50 People Share Sayings They Grew Up With Only To Later Find Out They Were Unique To Their Family Interview With Author
Every family has a wealth of wisdom to share. Eventually, the sayings that our loved ones use become such an integral part of our everyday lives that it feels like the entire world should know what they’re talking about. Which can lead to a lot of fun.
Reddit user Tysmily asked the internet a very poignant question about what sayings people grew up with only to later find out that they were actually unique to their families. Check out the best, funniest, and most unexpected sayings below, dear Pandas. Remember to show the sayings you love the most your appreciation by giving them an upvote (we’re huge fans of the ‘we can’t afford monsters’ one) and let us know in the comment section if your family has any unique sayings, too!
Tysmily’s thread got over 49.9k upvotes and a whopping 149 awards which just goes to show that their fellow redditors really enjoyed the topic. We reached out to Tysmily to talk about their viral thread and Bored Panda also spoke about sayings and idioms with Mike Rock from the 'Know Your Phrase' website. "Idiomatic phrases can form at any time, including today. However, not all of them will reach popularity levels to where they become a part of everyday conversations," Mike said. Read on for our full interviews with him and with redditor Tysmily!
Growing up my working-class English mum used to cheerfully call me Lizzie from the Boneyard, especially if I was being sort of grubby or rascally. My name is not Elizabeth. One day I finally asked her why she called me that. She wondered for a minute and said "I don't know, it's what my mum used to call me."
One day we visited grandma in the home, and asked her why she used to call my mum - Sue - Lizzie from the Boneyard.
"I don't know," said Grandma, whose name was Brenda. "It's what my mum used to call me!"
I used to run a pub. I had to refuse to serve a rather inebriated young man. Rather than say ‘you think you’re the best thing since sliced bread’ he actually said: ‘ you think you’re a slice of bread’.
Since then, in our family, anytime one of us does something rather clever, we are accused of thinking we are a slice of bread.
Younger Me: “Dad I don’t want to walk downstairs at night. It’s too dark.”
Dad: “There’s no monsters. We can’t afford monsters.”
According to Mike from 'Know Your Phrase,' it's possible that some popular sayings that we all use nowadays may have started in a family home.
"After all, these phrases had to have come from somewhere, so a family home is certainly a possibility. When you think of the people who coined certain phrases—for example, the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman is said to have coined the phrase, 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen'—you might wonder if they came up with that themselves, or if maybe they heard it from within their family home. Maybe they heard it from a friend! Who knows?"
Growing up with an Asian mom that was working on perfecting her English, she would often say “Aw that is the suck” instead of, you know, “that sucks”. Didn’t take long for us to catch on and correct her but it was so funny we just kinda stuck to it, so when something is sh**ty now I’ll instinctively say in my head “well that is the suck”
As a kid whenever I would say 'I don't know what to wear!' my Grandma would say 'Put a raisin in your belly button and go as a cookie'
My mom would always say "don't think about penguins!" when we got hurt, and we would obviously and immediately start thinking about penguins and why we shouldn't be thinking about them, and we would stop crying
Mike stated that, in his opinion, an important factor that increases how likely a saying or an idiom is to spread or become common had to do with the popularity of its source. The more popular the source, the higher the likelihood.
"For example, several common idioms today originated from sports like baseball, boxing, and horse racing. Lots of eyes are on sporting events like these, so if a particular term is said frequently enough by, say, the sports commentators, then the many people watching and listening in might pick up on it and thus that particular phrase spreads."
Whenever I didn't like something, my dad would say, "Well it likes you. It called the other day and said so". It could be anything: broccoli, a hamburger, the neighbor's cat. Whatever I didn't like or want to try, he had always gotten a call.
'Get your poop in a group!' Ya know, instead of 'Get your s**t together'
My dad always used "it's broke with a capital F" - as his way of saying "it's completely f**ked" but without swearing in front of us as kids.
The majority of idioms that Mike writes about on 'Know Your Phrase' are from the early 1900s, the 1800s, and some are even older. However, this doesn't mean that there aren't any modern idioms; but we do have to widen our gaze a bit and look further back than we'd expect to.
"The closest 'modern-day' idioms I can think of are: 'It's not brain surgery' and 'It's not rocket science.' I believe the former dates back to around the 1960s, while the latter dates back to the 1980s," Mike shared, adding that there are most likely newer examples, but he focuses mostly on older phrases himself.
“Just like downtown” My immigrant dad has picked up a lot of American idioms, but some of them he’s made up. He uses this whenever he thinks he done something really well, like a perfect parking job.
He also uses actual phrases excessively. Like he’ll also say “call it a day” after a perfect parking job. Really, he’s just super proud of his parking skills.
Any time I’d ask my mom where she was going she’d shout, “Crazy! Want to go with me?”
Also, if you asked her to make you a sandwich she’d always say “Poof! You’re a sandwich!”
My Dad also used the word ‘dumberd’ a lot. Like his own personal synonym for dumbass.
When pulling out of the driveway for a trip:
“And we’re off, like a heard of turtles!”
"The world and families are becoming increasingly diverse," redditor Tysmily told Bored Panda, adding that new languages and idioms have driven new sayings and adaptations as people look to translate their mother tongue sayings to match their new environments. The redditor also revealed that in their family, their mom would say "little birdie" and "little frog" to refer to their and their sister's private parts, respectively, when they were kids. "I haven’t heard anyone else use that," Tysmily shared.
The redditor said that they started the thread out of boredom. "I grew up in a multilingual household, so I was curious about the kind of responses I’d see from across the world," they explained.
While the redditor didn't expect the thread to be a success when they first posed the question, they believe that people like platforms that allow them to share more about themselves and their stories that wouldn't make sense to share with stranger online otherwise. Tysmily believes that this is what lies behind the thread's roaring success.
When something new turned up and we'd ask my dad where it came from his reply was always "stole it from a blind man down on the corner"
"She's got an arse like a harvest frog." From my Irish Grandad. I still don't know what it means, though I do know it wasn't a compliment
Me: “What are you doing?” Dad, obviously just watching TV: “I’m digging a hole.”
Whether you call them sayings, idioms, expressions, phrases, or proverbs, they all overlap at some point and it all boils down to having some pearls of wisdom, information, and small lessons to share with someone else in a poetic, metaphorical way. That’s the beauty of language! And once you realize just how much humankind relies on metaphors, there’s no putting that particular genie back in the bottle.
Some of the most popular sayings have very interesting, even mythical, origins. For instance, the phrase ‘turn a blind eye,’ which means willingly refusing to acknowledge reality, supposedly dates back to the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 when Horatio Nelson brought his telescope to his bad eye and refused to withdraw when ordered to.
Nelson won the engagement, but History.com explains that some historians have dismissed what happened as a battlefield myth. Regardless, the phrase persists to this very day!
When Mom was angry about something and we'd ask her "what's for lunch?", she'd put her hands on her hips and exclaim:
English is not my moms first language. She’s Asian so she kind of messes up English, especially her cursing.
“Shut the f**k mouth.” “Hole of an ass” “No you f**k you.”
My sister and I have a good laugh when we hear it.
My dad spoke exclusively in movie quotes. So imagine my surprise when I found out people don't say "Feed me Seymour! Feeeeed meeeeee!" In response to dinner being ready or any food related conversation. Doesn't stop me from still saying it and all the other quotes though.
Meanwhile, another popular saying, ‘crocodile tears,’ which talks about someone pretending to be sad, comes from the 14th-century belief that crocodiles shed tears of sadness when they ate their prey. The myth was outlined in a book called ‘The Travels of Sir John Mandeville’ and 2 centuries later wound its way into Shakespeare’s plays where the phrase ‘crocodile tears’ became an idiom.
It’s hard to say which sayings will become universal, but one thing’s almost for sure—someone somewhere is already uttering the next popular idiom in their family kitchen, unaware that they might change literary history forever.
Whenever we were to fend for ourselves for dinner, my mom called it "getchuroni" (getchu-your-oni)
My mom would always say "it's behind the milk!" when we would look for something and couldn't find it. Inevitably whatever we were looking for one day was simply behind the milk in the fridge and we couldn't find it. My mom exclaimed this from across the house in frustration and it became the exclamation for anything someone is trying to find. Meaning look harder, actually move other objects instead of just blankly staring.
My dad sang opera so when he came to pick me up from grade school, he'd always sing my name for everyone to hear. Builds character, I guess.
I have yet to hear anyone else say it and I stole it from my dad but if something was broken he would say "it's bucking fusted"
Miss you dad
My dad is a neurologist. Anytime I complained that I was bored he would ask me “board certified?”. Took years for me to finally get it.
I'm sure this is actually super common, but it comes from my Great Grandma. She only spoke Hungarian and what little english she did know were translations of her favorite Hungarian swears. She would often call people, especially my father, "b**ch-bastard" in both languages. It stuck and most of my family on that side refer to each other as "b**ch-bastards", which does cover most bases.
When we’d go to restaurants and it came time to pay my dad, without fail, would always look in his wallet and say “ Well looks like we’re washing dishes tonight” as our means to pay.
I'm going to start drinking, and I don't mean diet coke!
My mom when angry
My nan and mum would always say "you're nosey for a cabbage", when I would try to ask about stuff that wasn't my business, not sure if it's unique to us but I've never heard anyone else say it
"What time dark" was something we would say to ask like the general question of when was like dinner and down time.
Turns out my parents were ass face drunk on vacation in a different part of the world before me and my sister were born when my mom turned to my dad and proclaimed "what time dark". Because she wanted to see the sun set but couldn't get the thoughts together.
So from 1-16 I thought it was a common saying, and from 16-24 when my mom passed everytime she said something stupid we would just go "WhAt TiMe dArK???"
My mom said something really funny once while we were getting ready to run out. She said, “Mirror mirror on the wall, you better f**king lie to me!” Since then it’s stuck and we say it before we leave to go out.
When my grandma would say " I got a bone in my leg" when she asked us kids to fetch stuff for her. It was her reason for not doing it herself. I felt so bad for her when I was super small. I really thought she'd hurt her leg or something. Like "would you bring me an iced tea? I got a bone in my leg"
My southern grandmother had some good ones:
“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” = if all goes according to plan. As in “We’ll see y’all in a week, lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”
“Too much sugar for a dime” = trying to do too much with too little. As in “You want to cook twelve side dishes, four desserts, and a turkey for four people? That’s too much sugar for a dime.”
She would also sign off on emails and cards the same way: “loveyousogranma” all one word like that. Some of the family have adopted it now, and I love that.
My granddad had some good ones too. I remember playing a game with him as a kid where I’d try to get him to say his name and he’d always respond “Puddin Cane. Ask me again I’ll tell you the same.” Makes no sense but I loved it.
my nan used to say 'who's she, the cat's mother?' whenever you told a story with too many pronouns and she lost track of characters
When being asked a question he couldn't possibly know, my dad would always respond "Do I have holes in my hands?" referring to (not) being Jesus and thus knowing everything.
My late grandma would tell us to go do some chores and my brothers, cousin and I would pretend we weren't listening so when one of us asked what she wanted again she would angrily say, "You heard me, you ain't blind!"
“You got goats”
My family’s way of saying you had a wedgie, because it looked like there was a goat in your crack eating your pants. Quite embarrasing when I found out that wasn’t a common phrase
My mum often says "they have a face like a slapped arse" whenever she is talking about co workers who aren't taking her constructive criticism well. They often have a pinched expression, lips pressed tightly together/puckered like an actual arse hole...
When my dad is done eating and is asked if he wants more food, he will often reply "mate, I'm full as a zoo keepers boot!" (I'm Australian)
He also says "they were giving out brains, you thought they said trains and you missed it" when I didn't listen to instructions.
My personal one is "they're a few skittles/crayola short of a rainbow" if someone is a bit off mark on something.
When I would stand in front of the TV and my mom couldnt see, she would always say: Your father is not a glassmaker! Meaning I wasnt see-through and would have to move.
Mom: You'd never notice on a galloping horse.
No one really looks closely at you.
One I still don't understand is "What are you doing? Posing for animal crackers?"
I mean, I understood the meaning but the reference was beyond me. Basically when I was standing around during work and not doing anything.
Dad had a lot of weird ones.
My dad doesn’t swear so he always uses the word “suck”. “What the suck is going on here?” “You’re all sucked up” It would always make me and my friends laugh.
He also uses the word bunghole. “That guys a real bunghole” he has a ton of other phrases I can’t think of right now.
My mum used to give us cereal bars in the supermarket to keep us entertained while she was grocery shopping.
Apparently 'trolley bars' isn't a universal term.
My dad always said “Life is like a bowl of cherries but you just gotta watch out for the sh*t underneath.” And to this day I have no fu**ing clue what it means. I asked him and he said one day you’ll get it. Well Dad I’m 36 and have no clue.
My favourite one is:
"You can f**k a rock all year, and it still won't love you."
My dad would tell us to “ cough it up it could be a gold watch “ if you were coughing. I never understand it.
when my great grandpa would be asked if he was ready he would say "well i aint freddy, Im freddy's brother, Killowatt." no one understood, but when im the ancient person in the family Im gonna start saying it too, to bewilder my younger family members.
All the codes for pooping. Poop jokes seem to be a thing in our family.
"Train coming down the tracks" "Fishing for brown trout" "Dropping the kids off at the pool" "Letting the prairie dogs run free" "Regular system maintenance"
There are a lot more but these are just a few
Dad would always say, “hotter than a garlic fart.” Never heard anyone else say that.
1) Whenever I'd get in trouble, my mom always used to say "Girl, you must think fat meat ain't greasy. Imma show you." Never understood what it meant and to this day, I barely understand. Looked it up recently though, and apparently it's a phrase that is pretty much exclusively used by African Americans.
2) Almost forgot about this one, but when I'd ask my mom what was for dinner, one of her favorite responses used to be, "Air pie and wind pudding." Never heard anyone else in my life say this lmao
I would make some kind of remark, my dad would say “well, aren’t you a fart smeller! I mean, a smart feller!”
My step-father would point at his head and say “kidneys man, kidneys” when he got credit for stuff (answering a trivia question for example). I use it with my students all the time .
My moms say
" You filled up with your eyes instead of your stomach."
Meaning we ordered or put too much food on our plates, then we couldn't even finish half of it.
If we were having a hard time doing a puzzle or something, mom would tell us “you gotta hold your teeth right”. Whenever she bought us presents they came from “the gettin place”.
“Whoa Jackson!” Was something my dad always said. He swore it was a thing in the 70’s, which my mom would always shake her head behind him and mouth, “it was never a thing.”
The term 'to disconcur' meaning to disagree. Tried using it once in a class and got some serious sideways looks. Teacher had to break it to me that it is not a valid word.
If someone said "Where is my (random item)?" My dad would always say "If it was up your ass you'd know." Still have never heard anyone else say that lol
Whenever someone would say "great minds think alike" my dad would ALWAYS respond with "but lesser ones rarely differ". I was a little confused when I said that and people were surprised
Oh, not to forget his golden quote: You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friends nose.
My father has a bunch of them, but my favorites are: “You’re shaking (or shivering) like you’re sh*tting peach pits” - he’d say this me whenever I would exhibit the slightest sign that I was cold, which he never seemed to be even on the coldest days “Slower than blue molasses” = slower than slow, even slower than regular molasses, usually said about a slow driver in front of him, or to me when I was taking too long to do something (usually getting ready for school) “More useless than tits on a boat” = even more useless than tits on a bull or boar. I’m convinced he used this because he once read the phrase wrong and mistook “boar” as “boat”.
My dad, to this day, would refer to someone f**king up as, "they sh*t the stick". Example: my dad is an "essential worker", and did not experience a furlough from his job because of COVID...I, however, was furloughed from my job when our state shut down...so when I told my parents that I was "out of a job", my dad looked me in the eye and asked, "was it because of COVID...or did you s**t the stick?" COVID, dad. No sh*tting of sticks for me.
When I was a kid and it was raining with the sun out my mom would always say,
"Ah the devil is beating his wife again."
The first time I said it around my wife she just looked at me like I'd grown a second head.
C’est la vie. C’est la guerre. C’est la pomme de terre. (Such is life. Such is war. Such are potatoes. I know this isn’t the correct translation exactly but this is how we said it as well) I was very disappointed going on foreign exchange to France and my host family had never heard of this family favorite.
I still love potatoes though.
When I was upset or complaining about something my mom would say “go tell it to the Marines.”
When full from a good dinner, we would say "My sufficiency is suffoncified". Lol came from my grandpa on my dad's side.
“Well that’s dumber than my last name!”
Literally thought all families said this, or at least it was a southern thing. Googled it. Nope.
Talked to my grandpa. Apparently our family’s last name had a “typo” and the worker at Ellis island wrote our last name incorrectly when my family migrated here hundreds of years ago.
He said he remembers HIS grandpa said the phrase too, so pretty sure it goes back hundreds of years and is my bloodlines oldest joke.
My grandma has a million of these, and my husband always has to remind me that normal people don't know wtf I'm talking about when I use them. "Lord help us in a pile", "Crooked as a dog's hind leg", "Redder than a fox's ass in pokeberry time." And if you were having a bad hair day, it looked like you "crawled through a bush backwards."
To this day, my dad says chow when saying good bye, which is probablyvery common. One day, we were ordering Chinese, and he saw chicken chow mein. Now he says "chow mein man" to my brother and I whenever we say good bye.
If my Mom didn’t want us to touch something, she would say, “Don’t touch that! It’s icky poos!”. Me and my brother still laugh when one of us uses “icky poos” in front of each other.
"Red shoes, no knickers."
My mum said this, that there's an implication women wearing red shoes weren't wearing any undies. Still haven't met anyone who has ever heard of it.
My dad would say “I don’t give a flying f**k on a rolling donut”.
My kids would say, “HAVE WE ALL LEARNED A VALUABLE LESSON??”
I used to say that all the time when they were growing up (I still do.) A good way to acknowledge that something went wrong without people getting all,tense about it.
My grandfather had a few.
“Well, I’ll be Jim Brown” meant he was impressed by how f**ked up something could get. Frustrated
“When you were knee-high to a grasshopper” meant, when you were a little kid.
“Yeah, and if a frog had wings it wouldn’t bump its ass every time it hopped” when you theorized “if” something would happen that obviously wouldn’t.
He also pronounced Miami as “Myamma”, Wash as “Warsh” and Mosquitoes as “Skeeters”.
"Better to be safe than a sardine."
My best friend's Dad has some interesting ones, the most memorable being : Wish in one hand, sh*t in the other, see which one fills up first - as a way of saying that you're being unrealistic
Answering for my kids...
When they ask me where something of theirs is, I say, "I sold it...on eBay."
"Let's went!" My parents lived in Holland for a few years before we were born, and I guess the translation of "let's go" in Dutch is "let's went" in English. They thought it was funny, so they just kept using it and we used it, too. I'm not 100% sure if the translation is right, but it just meant that every time we left the house, it was "okay, let's went!"
My mom used to say one of the following when we were about to leave a family gathering.
“We are gonna make like a tree and leaf”
“Let’s make like a baby and head out”
We also used to call Walmart walsmart not sure why.
My dad when he would get upset or be frustrated at something he would say well that’s a pisser. He also would talk about himself in the third person if he was upset at himself mostly calling himself by our last name telling himself to get it together or “come on stupid” Lol.
Whenever asked how you did something on the farm, the standard reply is "brute strength and awkwardness."
Growing up whenever me or one of our siblings annoyed our parents we’d ask them if they loved us, my mom of course would always say yes but my dad would look us straight in the eye and say “Do I love you yes... do I like you absolutely not.” Then walk away. As we all got older we thought this was the funniest thing in the world but one time in my senior year of highschool I had my friends over and they heard it and go so concerned that my father was emotionally mistreating me
When I say "fair enough" to my mum sometimes she responds with "there once was a fairy, called nuff"
Don't know if actually unique but I've never heard anyone else say it but her
“If there was work in the bed, you’d sleep on the floor”
A million o’clock to express “very late.”
When did he call you? At like a million o’clock!
My grandpa, the jokester that he is, has one that I’ve never heard anywhere else. If he thinks someone’s lying, he’ll ask them to stick out their tongue. He’ll then say “it’s black, like the ace of spades”, which to him means that you’re lying.
Whenever my grandfather heard of someone passing away, he’d be incredulous and say “people dying today that never died before”
Whenever me and my brothers would refuse to eat some sort of food at the dinner table my dad would say "You don't eat, you don't s**t. You don't s**t, ya die!"
Always cracked us up.
Dad used to call me "snicklefritz" not sure how to spell it. Basically means naughty child in German. We live in the US midwest but family is very German.
Ungowa. Not sure if that is how it is spelled, but that is how it is said. My dad always said it when he wanted us to get out if the room and go play. Said it was something they say in Aruba.
My mom also says "it isn't gossip if it is true" which I wholeheartedly disagree with.
I didn't have any family "sayings" growing up. When I married my wife, though, dayum!
"At a hundred yards on a galloping horse, they ain't gonna notice." Obvious mistakes to you aren't obvious to anyone else.
The answer to how're you doing? "Fair in the middle, better'n some, worse'n others."
And instead of saying Um or Uh, or other follow on "fillers", they'd use "Well, what I'm gettin' at is:" or "With that..."
My Nana always used to say “going for a big job” as her way of saying having a poo. In fairness, my jobs were rather big.
“Happy anniversary” in the context of “f**k you”
Whenever my grandfather and I went out shopping or whatever and we'd hit a red light he'd say "One of us isn't living right."
Meaning; only a bad person gets red lights and certainly HE is a good person, so it must be ME!
I grew up with my family calling farts “bottypops” I didn’t realise it wasn’t a universal saying until a few years back & when I asked my mum she told me it’s “pops from your bottom” like it was the most normal thing in the world
Others may say these, but I've only heard my parents say them:
"Put a glass-eye in a duck's ass and you could see that" = you're blind as a bat or stupid
"We gotta douche this place" = thoroughly clean
"Slicker than deer guts on a gear shift" Is probably the most unique one.
My dads favorite saying when we would ask him a yes or no question would be “Does a frog have a watertight asshole?” To this day I’m still not sure because I’m afraid to google it.
Probably not unique, but I always remember when someone would fail at at anything ‘graceful’ just say “smooth move, ex-lax”
When my brother and I would do anything stupid and/or clumsy, we'd snarkily say "swift move, swiftless."
So random and stupid.. It seems like it would have come off of some TV show or movie, but I have no idea which one.
My grandpa would always say "scratch your ass and get glad" or "a hard head makes a soft ass."
When my great grandma would fry up some chicken, my great grandpa would always say “chicken ain’t nothin but a bird.”
"Not Kicking The Arse Off" generally meaning 'about' and 'around'. E.g "It's not kicking the arse off 10 o'clock" My mum made it up many years ago and we've always used it, however the full saying is "Not kicking the arse of a donkeys back" Didn't know it wasn't an actual term until a few years ago.