Turn of Phrase

On this date in the year 600, Pope Gregory the Great decreed that the proper thing to say when someone sneezed was “God bless you”. I told this to a friend, a practicing  Catholic, who said ” Who died and put him in charge!? Why are we still listening to him? We should find something new to say!” I was at a loss for her being somewhat offended by Pope Gregory, but I found her response delightful.

What are some of your favorite (or not so favorite turns of phrase)?  Make up a new one if you can.


86 thoughts on “Turn of Phrase”

  1. I was recently reading about Pope Gregory and the debunking of a long-repeated myth that he had declared newborn rabbits “not meat” and therefore acceptable fare during lent, thus triggering the widespread domestication of wild rabbits. The report of that debunking has apparently been circulating for a while. Here’s an example:

    If P.G. Really pronounced the sneeze edict, which is questionable, it’s unlikely that it would have been on this day, since he would have been using a different calendar.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I have always found The Easter Bunny tradition to be mystifying, especially as Christian churches hold Easter Egg Hunts. There is a symbol of pagan fertility hopping around the grounds, after Christian churches went to such great lengths to eliminate paganism. The Not Red Meat declaration just adds to morass. The pope must have been hungry as a bunny hopped by.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    There are two historical figures who provide infinite phrases that are repeated often as part of daily life: William Shakespeare and Benjamin Franklin. I love to go to Shakespeare plays at the Guthrie and count the phrases that are often used (come to think of it, I have not done this for several years now. I need to attend one). “Something is rotten in Denmark” or “Me thinks thou doest protest too much” come to mind early today.

    Ben Franklin’s pithy sayings just show up everywhere–“A penny saved is a penny earned,” etc.

    When I think of how long ago these two actually lived and wrote, it amazes me that their words each appear every day in our lives.

    And then there was my grandmother and her cooking quotes:

    “Any cookie that can’t grease its own butt isn’t worth the baking,” and “Everything tastes better with a cup of sugar and a cup of cream.” She really cooked that way and she lived to 99 years and 5 months. With high blood pressure of course.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I really didn’t know how to answer my friend’s question “Who died and put him in charge?!” What a loaded theological question!


    1. I heard a variant of that when I was a guest of my ranching/farming friends in north central Montana. One night in the middle of an adult discussion nine-year-old Marcus (a charming kid) spoke up. His mom asked him, “WHO put a nickel in you?”


  4. One often heard on old fart TV, which my wife watches. Not me. “Do not take [insert name of drug here] if you are allergic to [insert name of drug here].” And good sound advice.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Is it just me, or are the terms belly and tummy usually used when talking to a small child? In which case I don’t have an issue with either, but when speaking of or to an adult, puhleeze, it’s a stomach.


  5. For no particular reason, yesterday I was remembering the phrase promoting the 1964 World’s Fair. The phrase is a coin-shaped thing, usually wooden, with the word “TUIT” printed on it. People are always talking about what they’ll do “if I ever get around to it.” Give them this coin, and they have a round TUIT!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The Bible has a few, especially the King James Version, which is a weak translation but poetic at times, and awkward more often. “Entreat me not to leave thee, Or return from following after thee, for whither thou goest I will go.”
    Too bad the fundies do not get the point of the book of Ruth.


    1. Actually, the Bible is a rich source of many phrases still in common use:
      “Pride goes before a fall” Proverbs 16:19
      “Man shall not live by bread alone” Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4
      “The truth shall make you free” John 8:32
      and this one: “To everything there is a season” Ecclesiastes 3:1
      which inspired Pete Seeger to write this:

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I thinkj this iis a line from Man of La Mancha, and I think Sancho is the one who says it.

    “But let that pass”, which a fine replacement for “but never mind”, when you realise you have gone down an unrelated rabbit hole OR when you don’t want mere facts to get in the way of your point.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And puts a smile on my face. Reminds me of my late friend, Chuck Halling, when he arrived in Kino, Mexico the first time.

      Chuck was a potter, and a man of few words but keen observations. He had wandered around Old Kino, a rather run down town of tar-paper shacks, unpaved roads, roaming stray dogs, and barefoot children. When he returned from his walk he said, “I felt a bit like an alligator in a purse factory.”

      Liked by 4 people

  8. I got this from Fred Chappell, but it didn’t originate with him, apparently. If you google it, and follow some of the variants, it’s kind of a rabbit hole.

    Upon refusing a second helping at dinner, instead of announcing you’re full, you say, “I have had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be a superfluity.”

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Back to sneezing. This is from a recent Atlas Obscura:

    There are a few responses that seem to be used primarily with a sneezing child. In Serbia, sometimes a young sneezer will hear the response pis maco, which means “go away, kitten.” That comes, probably, from the onomatopoetic similarity between that phrase and the sound of a sneeze. It’d be as if an English speaker responded to a sneeze with “I choose!”

    “Go away, kitten!” Take that, Pope Gregory!

    Here’s the whole A. O. article:

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I’m fascinated by regional phrases, and I love words and phrases that reveal the sense of humor and characteristics of the locals. Do the locals tend to be loquacious or terse? Do they tend toward understatement or exaggeration? It all shows up in the vernacular.

    A phrase such as “all hat and no cattle”must surely have originated in Texas. It has a lot of swagger to it. The word “rannygazoo” – found in the Trail Baboon glossary, and used occasionally by Renee (I think) – also has a nice ring to it and to me suggests a quick wit. “Whoopensocker,” a Wisconsin term meaning something extraordinary, is a great word. And how about the North Carolina term “table tapper” for an amateur preacher? Doesn’t that reveal a certain glint in the eye of the speaker?

    Words are so much fun; thanks Renee for this inspiring these ruminations.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I found this World Wide Words:
        “Early in its existence, in the 1890s, it became a word of the moment, especially among Washington newspapermen, though it was then spelled rannikaboo or reinikaboo. A syndicated article that appeared in many American newspapers in early 1898 explained its allure for journalists:

        “Reinikaboo” is entitled to a place in the next revision of the dictionaries. It has grown into the degree of usage which warrants formal recognition in the language. A reinikaboo is … a statement of news out of all proportion and almost out of relation to the facts, and yet having a certain origin and shadowy foundation. … In the classification of the Washington newspaper men there are fakes, reinikaboos, and real news.

        Chicago Daily Tribune, 9 Jan. 1898.

        As there’s more reinikaboo around today than there has ever been, you may feel the word deserves to be revived.”

        I couldn’t agree more!

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Another OT: I am ridding myself of art things. So just in case an artsy people here are looking. Transportation would be an issue. I am selling a Daylight true color fluorescent light. Clamps on edge of table or easel. Also selling portable easel and woodburner with rheostat control.


  12. Also today in a meeting someone said “I’m having a whack-a-mole kind of day” . This is my new favorite phrase and it is exactly the kind of day I’m having as well. I’m still here at the office for gosh sakes.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. WE used to be quite fond of the recurring line in The Neverending Story, “but that is another tale, and shall be told another time”.

    Do I tend to latch on to phrases related to wandering from the point, going OT, and down the rabbit hole? yes, yes I do.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Danish Kong Valdemar Atterdag was given the “atterdag” moniker because he was fond of saying “Imorgen er det atter en dag,” meaning “tomorrow’s another day.” He was king of Denmark from 1340 – 1375.

      Liked by 1 person

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