.

You clean up right good: You look good all dressed up.

Tie the knot: To get married.

Split the sheets: To get divorced.

Too many irons in the fire: To be involved in too many things all at the same time.

Plum tuckered out: Tired and all worn out.

Under the weather: Not feeling well. This term came from going below deck on ships due to sea sickness, thus you go below, or under the weather.

Wearing your ďbest bib and tuckerĒ: Being all dressed up.

You ainít the only duck in the pond: Itís not all about you.

That dog donít hunt: I donít believe that.

She looks like sheís been rode hard and put up wet: She looks tired, or she looks older than she is.

Lord willing and the creek donít rise: Iíll make every effort to do it.

I didnít just fall off a turnip truck: I donít believe you.

Heís like a dog with a bone: Referring to someone who wonít let a subject die.

Heís chasing rabbitís again: Refers to someone who takes off on one subject and runs the conversation around to several others.

Now thatís too much sugar for a dime!: Meaning something was too much effort for what you would get out of it.

Iím going to jerk a knot in your tail if you donít straighten up: Threatens dire consequences if a child doesnít behave.

Iím as happy as a pig in slop: Now thatís happy!

Itís already saucered and blowed: This refers to pouring coffee from the cup into the saucer and blowing on it to get it cool enough to drink, but was also used in the context of having something ready.

Heís just barking to hear his head rattle: This refers to a dog that doesnít seem to be barking at anything specific.

If it donít rain itís going to miss a good chance: Itís cloudy and it looks like rain.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed: Usually refers to someone who looks fairly good after a night of partying.

Don't wear out your welcome: Don't stay too long.    

And perhaps my favorite old saying, and one I use myself on occasion, refers to when someone asks you if you want to do something and you begrudgingly assent by saying....

ďWell, I canít dance and itís too wet to plowÖĒ



Contributed by Jean Cummins of Bakersfield, California