Everybody Knows

There is weirdness in every culture, but sometimes I feel like I grew up in a whimsical parallel universe.

For instance, the other day in the shower, while suffering under that perfect combination of still half asleep and starting to try to plan the day, a “just so aphorism” from my childhood came through my mind, and it made me go “uh?”

So, when I was growing up (I don’t think any longer) it was taken as written that the humble orange had lethal superpowers.

The saying about the orange was “De manha e ouro, a tarde e prata, e a noite…. mata.” I.e. “In the morning it’s gold, in the afternoon it’s silver, and at night it kills.”

Now, it’s possible, the Portuguese being, in general, irredeemable poets that the rhyme was just too strong a temptation to resist. And I do get that mom thought having oranges in the afternoon gave you indigestion (What part of this was insanity and suggestion only Himself knows, and even He might be quirking an eyebrow, like I do when my characters are being particularly themselves.) But what in the name of Ned has the poor orange done to deserve being blamed for DEATH?

I have forgotten this plenty of times in my adult, post acculturation life and suffered neither indigestion nor — certainly — death. Unless, of course, I got better.

Look, sometimes there are sayings and superstitions you can kind of see. For instance my mother in law was horrified when she found I’d kept tomato paste in the can (in a ziploc) in the fridge, and lectured me about how once a can is open the contents become poisonous.

Now, I grant you that if you leave it in an open can, the contents start tasting of the metal. BUT POISONOUS? Well…. researching I found out this is true of lead cans which no one has used in a century, give or take (too lazy to go look.)

So, you know, her grandmother told her, and her mom told her, and then–

So, I can see where that one came from. But Oranges, really?

I’ll refrain from chasing down the rathole of the more superstitious one, like breaking a spider web with your face is bad luck. (well, you’re probably going to have a spider in your hair. So if you mind, that is indeed bad luck.) Or killing a spider first thing in the morning is good luck. (Poor spider.)

And I know there is something to “don’t swim after eating, it will stop your digestion” which might have something to do with its being an arctic current in the North of Portugal, and if not stopping your digestion making you feel ill and out of sorts.

But seriously? I don’t think — daringly — I needed to observe three hours because I had a cracker and some cheese, no matter what mom thought.

And still I come back to the orange. It’s so non-sensical a saying I managed to erase it wholly from my head.

I’m sure there are others, btw, like the belief that if you drink water with fish, you’ll feel like the fish is swimming around in your stomach (the grease, I assume. Cold waters, greasy fish) but the one about the orange strikes me as uniquely insane, and makes me wonder if in this parallel world, where I apparently grew up, oranges become sentient at night, and don little capes, and grab daggers to come kill you in your sleep.

I got nothing.

I’m sure there was a thought, or at least some idea behind it, but it failed to make it. It is said under “everybody knows” in the same way as “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Hey, maybe it was the apple lobby, trying to throw shade on oranges?

What do you guys think? And are there other utterly non-sensical proverbs and sayings you learned?
Please? It’s lonely out here, being the only one from an insane parallel world.

366 thoughts on “Everybody Knows

  1. The reason for the “open can of tomatoes” one is probably botulism.

    It’s rare, but could happen under the right conditions.

    1. Botulin toxin forms in the *absence* of air, so that can’t be it.

      There are other food-borne illnesses that are aerobic, but it’s hard to see how being in a can would make them any worse.

      Weird stuff that (some) old-timers believed when I was a kid:

      1) Praying mantises and stick insects were venomous, to a deadly degree.
      2) Swimming after eating was dangerous (that one appears to have been widespread!)
      3) Cats could “steal a baby’s breath” and kill it.
      4) A window had to be open at least a crack while you were sleeping, or you’d suffocate.

        1. I’ve been wondering about the can thing myself because on many canned products it says to store the leftovers outside the can. So I assumed it was because of the metal leaching into the food.Aluminum is supposed to be super bad for you too, so maybe that’s it?

            1. Don’t know about caused but I’ve seen studies suggesting a link between Alzheimers and Al blood levels. A quick search also suggests that it is still being looked at as they haven’t been able to prove or disprove anything either way.

            2. I mean…you have to go out of your way to buy aluminum *free* baking powder, so I’m thinking either “oooh it’s dangerous” is either a passing fad, or we’re gonna find out something really awful.

              (I prefer aluminum free baking powder because I really dislike the weird bite/aftertaste “regular” baking powder has on account of the aluminum, but…::shrugs::)

      1. A variant on #4, running a fan in a room with closed windows will suffocate you. I know it’s of Korean origin and was somehow related to wanting to delay purchasing of electric fans, but forgot all the details.

        1. And then there’s the folks (all the ones I knew were of Eastern European extraction) who felt that ANY kind of draft/current would kill you, so… ::shrugs::

            1. Yeah, but I’ve heard it from other Europeans as well (and saw it mentioned elsewhere in the comments here) so I’m thinking it might be a general-European thing.

              Though I have no doubt the housing didn’t help. I’m pretty sure Commie contractors had never even HEARD of a square. Or a level….

              1. “Building in Glorious Peoples Republic would not DARE to be unlevel!”

                And Socialist concrete can be 90% sand, unlike Eeevul Capitalist concrete.

                1. Heh. Certainly the examples I saw 20 years ago were alarming as heck. I found it a miracle that more apartment buildings didn’t collapse!! (None did, at least not while I was there.)

        2. Some historical background about Korean housing:
          Korean houses, for centuries, routed the kitchen fire chimney under the house, so that the escaping gases and smoke would heat up the subfloor and then make the floor warm. Everybody sat, ate, slept, worked, whatever, on the floor, so the thermal mass was cozy during the very cold Korean winters.
          The builders had ways of sealing the floors to be smoke proof, but gases like Carbon Monoxide are invisible.
          So if you have a sealed up house, and then you have a leak in your floor, then you will indeed die.
          I suspect (without actual proof) that this is the origin, in folk memory, of the common Korean belief about fan death, which is still present.
          Modern Korean houses and apartments are often built to be heated similarly, but instead of smoke/gases under the floor, hot water is piped through the floors.

          1. I have an adorable pic on my phone (have to save it to the picture file on the computer) of Persephone curling up around Wee Jamie. Protecting him from boggarts, gremlins and things that go ‘bump’ in the night…

          2. That’s a new one– our boys were terrified of the babies, and I know I sent you the picture of the Contessa with Idiot Kitten, both curled up on their sides and out HARD,

        1. Wee Jamie’s pediatrician was agreeable to the intelligence that he would be living in a house with three indoor cats and two dogs. I can only think that she believes the science that indicates that pets present in a household will knock down the chances of allergies later on…

          1. We got one that was sure every dog and every cat were the rare, way out there insane animals, and that we had room temp IQs when it came to “keep the cat from being abused by the baby.”

            1. …had that dr ever MET a cat? they kind of come with built-in defenses that’ll teach a small child RIGHT fast not to piss off Kitty.

              1. My former in-laws were aghast when we told them that all the cats had scratched our daughter at one time or another. “What are you going to do about it?” they asked.

                “Nothing,” we said, “the cats already took care of it. She’s learned not to harass them now.”

                1. (shrug) Our cats refused to be on the floor until the rug rat was domesticated. They were not happy with him stealing their lap, however. Nor were they particularly happy that those nice new quilts were stolen … OTOH they LOVED the food on the floor phase. Not as good as a dog would have been (we had to put our dog down when baby was 6 months because of old-dog-multiple-strokes).

                  1. Er…. Pete the scary cat (nickname Cat From Hades given by our friends) loved older son so much, he let older son (then in a walker) drag him by the tail. Never bit or scratched his boy. If kid was being unbearable (rare. The dragging by tail was an attempt at being sociable.) Pete would give these agonized meows so I could intervene. BUT I was not allowed to do anything that made baby cry, otherwise Pete attacked me.

                    1. The one time we had indoor (sort of) cats when I was small (pre-severe cat allergy that lasted until early adulthood), I gather the two cats (Frodo and Bilbo) were fairly tolerant of me…until I tried to put Frodo on my head. I got scratched on the face, but apparently learned to respect cats (and gained, later, the ability to charm feral cats, heh).

                      We had Pyrenees when I was a teen, and I have never met more patient dogs. Schnauzers, mostly, are good with kids, but they’re still terriers and can still be rather high strung. Pyrenees, though, at least if they view the small child as “part of my flock to protect”…Next Younger Brother (9 years younger than I) used to climb all over our 150lb male dog (Beast) when he was 4 years old or so. Pull his tail, pull his ears, hang off his neck…and when Beast got tired of it, he’d gently nudge Younger Brother to the ground, plant a giant paw gently but firmly on his chest, and give a huge doggy grin while brother flailed and complained until Mom came and got him.

                      He did something similar with the baby miniature horses, who liked to ride around on his back. He’d get tired of it, sit down, they’d slide off and think it was great fun.

                    2. One night our son (just old enough to sit up), the cat and I were on the bed and I looked up in time to see our boy take Sadie’s tail in both hands, raise it to his mouth and bite down. Sadie pulled her tail free and jumped off the bed. I was impressed.
                      A few months later, he pulled her tail and she carefully put her paw on the side of his head with the claws just barely touching. I figured she’d decided he was reaching the age of reason so she gave him a warning. So far as I know he didn’t pull her tail again.

                  2. Old Man cat will sit under the table and give off an aura of “I am waiting for you do do the right thing” at the kids.

              2. They’re doctors, they meet those cases where the kid nearly dies from the cat defending itself. (that’s usually the painful hug, on a kitten, and clips the blood veins in the throat) Or loses an eye.

                The really freaking rare stuff. Selection bias. 😀

              3. My roommate’s younger daughter tried that with Isis, the 6 pound hell-kitty. She learned right quick not to pick the cute little kitty up without proper negotiation. A vet told me that if you stretched out a cat via the scruff of the neck it wouldn’t mind getting a shot. Isis had her own ideas on that, much to the vet’s discomfort. Not sure if I laughed or not…

                1. It took 3 of us, in armor, to clip the nails of a 5# elderly cat. Which had to be done because she wasn’t keeping them trimmed down naturally. Either that or have her sedated, every quarter, so the veterinarian could trim them. Since then, every kitten we’ve had come in, I’ve clipped their nails when they were too tiny to fight. Protest yes. Fight no. Even though, to start, all clipping was to spread out needle claws and click the clipper near them, no actual trimming. Success with the 4 adults that this process has been used on. Current three still protest, but they don’t fight. And it can be done with one person without putting on the armor.

                  1. The border collie had lots of quirks, but didn’t mind getting her nails trimmed, much. Sara, the lab-aussie, while a sweetheart in most phases, loathes getting her nails trimmed. $SPOUSE holds her as best as she can, while I try to keep the pau in place and where it won’t acually injure her or me.

                    We got the front paws last week, and the back paws yesterday. Sara can walk better (for values of better owing to a dog with major seizures screwing up her mobility centers) and decided to forgive me last night. I assume she’ll be happy with $SPOUSE in the morning. She doesn’t hold a grudge. Long, anyway.

                    1. I’ve finally broken down and bought a grooming table. Mostly on account of I’m the one who shaves the parents’ dogs (this round, it’s half-schnauzer, half-westies instead of mini schnauzers) and have done for the last 15 or so years (dad used to, but he always approaches it like shearing a sheep, and this mildly traumatizes the dogs), and sitting on the floor for two hours wasn’t fun even when I was in my 20s, but is now really painful. Now that I’ve figured out how to run the restraint system on it, I expect it will prove very useful for grinding down the dog nails as well. Dad again. He always gets too enthusiastic in trimming the dog nails, clips too high, it hurts and the dog bleeds and is traumatized–this always happens when they’re a puppy, too–and subsequently refuses to cooperate on further attempts, even with peanut butter bribes. And as I found out last time I took them to the vet to do it, it took so many people to restrain the two very tiny dogs to clip their nails they charged us the earth for it, sigh.

                    2. I used to do my German Shepard’s nails. She didn’t like it. But didn’t fight me. When we got Taylor, a much smaller English Toy Spaniel, two of her nails were fused together on each front foot, making them difficult to properly clip or even grind. I used the same groomer that the Veterinarian Rescue used (also the same groomer the head veterinarian uses for her dogs). After she passed away, the new puppy, I used the same groomer to clip her nails. She doesn’t like it, but she tolerates it. Current groomer says Pepper “holds the hand that is holding her paw”. Groomer loves it.

        2. If you sleep with your mouth open, cats (or at least, kittens) will stick their faces into your mouth.

          Ask me how I know.

          Yes, I once woke up with three kittens examining my glottis from close up. Not a good way to wake up, albeit I guess I did wake up.

          1. I dislike waking up to the other end of the cat.

            Although fish breath first thing in the morning can also be a very…special experience.

          2. D’Artagnan-cat, aka Inappropriate Licking Boi (Notorious ILB is his rapper name) woke older son up a few times by licking his tongue.
            He also did it once when son was awake and yawned.
            The kid ran to the bathroom screaming EW and finished a tube of toothpaste and a bottle of mouth wash.

  2. My mother thought …
    My grandmother …

    Nope, I got nothin’.

    On the other hand, it was common knowledge anywhere in the US that if you swim after eating you will get a cramp and drown, so you had to wait at least half an hour.

      1. I guess the Portuguese took a reasonable precaution and distorted it for all it was worth? Or maybe just misplaced the colon; 0:30 hours and 3:00 hours could look pretty similar to a dyslexic.

        1. One hour for us. Parents grew up in the Chicago area. Not that I was a good swimmer anyhow…

      2. My old-country Polish Grandmother would agree with you, 3 hours or you’ll get cramps and drown!

  3. Having evicted a bird that flew down the chimney yesterday, there’s the one that a bird in the house is an omen of bad luck, and possibly a death in the household in three days.

    1. Mark Twain said (in Huckleberry Finn J in think) that a dog howling was a sign someone was going to die.

    1. Well, oranges were the symbol of pending death, regardless of time of day, in Godfather and Godfather 2.

  4. The advice was “don’t go swimming for an hour after eating, because you might get cramps and drown.” (Apparently based on the idea that digestion monopolizes bloodflow after the meal.)

    As to the perils of oranges, tho… maybe if you sleep under the tree and in the night all the oranges fall down and squish your head??

    And remember, eat a live toad for breakfast, and nothing worse will happen all day!

    1. I heard that one a lot. On the other hand, however, I was on the swim team, had practice at eight in the morning, and the only time I had a serious “God please let me make it to the side” cramp was the morning that I DIDN’T eat breakfast before practice.

    2. Strenuous activity right after eating can lead to…the opposite of eating. There’s speculation it’s a ‘fight or flight’ thing, the body trying to lighten the load.

      1. It’s the biological equivalent of “Transfer life support power to the engines.”

  5. I remember hearing that if you had a full meal, you shouldn’t go swimming immediately afterwards. For some reason, I remember “wait an hour before swimming”.

    1. That article seems remarkably blasé about cramps while swimming. “Oh, it’s no big deal, all you have to do is tense and relax the muscle…while keeping yourself afloat and screaming in pain. Or, worse case scenario, you just float on your back…again, while in screaming pain, it’s easy.” I’ve never had a serious leg cramp while swimming, but I kind of doubt it would be as easy to deal with as they suggest.

      And stomach cramps are definitely real, I have had them while swimming, and they do cause problems. I don’t know if they’re caused by oxygen depravation or something else, but there was at least one time when I was in the deep end of the pool, suddenly doubled up in pain, and flailed my way to the side, terrified the whole way. It wasn’t caused by eating (I’d actually skipped breakfast that morning), but it was real.

      tl;dr version: I think the don’t swim for X amount of time after eating is likely a wives tale, but I’m not at all sure that we can trust the Snopes justification.

      1. Since I am now prone to random cramping, legs mostly, when I am cold I can state: If you are going to cramp up badly in the water you had best not be the sort of person that panics. Extreme pain and floating can get tricky. So can swimming if you are trying to keep one limb immobile, two limbs makes it worse. This is not insurmountable but I’m glad that I’ve been swimming since I was four. So swimming RIGHT after eating a big meal is probably a bad thing. And I’m kind of about wearing life jackets anymore but that’s also due to doing water safety patrols.

        1. Good.
          Storytime (sad). A few years ago Aunt & husband were doing their yearly holiday thing of being out on a lake. Aunt swam, and was a swim instructor. Somehow Aunt & husband were on different boats. Freak occurrence of two large waves and constructive interference knock her boat significantly. She, another adult, and kid end up the water. The one person still on board manages to get to the controls and bring the boat to stop. Kid is in life jacket (the only one wearing such), and is fine. The other adult is making a LOT of noise, and is pulled out right quick. They find kid… jacket does its job, kid is fine. And then… they find Aunt… the autopsy failed to find any signs of injury, trauma, or evidence of heart attack. The swimmer… drowned.

          And I think of other side of the family grandpa’s rule: “Are you in a boat? Then you better have the life jacket on, or get out of the boat.”

          1. I’ve been on several boat tours in south Florida in shallow water where the boat captain more-or-less said “There’s the life jackets. We have to have them, and I have to tell you that, but really, if the boat sinks, just walk back to land.”

        2. I only ever had it happen once while swimming. Got a charley horse in my foot. I didn’t panic, and managed to flounder myself to the side of the pool, but boy it was NOT fun, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen while I was alone or further out in a large pool!

      2. I had a serious leg cramp once while swimming. It was just about that easy. The key is to not panic.

  6. Well, my Colombian wife told me that (from her mother) finding a live firefly in your house is a sign of an impending death in the family. No, she doesn’t believe that (I don’t think…).

    1. The Italian side of my wife’s family had a similar thing about a bird in the house being a bad omen.
      It was strong enough that even glass birds on the Christmas tree gave my mother in law a brief start.

      One New England belief is that polydactyl cats are lucky and better mousers. You can actually trace where some of the Tory folks that left New England for Canada went because the incidence of polydactl cats in the strays is well above the normal occurrence.

        1. Dearest Hostess I am just as in thrall to my feline overlords as the next cat lover. But giving them Brains AND functioning thumbs may make us superfluous. This (along with nearly any cat based Uplift) seems like it is almost as safe as creating Skynet 🙂 .

          1. I agree. But the stories are glorious, especially the one where her tomcat invented the lever in his attempt to get to his ladylove.

            1. Scarily cats can sometimes seem to figure out tool use for limited cases. One of our cats LOVES to play with raw green beans (he treats them as a favored toy don’t ask how this started). Invariably they end up under something, the couch, the stove, the fridge etc. He then struggles to try to fish them out and usually comes to one of the humans to fish it out if he can’t. One day I did it using a ruler which I lazily left on the floor near the couch. Later that same day when he’d lost his toy again he was pushing the ruler around near and under the couch in what appeared to be an intentional attempt to duplicate what I did. I’m keeping my eye on that cat…

              1. My cat’s brother, the much-missed Beckham, was FASCINATED with the toilet. He’d watch us flush it, and watch the water with deep interest–it was adorable enough that sometimes we’d flush it again, ‘cos he’d get so excited. But I’d also watch him look from the water, to the handle, and I could SEE the little gears turning in his brain. Several times I caught him fiddling with the handle–he’d made the connection, but didn’t have the required strength to push it down all the way. Same with the lever handles on the doors. He knew how they worked, but wasn’t tall enough/able to get enough leverage to open the door himself. Because the outside doors all open inwards–if they’d opened outwards, we’d have had problems.

                He was a smart cat. We often joked that we probably should have named him Sherlock. (Beckham came because within two days of adopting him, we found that he played fetch–and catch–with impressive acrobatics.)

  7. When young, some sayings didn’t make sense to me. One I recall is:
    “A stitch in time save nine.” Now, *now*, I know it means one stitch early means not needing many more later, but then… ‘saves nine WHAT, huh?’

    1. Saves nine stitches. Nine being a rhyming number that fits the rest of the sentence.

      Of course there is the other variant: “A switch in time saved nine”. Legacy of Fascist America.

    2. I found this lovely site of phrases and their origins. Did you know the proverb is a anagram for “this is meant as an incentive”? RTWT

      phrases.org.uk/meanings/a-stitch-in-time.html#:~:text=%27A stitch in time saves nine%27 originated in,1732%3A “A Stitch in Time May save nine.”

      Anyhoo, it got me thinking that the earliest recorded source for this proverb (here*) inspired Poor Richard’s Almanac, and the U.S.A. (unlike Portugal) is a baby country built with a printing press (and guns 😉) so perhaps our poetic maxims got supplanted by practical (or can be traced back to)

      *Putting actual link in a reply to this combox. WPDE.

      1. amazon.com/gp/product/1929154321/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1929154321&linkCode=as2&tag=phrases09-20&linkId=84e4feeaf709a47f016e38ce675c13aa

    3. Fix ravelling and rips earlier, to prevent the hole becoming worse.
      That one is easy to explain.

    4. Of course, I got an early start on Science Fiction so my earliest memory of the saying has me wondering, “What is it that putting a stich in Time saves?”

  8. I had occasion to meet a few mountain people or hillbillies as the common slur is. They do develop some strange ideas in isolation.
    A common one is the keeping a chihuahua dog will keep you from developing asthma. Or as they phrase it – Keeps the asthma away.
    Another is that going faster drops the temperature in your radiator faster – fine – except they insist the coolant will continue getting colder even below the air temperature. That if you can go fast enough it will freeze even if it is hot out.
    Another sad thing I have been told in complete seriousness is that if something wasn’t true – They By God couldn’t print it!
    When I responded that indeed the printing presses would seize up and crash they looked at my like I was crazy. They really honestly believe this. Apparently they have never seen conflicting statements in two papers.

    1. > Apparently they have never seen conflicting statements in two papers.

      Or even from the same author.

      I seem to recall that Daniel Defoe got into some hot water when it became known that he’d been writing scurrilous (and opposing) editorials for both Tory and Whig newspapers at the same time, under two different pen names.

      He wasn’t entirely honest in other areas of his life, either. Good writer, though.

    2. I think I’ve heard the one about chihuahuas being good for asthma; at least, I know someone who had one as a child to help his asthma. (He’s alive now and pretty okay, albeit on insulin.)

      1. Huh. I wonder if that came about because…I dunno, I imagine that short-hair chihuahuas don’t have a lot of dander, and they’re very small, so what there is in in tiny amounts? I’ve never heard that particular “they help with asthma” before 😀 I wonder what the origin of that was?

        I mean, we had mini schnauzers all through my childhood, because they don’t shed and so did not send my allergies into overdrive, so…::shrugs:: (Of course, even the fact that cats DID send my allergies into overdrive in no way induced me to stay away from the barn cats…and now I can have cats indoors without issues, heh.)

  9. Welllll… personally I wouldn’t eat an orange in the evening. Certainly not a glass of juice. Too much sugar, and sugar kills. That saying has the same feel as “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper”.

      1. Me too…. I grew up in San Diego with orange trees in the back yard. We were limited to one orange a day because MD father believed that more than that causes kidney stones, The Mexican maid did not enforce that rule.
        Now it’s sugar free orange “drink.”

  10. I came across the no swimming one a few years ago. It isn’t backed up by anything (rather like the “triangle of death” if you pop a face pimple). Rather it seems to have originated as one of those little lies people tell kids to make them a little more convenient; after a meal the adults want to relax and talk, the kids want to go out to the pool at warp ten.

  11. Oh yeah, not only don’t go swimming for a half hour after you eat, but also don’t go out and do any play involving running around. You know, so you don’t cramp up and vomit!
    There’s always been the one about sexual self gratification causing blindness.
    Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart……..(you probably know the rest of this).
    Excuse me, I’ve got to go find some wood to knock on.

    1. Beans, beans, the musical fruit!
      The more you eat, the more you toot!
      The more you toot, the better you feel!
      Let’s have beans at every meal!

  12. Don’t drink milk with fish is one I’ve heard. (I think it makes you sick is the reason—or it kills you; can’t remember.)

    You can’t go barefooted outside until May 1st.

    You don’t plant corn until the dogwoods blossom.

    Dry weather will scare you, but wet weather will ruin you.

    My wife said her mother told her if she licked her elbow she’d turn into a boy. She also wants to leave a building by the door she came in (or else you come back).

    And “first-footing” was kinda a thing, at least to my maternal grandmother—it’s good luck if your first visitor on New Year’s Day is a man (but I don’t think we called it first-footing).

    1. it’s good luck if your first visitor on New Year’s Day is a man

      Preferably tall, dark, and handsome, because if he’s blond it means you’re being raided by Vikings.

      Don’t forget the shortbread and coal!

    2. That one makes a certain amount of sense. I’m given to understand both milk and fish tend to turn quickly in heat, so combining them gives you a double chance of food poisoning.

    3. That bit about dry weather I think I’ve heard as “Drought will starve a farmer, but flood will kill him.”

      As in, there’s a chance your plants might survive a drought. Flood will suffocate the roots.

      1. Ohhhhh… so, it’s like “don’t drink whiskey with Irishmen”. (runs for cover)

          1. Germans actually have a tremendous capacity for strong drink. It’s just that we’ve got stuff to do tomorrow…

              1. Not to mention the size of the table I’d have to source, in order to see a centaur under it…

                1. Complaint from a centaur, during the lockdowns and such:

                  “You humans are starting to drink us centaurs under the table. And that’s just mean – we don’t FIT!”

                2. Please, the aardvark can find tables to serve BBQ to Fluffy. Challenging that is not.

    1. My guess would be that one is a cross between “No fish on Friday” and “Don’t cook a kid in his mother’s milk.”

        1. Isn’t the Catholic rule ‘no meat on Friday’? Fish doesn’t count as meat, hence the common jab ‘Fish-on-Friday’ directed at Catholics. Don’t ask ME why fish isn’t meat, though.

          1. Because “meat” is a translation, and there isn’t an exact equivalent in modern English.

            That’s why the yearly Lentin “hur hur Catholics so stupid they think gators/beavers/animal that lives at least half the time in the water is a fish/isn’t meat” thing is so obnoxious, and why I’ve never made the mistake of thinking reporters can actually be bothered to do even the most basic level of informing themselves about any culture to which they do not themselves cling.

            Wasn’t it Shaw that had that great line about being a barbarian that mistakes the customs of his people for the laws of nature?

            Like that, but “customs” extends into words. (A-Woman!)

            1. “When I use a word, it means just what I want it to mean, and no more or no less!” Alice in Wonderland.

              1. My Jewish wife informs me that that kind of rules lawyering indicates Christianity’s roots in Judaism… 😎

          2. Here’s more on the language angle, because I think it’s cool.

            (fairly long intro on symbolism, etc)

            The most fundamental reason, however, is that in Latin and in the major European languages (French, Spanish, etc.), the word for “meat” never includes fish. Since the custom, for the Latin Rite of the Church, arose in Latin and Romance-language areas, it reflects this fact.

            In fact, in English at the time arose, the same was true. The word “meat” at that point signified any and all food. To denote what we today call meat, the word “flesh” was used, and it too excluded fish. The system of classification that was used in English divided “meat” into “flesh, fish, and fowl.”

            Since that time, the term “meat” has become restricted to what you find attached to the bones of mammals (flesh) and the bones of birds (fowl), and sometimes to what you find attached to the bones of fish, but that use is not universal even today.

            In any event, the custom of eating fish but not flesh on Friday stems from this word usage in Western languages, in which there was a division between fish and what we today call “meat.”

            In the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, the practice is different, and the Lenten fast includes an abstinence from all forms of animal products, including not only fish but also eggs, milk, cheese, butter, and condiments made with animal products (such as lard). However, while the Eastern Rite abstinence is stricter, it does not have the force of law, as it does in the Western Rite.


            1. My vegetarian sister will, on occasion, eat fish. Hasn’t had “meat” in years though so I’d say this is pretty commonly accepted.

              1. I have at least once met someone who claimed to be vegetarian, but on examination turned out to be an ovo-lacto-chicko-fisho-vegetarian — in other words, someone who didn’t eat red meat.

            2. And thus the saying “neither fish nor flesh” which has cognates in at least Dutch and German and probably more, signifying something that doesn’t fit into expected categories. (And with a “that’s some weird s***” connotation whenever I’ve heard it.)

                1. ‘Fish nor fowl nor good red meat’

                  Means a squishy equivocator without spine or principles. Like, say, Mittens the closet Democrat.

                    1. “Good red herring” is a pop culture mutation, I know I heard it on radio.

                      Sort of like “I could care less”, it gets a certain sort all wound up.

                    2. I do wonder if the guy who wrote it in the 16th century (or whoever he stole the line from) was making a joke conflating red meat with red herring (not just the smoked fish, but the way it was used for tricking hunters), not expecting it to pass into common usage like it has.

  13. Well…oranges do give me indigestion (or, more specifically, orange juice in particular), but that’s at any time of the day and because my stomach is buggered up.

    I know we had the whole “don’t swim for an hour after eating” thing as well–the explanation given in my swimming classes was “can cause cramps, which can prevent your ability to swim” and, okay…though I gather this has been mostly debunked, and is now “Look, it’s a bad idea to do ANY serious physical excercise after eating a HEAVY meal, because you’re likely to throw up/have problems” which yes, can happen unless you are a bottomless pit of a teenager 😀 (But now I check, that’s been discussed up-thread.)

    Grandma had a whole bunch of weirdo old timey sayings, but the only one that I ever remember is the ‘throw salt over your shoulder if you spill it’ but I have no idea why.

    When I was little, and we were walking somewhere and me and mom and dad were all holding hands (them because they were gooey, me because I was still small and–at that time, their only chick so overprotective, heh) and we had to separate to go around a pole or something like that they always said “bread and butter.” I inevitably asked “why” and vaguely recall the explanation being “Oh, just a superstition that if you don’t say it when you do that, you’ll get into a fight later” and they acknowledged it was mostly them being silly. (Heh. I haven’t thought of that in YEARS.)

    1. and is now “Look, it’s a bad idea to do ANY serious physical excercise after eating a HEAVY meal, because you’re likely to throw up/have problems” which yes, can happen unless you are a bottomless pit of a teenager

      Fortunately this is one of those self-limiting problems: the heavier the meal, the more likely you don’t feel like even moving let alone exercising.

      1. Right? The only time I’ve ever seen it be an issue is with the aforementioned teenagers who eat the usual amount teenagers do–and then do something a bit TOO soon after (like, say, five minutes instead of waiting fifteen–by which point they are of course starving again)

    2. The salt over your shoulder was so that the salt would go into the eye of a demon and make it go away– although I forget the ‘logic’ behind why spilling salt in the first place attracted said demon.

      1. When entering a new house, you would sprinkle holy water and salt in the corners of all the rooms to drive the devils out. I once took over the office of a truly crazy person and did just this.

      2. I seem to recall that in some cultures you might substitute some variation of ‘fairy’ for ‘demon’ but yeah, it amounts to the same thing.

        My grandmother has something weird about sneezing twice in a row? I think “Oh, someone must be thinking of you!” and the reaction from the rest of us was always some form of “WTF?”

          1. Huh. I mean, I confess I am assuming that anime probably = Japan, so…do they have that there, too?

            I find it fascinating the weird little commonalities you find across even some wildly different cultures. Fairy tales are particularly interesting to me–WHY do almost all cultures that have them have some variation on Beauty and the Beast? Or Cinderella? Why is it almost always the youngest child that’s the heroic one, with the middle/eldest ones being either villains or idiots? (Especially given that these are also cultures where oft-times the elder ones get the inheritance?)

            1. Sometimes it’s cross pollination— Beauty and the Beast was originally a novel, and a couple of decades after it was popular in France they found versions in a bunch of different languages, where there hadn’t been one before.

              Sometimes it’s that the story speaks to something common in human nature/between the cultures– say, Beauty and the Beast and …wasn’t it Cupid and his wife that was very similar? Plus Bluebeard, various Magical Wife/Husband stories….

              1. But…I mean…I’ve encountered Beauty/Beast variations in Native American mythology. Which, okay, does not preclude cross-pollination, depending on when the first (probably white) person to write it down heard it. Nor does it preclude “sharing stories around a campfire, the French guy tells some variation on Beauty and the Beast (which is arguably a variation on the various Cupid/Psyche stories and/or East of the SUn West of the Moon variants), and creative Native guy goes “Oh, I got one like that!” and makes it up on the spot.” But…it’s veerrry interesting, how similar some folktales are…

                1. My first wife had an academic Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales compendium (so complete it included the embarrassing ones like “The Jew In The Thornbush”). What I found fascinating is the hints of the original tales that the current ones were descendants of.

                  For instance, there are at least two tales with a scene in which the hero lays his head upon the princess’ lap and she picks nits out of his hair, told in almost identical words. That’s the one that stood out enough that I remember the specifics decades later, but there were others as well.

                  I wonder what the ur-tales were about.

                  (Of course, I’m that guy who reads, e.g., a passing mention of the non-Indo-European substrate in Belgian place names, and wants to go look up the original articles.)

                  1. That embarrassing one sounds…vaguely familiar, and now I’m wondering if my battered old Grimm’s fairy tales books has it! (But it’s in a box, so it will have to wait, for now.)

                    When I learned the Aarne-Thompson Index was a thing, I found it fascinating. I’d always noted the similarities in a LOT of tales from a LOT of various cultures, but that really makes it clear.

                  2. It is possible that a storyteller ripped off one for the other. Like Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids.

                2. *big grin* Kind of like how even the pre-interpretation mythologies have a lot of common themes?

                  First big mythology novel thingie we have is a buddy movie in mythology speak…. (Gilgamesh)

                  1. But just like Homer and Hesiod, the Babylonian author of the Epic of Gilgamesh retconned a bunch of much earlier Sumerian material into a connected narrative, so other than a few Sumerian tablets we don’t know what all the original culture-hero tales were, if there were different local versions, if they had Sumerian-adjacent equivalents, etc.

              2. Though Beauty and the Beast is a distinctive variation, the basic tale was widespread before it — we do get more variants of the original.

            2. Not much of a story where “the right person for the job went and did his job in the first place, and did it correctly. The end.”

                1. Plus, when “we” see the older brothers get into trouble, it accents the “right way” to do something when the younger brother does the “right way” after the failure of his older brothers.

    3. The throwing salt over your left shoulder thing is American wide, I would thing or in all the British (European?) descended world, even. The explanation is something about the demons being on your left shoulder (and you’re bribing them or running them off—beats me which).

      1. I’ve seen reference to that in fiction many times, but I’ve never seen anyone actually do it.

        1. When I was a kid, everyone (meaning every Norwegian we knew, mostly being family) did it. No demons involved, was just to ward off the bad luck from spilling the salt. Not that anyone truly believed it; was more like a tradition that was a bit funny, therefore fun.

          I’d probably still do it by reflex, but I can’t remember the last time I spilled the salt. (Tho I’ve just tempted the gods and later today the salt will spill.)

    4. May be wrong, but I believe the salt thing was a gift to the fairies. Their share, so to speak. Rather like leaving milk out for the brownies.

  14. never bring an old broom into a new house and pass the new broom through a window. Why? I have no idea but my wife has just bought a new broom now that my daughter has bought her first house

    1. I…hm. That sounds vaguely familiar. Might be one of my granny’s weird things that she always brought up (but so far as I know, never did–for one thing, because she didn’t do the bulk of the housework when my mom was a kid. Mom did.)

      1. Never move a broom, I’ve never heard; but (come to think of it), I think it was my dad who said don’t let someone sweep under your feet (said when we were sitting in a chair) or you’ll never get married. That almost makes sense since not getting out someone’s way who’s sweeping (or working in general) implies you’re too lazy to be of zero-th level help—getting out of the way.

      2. …did she mean ‘don’t move a broom from your old house to the new house’ or ‘don’t move a broom ever’? 😀 (I’m guessing it was the former.)

  15. An apple a day, if thrown with enough force, should keep the doctor away.
    As for oranges, the Portuguese being a seafaring people in the days of sailing ships figured out that oranges prevented the malady of scurvy common to sailors. So citrus being a tropical fruit, thus imported and scarce, they probably spread the rumor among landlubbers that oranges could kill you in hopes of keeping them for themselves.
    I am oddly enough taking a medication at the moment that states clearly on the prescription label to absolutely avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking.

    1. That is because, as my father learned with one of his statins, grapefruit has an ingredient (gotta look that one up) that has the same effect as the drug, such that you can spike the dose.And vaaary bad things can happen…

      Hmmm… It is furanocoumarins and I remembered wrongly: It has to do with how your body processes the statin, not some doubling or catalyst effect. And it also may affect the ability to process Allegra.

      On topic: furanocoumarins are also found in bitter and Seville Oranges.

      1. More fun with furanocoumarins!


        They really are stabby little devils, and are in many of my favorite plant foods and tea!

        1. “Furanocoumarins” sounds like a really obscure Spanish nobility name.

          As in, “Raphael Jesus Furanocoumarins Ybarra de Tarracona y Estella”.

          Maybe it’s just me.

            1. “It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention
              asbestos, sand, and water —with which it reacts explosively.”

              “For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.”


              1. Derek Lowe’s “Things I won’t work with.” Not sure if he has it collected but it should be around.

                1. He has a book out titled “The Chemistry Book” but I don’t know if he included “Things I won’t work with” in it.

        1. I was told that it was because there is something in the grapefruit that keeps your liver from filtering the drugs out of your blood properly, so if you eat grapefruit on the regular you will eventually OD on your meds.

          I wasn’t on a statin at the time, so it wasn’t about doubling up on the dose.

          1. When my sister gets injured, she craves grapefruit juice.

            She has been taught to resist this craving thanks to the resultant kidney stone.

        2. I was told not to eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice as it will tend to wash one of my meds out of my system. Since it is a rate control med that keeps me from going into tachycardia, I don’t do grapefruit.

    2. I had the grapefruit warning for statins, though Lovastatin might not have had an intense warning. OTOH, the current one (Lipator) is rather stronger.

      I managed to get an cavity on the bottom (root face; it’s a long long story) of a molar, with signs of an abcess. Oh joy! The dentist prescribed Clindamycin, which I last had in conjuction with Keflex after an appendectomy some 45 years ago. Had a world-class case of the trots then, which I thought was the Keflex. Nope.

      The bolus of 4 caps for the first dose a) killed the worst of the abcess, b) caused a stomach ache, c) convinced me to shop for Immodium in town the next day. Not as bad as when I was postop 45 years ago, but I made sure I knew where the store’s loos were just in case.

      Need to be on the antibiotic until just before the tooth gets extracted. First extraction I’ve looked forward to.

  16. All I can say is that as I have gotten older drinking anything acidic, pop, orange juice, lemonade, in the evening leads to heartburn at night in bed. But that’s probably not true for many others. It’s not a problem at other times.

  17. Personally I think we’re far better off following our grandmother’s advice, even if it’s orange lore, than that of our modern day betters and so called scientists and/or experts.

    Grandma’s logic and cunning did result in our parents and us being here, after all.

    Meanwhile our betters, our of pure loving kindness I’m quite sure, assure us the only way we can keep from dying is to give up living; lockdown, mask up, huddle in place, thump elbows with grace, in every instance, keep safe distance, global warming, locusts swarming, racial strife, homeless life, heat death of the universe, all righted if we just….

    & don’t forget, as my sainted, savvy, Irish Grand, often said, don’t throw you’re hat on the bed or a death in the family will soon follow.

    Hey, it did get us to put our hats on the hat rack, maybe fear of night death by oranges assured there’d be oranges left for juice in the morning with breakfast.

    1. Better option: always look for the truth. Then you don’t have to follow things for no reason other than that [insert sacred person here] said them.

  18. As a foolish young man I once drank 14 screwdrivers in an evening. Didn’t die from the hangover but sure felt like I might…

  19. We always salute magpies but I can never keep clear if seeing a single magpie is good or bad luck. magpies mate for life so if you see a single its mate is dead.

    Mrs. Lalor who did for my grandmother had hundreds of sayings, some of which the family still uses. “No one looks for his nannie in the pot except the one that put her there” is one and “easy as the prod of a wattle” meaning hard since the wattle is the stick the women used to beat the laundry. if you asked what was for dinner she’d say “it’s cooling between two dishes” and Lord help you if you asked what up you should wear, she would answer “me up on top of your head” or “blacken your arse and go naked.”

    There is a Wall Street saying “Always remember to buy in December and Sell in May and go away”. Interesting thing is it’s historically been true. Almost all the major market peaks have come in August with the crashes in September through November.

    That said, I live my financial life by the most basic of Wall Street maxims: Bulls make money, Bears make money, pigs lose money.

    1. “blacken your arse and go naked…” I shall have to remember that one. I can use it in a book.
      As for my own gran’s obscure sayings – when one of us had belched at the supper table or committed some other breach of manners, it was (imagine this in a Liverpudlian accent: “Manners ye baste, piiigs ‘ave none!”

      1. “Walk fast and no one will notice” same woman, same sentiment. She used to tell us she had a special frying pan, the bum pan, for bad little boys and it’d “sizzle yer arse.” Draw out the s and z. Sssizzzle. “ Ate (I.e., eat) up now, you have the name of gettin it.” “Dip into the dip and leave the herrin for yer faaadther’. if we asked for anything it would be “tis a long way from x we was reared.” You have to hear this in a rural County Limerick accent. There’s an Irish comedy group called D’unbelievables on the u tubes if you want an idea,of what that sounds like.

      2. Hayes is a common Limerick name too, so you might find your relations, and the root of the expression “hit him, he’s no relation.”

      1. She was the gentlest person you’d ever meet and mad, absolutely mad, but then it was a mad house. Things were different in Ireland. My grandfather, along with Paddy of the Horses, ex Squadron Sergeant Major of the “fift, Royal Oirish Lancers” used to put us through close order drill with cut down Snider carbines. There were a lot of us and a bit of square bashing kept us busy. There was a barrel full of old swords in the attic and we used to play knights with real swords. They were dull, so no serious harm done but boys can get into trouble.

        1. Sounds awesome. And as Death said “IT WAS EDUCATIONAL.”

          My grandfather used to play cowboys & indians with his brothers with real horses, real guns, and real live ammunition. Apparently, it was super cool when the bullet would hit the rocks near your head! (It goes without saying, they were all excellent shots, but even so.)

    1. See, and I’ve heard the exact opposite: “Feed a cold, starve a fever.” Go figure, lol!

      (Though I have noticed when I have an actual cold? I’m starving, despite my inability to taste anything. When I’ve got something that involves a fever, eating is the LAST thing I wanna do. Weird.)

        1. Except that ‘a cold’ isn’t actually a condition of low temperature. Likely to be accompanied by a fever, in fact. Either way, your immune system is working hard, so you need nutrition and energy. Starving is the worst thing you could do.

          “Eat, rest, drink plenty of liquids.”
          “What else ya gonna drink?”

          1. Like “organic” vegetables:

            “Here, this lettuce is organic!”
            “Well, that’s good. Mineral lettuce is terrible.”

            1. Speaking of quotes…

              “If the label says organic, shit and a worm are involved.” — Bandit 6, John Ringo’s The Last Centurion

                1. or ‘unnatural’–but it amounts to the same thing 😀

                  And here’s me looking at people out there going “But they used stuff not created in a lab” and saying “My poor child, even stuff created in a lab was made from other stuff that ultimately originated naturally in some way on this planet.”

                  Then again, there are a worrying number of folks out there who don’t realize where food comes from other than “the store”, so…

                  1. There is a reason why C.S, Lewis got an entire chapter out of Nature in Studies In Words.

  20. Half an hour before swimming after you eat.

    A conch shell in the house is bad luck, always keep them outdoors.

    If it’s a sun-shower it means “the devil’s mother is crying.”

    Don’t drink milk before a run, you won’t be able to get a full breath.

      1. I’ve never heard any weird sayings associated with it, but have heard multiple times from my father that a sun dog (a little rainbow spot that seems to be following the sun) signifies cold weather. (He’s not wrong–it’s caused by ice crystals, so we usually are in for some bitter-cold weather or already having it. But I bet there’s some pithy old saying associated with the term ‘sun dog’ that neither of us knows.)

        1. My Dad used to call blue sky a sucker hole. I’ll bet he had a story for sun dogs.

      2. That was the way I heard it too; what’s the term for rain with sunshine is on the list of words and phrases to see what part of the US you’re from.

        1. I’ve had issues with it, but I also have bad seasonal allergies, and milk DOES seem to cause an increase in the mucus. Doesn’t stop me drinking it, or eating ice cream/cheese, but.

          1. My body lets me know when I’ve had too much of it. That’s easy because if it’s dairy, I’m pretty much having it.

          2. I’m not noticeably allergic, but yup, I get the milk mucus. And when I ponied up for some of that expensive pre-mutation cow milk without the casein, I didn’t get mukey at all.

  21. And are there other utterly non-sensical proverbs and sayings you learned?

    “Your vote counts.”
    “One vote makes a difference.”
    “We are a nation of laws, not men.”

    1. “Eggs, butter, and red meat are bad for you.”
      (Eat those tasty nutritious bugs instead, peasant!)

      “Guns are useless and dangerous, other than for specially-trained expert government agents. Ordinary people don’t need them.”
      (short version: “You are 43 times more likely to be kill by your gun than saved by it.”)

      1. Look for the funny clip on Utube of the DEA agent in a classroom full of schoolkids bragging about how he is the only one in the room who is highly trained enough to touch a gun, and then proceeds to shoot himself in the foot (with an “unloaded gun” no less).

  22. We called them Old Wives Tales growing up. Then I wound up, after many years, married to an Old Wife (did it the hard way, picked one and stuck with her). There is no rhyme or reason for some of the things that shake loose, rattle around and come out of her vocal cords, usually with no filter and no thought behind it. and if you want to Stay married to that old wife, your only response is , “uhuh, yes dear”, and continue reading. . . . .

  23. Red skies in morning, a sailor’s warning. Red skies at night, a sailor’s delight.

    1. This one makes some sense for certain latitudes. It notices that most storms travel east to west in those latitudes. In others it doesn’t.

      1. The fishing boats that were out at dawn. Red skies at night, you’re already back in port.

      1. “When evening comes, you say, “Eudia!” (Good weather!), because the sky is fiery red (pyrrazei).

        “And in the evening, you say, “Semeron cheimon!” (Tomorrow a storm!) because the sky looks gloomy and fiery red.”

        1. Oops! It actually says, “Today a storm!” or “This day a storm!” It’s the same word as in “give us this day” in the Lord’s Prayer.

          But this is coming from the Jewish day starting at sunset, whereas our day starts at either midnight or dawn.

    2. Red skies in morning mean water droplets, because it’s cooler. At night, dust,which rises less when the air is humid.

  24. I don’t know about dying, but I learned early that I can’t eat oranges due to acid reflux… and it sure felt like dying.

    We got hit with “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” except in our family if we couldn’t do it perfectly the first time, we were told not to do it again. I think that is a perversion of that proverb.

    1. My personal favorite twist on that saw: “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If it’s not worth doing, give it to Rimmer.”

    2. The contrapositive of “anything worth doing is worth doing well” is “anything not worth doing well is not worth doing.” By white racist patriarchal logic, if either statement is true then both must be.

        1. Sorry. It was intended as snark, and the snark would have been better left off.

    3. “There’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.”

    4. Dr. Eades found that for most of his acid reflux patients, the cure was to take most of the fiber out of their diets. Reason: fiber feeds more of the wrong kind of bacteria, leading to more fermentation and gas pressure in the intestines, causing pressure on the aging stomach’s valves, causing wrong-way flow. (Incidentally the same bacteria that tend to produce sugars as waste products, occasionally baffling those attempting to treat diabetes.)

      Ah, I found the bloody article again:

      1. not surprised… I’m on high protein and I was just told I needed to eat more fiber. So it is lettuce and carrots for the win lol

      2. “Incidentally the same bacteria that tend to produce sugars as waste products, occasionally baffling those attempting to treat diabetes.”

        Not to mention those trying low-carb diets…. several of which treat carb measurements as having fiber and non-fiber components — and “fiber carbs” don’t count.

  25. Another one I’ve encountered: if you hang a horseshoe in your house for luck, it must be tines up (so that the luck pools in the curve the ‘u’) but it’s bad luck if you hang it upside down.

    1. But I’ve heard you hang it tines down so it shields you from bad luck like an umbrella.

      1. From https://people.howstuffworks.com/horseshoes-lucky.htm


        There does seem to be some contention, however, over how to hang a horseshoe. Some say you should hang it heels up, like the letter “u.” Others say you should hang it heels down. Hanging a horseshoe heels up means it keeps all the good luck from running out of the shoe. But hanging a horseshoe heels down means it flows good luck down on everyone who walks underneath it. It’s personal preference, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have two, and hang one each way!

        End Quote

        End Quote

        1. You hang up a blessed horseshoe in your stable or barn, so that St. Eloi/Eligius will protect your horses. Because he was a goldsmith, and there was also an early legend about how he left his super-gentle riding horse to the abbot of the monastery he was staying in when he died, and how the abbot’s bishop took the horse, and then the horse became wild and dangerous until the bishop gave the horse back to the abbot after several years.

          1. There’s also the same legend as about St. Dunstan — that he miraculously sh od a horse by taking its leg off and putting it back on — but that legend is more like a joke about farriers.

            IIRC, the horseshoe was supposed to protect the barn against storms, but I can’t remember where I read that. Probably the legend got less important after lightning rods, and shifted to “luck.”

  26. In Serbia the popular aphorism is that sitting in a draft will kill you. Everyone wraps up their throat in a scarf when going outside on a cool day. The funniest satirical magazine ad I once saw there was about a fancy convertible car with a hot model sitting in it with the wind streaming through her long hair. The tag line was “Ali promaja” [but the draft]. They did not have to add that it will kill you…too well known.

    1. In Portugal too. Even in the hotest days in Summer, mom freaks if there’s any air current.
      My favorite was the Brazilian soap opera in which someone killed someone else by opening the window at night and creating a draft.

      1. Night air is frequently considered to be bad in lots of places. I’ve heard malaria as a possible reason why.

        1. Interestingly, the term malaria comes from “mala aria” meaning “bad air”.

      2. Romania has this too. Caused a lot of anxiety when us American kids volunteered to ride in the back of the pickup (we were helping someone move in-town).

  27. In fact, it *was* the apple lobby (Washington state, I think), but they were trying to encourage apple saies, not compete with oranges. Some p.r. writer came up with “keeps the doctor away.”

    1. And I’ve fairly recently (last five or ten years at least—yikes) read that the thing about carrots being good for your eyesight was British disinformation to obscure how good their radar was early in WW II.

      1. The rumor that Japanese had enhanced night vision also came up after the USN’s unfortunate record in early night actions… until we captured a few ships and realized that they provided their lookouts with early NODs in the form of huge overpowered binoculars. I’ve seen that in a couple of well researched histories.

    2. We still give oranges for Christmas. In my Mother’s Day they came in from Spain around Christmas and it was a great treat, Helped keep off scurvy.

      1. Wouldn’t Asian pears tend to improve the Daleks’ voices? I mean, they’re great for hoarseness or coughs. (You have to cook them, though, or use Asian pear jelly/preserves.)

  28. We really didn’t have any folksy sayings growin’ up. I did encounter some gems in the military, most of which are derogatory…

    1. And three-fourth of them are profane. Check (because SSG A? was in an artillery unit before Ft. Lee).

  29. If you eat oranges after dark after breaking a mirror and walking along with your black cat under a ladder and then go swimming right away carrying an open can of tomatoes and both a new and old broom, does that all cancel out? Asking for a friend.

    On the other hand, if you lace up your g-suit legs in the wrong order, everyone knows you’re doomed.

    1. Depends. You might be fine. Unless you said before hand “what could possibly go wrong?”, or “this will be a piece of cake!”. Then the entire universe will warp to make you fail horribly.

          1. No, when a character in a war movie says that, it means he’s going to die. Cf. “bought the farm” as a euphemism for “killed in action”.

  30. I remember the Sherlock Holmes story “The Five Orange Pips” where receiving them meant death for the recipient, carried out by the society that sent the pips. Don’t think it was one of Conan Doyle’s better tales, though.

    My grandfather was sure that only warm water was safe to drink. That one probably comes from chugging cold water after getting warmed up by heavy labor or effort making you sick. However, since I prefer my water barely unfrozen, I did cause my poor grandfather some concern.

    1. Cold water can cause the stomach’s upper sphincter to open, leading to easy vomiting. This is why some dogs urp a little bit every time they drink cold water. Can cause a similar reflex in humans, especially babies.

      I have one dog who reliably does so… and the barn cats think freshly urped dog food is the most delicious thing ever (even better than milk, AKA cat crack). So every day they wait for him to have his outing, then scour the dog yard…

  31. “Adding more engineers to a late project makes it later.”

    “There is always one more bug.”

    “If the damn thing works, DON’T FUCK WITH IT!!” (the First Law Of Engineering)

  32. Only a guess, but in a hot climate with no refrigeration an orange probably wouldn’t last much more than a day. Orange in the morning, gray at noon and totally inedible by evening. Another possibility comes from the habit of using tropical fruit as centerpieces at parties, partially because it was so rare. When it started looking seedy it would be passed down to the lower classes, who also wanted to be stylish and have tropical fruit…etc.

      1. According to the climate charts on Wikipedia, Porto looks like it has almost exactly the same climate as Seattle.

        1. Or London…. Yeah.
          Lisbon is a bit warmer. Algarve is warm.
          But none of them are tropical, and all of them average cooler than oh, TX or Florida.
          HOWEVER you’re forgiven if you read peninsular war memoirs and walk away thinking that Portugal has the climate of India.

          1. My family’s diaries of the Peninsular War talk about how cold and bleak it was, but then they were there when the Lines of Torres Vedras were built and before that in the retreat to Corunna. Much of the campaign was in the border country between Portugal and Estremedura, and no one ever called that tropical.

            We have two accounts, one from an officer in the old 88th Connaught Rangers, The Devils Own, The other was seconded to the Portuguese 21st Line, which was raised in Porto as it happens. Both were in the 3rd division in different brigades. Neither is my direct ancestor and they did not know each other.

            1. Estremadura is a province in Portugal.
              Eh. I have an Irish ancestor from that time who decided ggg grandma was fine and became a gardener to a Port Wine family…. 😉

              1. I meant Extremedura. Neither seems to have been at the siege of Almeida though both were at Bussaco and the retreat to Torres Vedras. They were both at Badajoz in Extremedura later on and went through the war up to Toulouse. One was then sent to America, thankfully arriving after New Orleans and the other went back to his regiment and ultimately off to India/Burma There were other family members in the Peninsula, but we don’t have anything from them.

                When Napoleon came back for the 100 days, Welllington had the pick of all the armies in Europe. He asked for 10,000 Portuguese. They were the best troops in Europe at the time.

                Wellington’s army was mostly Irish even in the nominally English regiments. The choice between growing wine with a pretty Portagee or growing spuds back in Ireland would have been easy. Nice Catholic country too.

                  1. Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz …. I’m staying far, far away from Portuguese irredentism.

                  1. They piled the French up like cordwood at the bottom of the ridge outside Bussaco. Connaught Rangers, Sherwood Forresters and the 9th and 21st Portuguese Line, which were from Porto. This battle made the reputation of the Portuguese line, by the end of the war they were likely the best troops in Europe, They were considered equal to the best of the British Line in combat power and much less likely to get drunk and loot when on the march. Politicians pissed it all away within a few years as usual by putting their useless relatives in charge rather than capable officers. those relatives stole the troops rations and pay. The usual thing.

  33. One of my favorite expressions, this one from my grandmother, “I might as well be talking to a field of thistles” has passed down to another generation. I heard my daughter use it about some of her slower students.

    1. Our family had a term, I think spelled Honjock, which was about “mischievous children” (and yes it did apply to me at times).

      We think it was from Pennsylvania Dutch as it is similar to a German word for “rascal” and yes we believe that we had Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors.

      1. Drak, my former mother in law from Pittsburgh would have told you that honyacks were hunkies i e Hungarians.

        1. Interesting.

          Looks like my memory was playing tricks on me. 😉

          1. Or it got used differently.

            My family uses a lot of Basque words, probably improperly; the only two that come to mind are (phonetic) toot-a-loo, which dad once explained “oh, it’s a term of endearment, like fathead,” and boo-sawnt, which is always coupled with “big” and is basically a non-obscene version of SOB.

            1. No, my memory was telling me that the word was close to a German word meaning “Rascal”.

              Which is different than the “insult” gaining new meanings.

        2. By the way, too many years ago (she’s an adult now) I called my young niece a honyack but she had me know that she wasn’t a honyack. She was a girl. 😆

          1. Of course, since my niece is a True Daughter Of My Sister, I didn’t call her “honyack” again. Admittedly, she wasn’t out of grade school then but…. 😀

      2. When I lived in a Dutch town in the Midwest, “little honyacker” was used for the 2-5 year old cohort. It’s a term of affection and mild irritation at the same time.

  34. When I was young, 11 to 24 years, I couldn’t eat eggs and drink OJ. Bad, bad burps, nasty tasting, yetch! Some years later having discovered vitamins, the whole thing disappeared. I apparently have a serious need for, among other things, vitamin A. Without sufficient A I develop terminal dandruff. H & S, the widely marketed solution, creates folliculitis – not exactly desirable either.

    The salt thing, was based on angels and demons, angel(s) on the right shoulder, the demon(s) on the left (sinistra) shoulder.

  35. Wear a hat to protect you against the sun!

    Not sunburn, mind you, you don’t need a brim. . . .

  36. I’ve heard that a number of plants are thought to be poisonous because parents, out of an abundance of caution and completely unable to look things up on the Internet, would tell their children not to eat that plant because…. it’s poisonous.
    And of course, that gets passed down the generations.

    1. This even happens on reputable websites and in plant books– “Poisonous” or “Toxic” get applied to stuff that can cause a stomach ache if you eat a lot of them.

      Also a thing on household items with the “call poison control immediately” thing. Our kid ate diaper paste at ~6 months of age, long story short she’d have to eat two whole tubes to be dangerous beyond chance of runs level.

      1. Heh. Same happened with a friend whose toddler managed to down more than a few benadryl. She got down 6-8, the doctor told her panicking parents that unless she’d swallowed upwards of a dozen or more, not to worry too much–she’d just be sleepy and cranky.

        Though I’ve heard its danger can depend on the person’s existing health issues–she had none, so it was all okay. She was just as the doc told them: sleepy and cranky for a day or so.

        Me, I regularly take 4 at a go just to deal with the allergies (but only at night, heh.) I’ve taken 6 when it’s really bad, though I think that’s more so I pass out and sleep through the worst of the misery more than it doing much beyond helping a little bit with the breathing/stopping the worst of the itching…

  37. I have lots.. (Old World upbringing will do that 🙂 ).
    Killing a spider inside the house is bad luck.
    Drinking milk while eating fish, tomatoes or cucumbers will give you upset stomach.
    Putting a textbook under your pillow the night before the test will get you a good grade.
    Don’t give or take anything over a threshold (bad luck, possibly pissing off ghosts).
    If you stepped out the door to leave, don’t come back in (bad luck wherever you’re going).
    If you have a seamstress fixing your clothes while you’re wearing them (like sewing up a small tear) have a piece of thread in your mouth or your memory will get “sewn up.”

    1. Putting a textbook under your pillow the night before the test will get you a good grade.

      What, you’ll have an immaculate conception of the subject?

      1. Or the lumpy pillow will keep you awake all night and you’ll sleep through the test… 😛

  38. An apple a day keeps the Doctor away.

    This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

  39. My childhood superstition…I was scared to death but, you know kids, just had to try it…..”Step on a crack, break your Mother’s back”……………thankfully, my Mother lived and I learned all about superstitions!

    1. I forgot to add that this saying came from playing hopscotch on the sidewalks, which we kids did a lot of back in the very old days……fun times!

  40. Holding your breath driving over bridges and holding up the ceiling when driving through tunnels. Had to cross your fingers for the tunnels.

  41. OT, and disgusted….just crossed into New Mexico from wide open Texas…and “due to the state of emergency of March 13, 2020, the visitors’ center is closed until further notice.” They did leave the restrooms open.

    1. Yesterday was Gavin’s Gulag Liberation Day here in the Gloriously Droughtstricken Bear Flag Republic, where all the restrictions are lifted and no more color codes.

      I’m giving the local retailers a day or two before I go see who is still being corporately ascientific.

  42. OK, going off topic here because the top post is too serious for me to put this there.

    Do you remember the 2003 movie “The Core?” That’s the one where (because of US government project, I think) the Earth’s core has stopped rotating (or is about to stop). The resulting loss of the Earth’s magnetic field is going to kill everyone (to over simplify the movie’s core point). The good guys are going to re-start the core using nuclear weapons.

    Did you know there was a 2005 geological disaster movie (with Luke Perry, Michael Dorn, a couple of actresses I didn’t know, two more guys playing lovable goof balls—with PhDs., and two redshirts)? It’s the same except for it’s plate tectonics; the ring of fire has broken loose and all the volcanoes are going off, earthquakes. It’s “Descent.”

    So. your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch both movies and come back and tell the class which movie is more scientifically improbably. Extra credit for deciding how much of its plot “Descent” owes to “The Core” or did it merely give the financial backers the courage to back the second movie.

      1. Well, there aren’t bad as just flicks; as science fiction they seem to violate lots of laws of physics (without explanation, although they both admit it gets hot lower down). If you feel like a movie, neither one is a bad choice.

    1. That’s kind of like asking which Democrat city had the most election fraud, or whether Stalin was more evil than Hitler.

      Or whether you’d hang Pelosi or Harris first. 😛

  43. My mother grew up (Kansas-Oklahoma) being told that tomatoes (hedge apples) were poisonous. Pretty obviously derived from the family Solanaceae resemblance to deadly nightshade. Of course tomato FOLIAGE is poisonous, to us and avians. My mother is the same girl who, at two, toddled our of a cornfield bearing a coral snake lovingly “Pretty Ribbon!’ I’m so lucky to have been born!!

      1. (And I appear to have conflated real people (Bismark) and fictional characters (W. Riker); but I thought it was McCoy.)

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