Musings, reflections, wisecracks from a somewhat creative mind

Mother, mother, mother – pin a rose on me – was a film released in June 1924, as part of the Song Car-Tunes series. Early titles in the Song Car-Tunes series were Oh Mabel, Come Take A Trip in My Airship, and Goodbye My Lady Love, all released in May and June 1924. They were the first sound cartoons, not Disney’s Steamboat Willie, as often is thought. The song is a popular song from 1905.

Sew buttons on ice cream – From Norwood Gove’s “Little Green Book”. The quote is “So? Sew buttons on ice cream if you think you’re fast enough”.

Hells bells and panther tracks – American in origin, it is referenced in “The Dictionary of American Regional English,” published by Harvard University’s Belknap Press. It’s used as an expression of vexation or disappointment. The first written usage was in Peter B. Kyne and Gordon Grant’s, “Captain Scraggs and the Green Pea Pirates,” copyright, 1919. Also found in “Vermont History” [1959].

A consummation devoutly to be wished – is a quote from Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” and is part of the infamous “To be or not to be” speech.

To die: to sleep:

Nor more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to; ‘tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished.

Have an apple – OK! This is not really a saying … It’s just what she said if it was an hour before supper and us kids were complaining we were hungry.

Be careful what you wish for. You might get it – is a line in a classic horror story apparently written by W.W. Jacobs, first appearing in Harpers Monthly in 1902. The story begins with a quotation “Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it”.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – Also from Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet …”

Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers – This is likely an Appalachian saying.

The bee’s knees – is a term indicating excellence – the highest quality – because bees carry pollen back to the hive in sacs on their legs. (Riiiight.) The allusion is to the concentrated goodness to be found around the bee’s knee. The expression became popular in the U.S. in the 1920s, along with “the cat’s whiskers” (possibly from the use of these in radio crystal sets), “the cat’s pajamas” (pyjamas were still new enough to be daring), and similar phrases which made less sense and didn’t endure: “the eel’s ankle,” “the elephant’s instep,” “the snake’s hip.”

So did I just take all the romance and fun out of those sayings? Hm.


Comments on: "Expressions my Mom has often used" (4)

  1. This comment, from Mom.
    I am pleased and proud that you have posted some of me on your blog. That seems to me to have involved a fair amount of research. Very interesting results – and news to me in most instances. Am glad that I have played a part in bringing along some early 20th century life into the 21st century. And of course I owe it to many people, i.e. my Mother, my high school algebra teacher William Lynch (Mother, Mother, Mother, pin a rose on me) and your Uncle Alfred (Hells’s bells and panther tracks), and others.

  2. I have searched long and hard, and finally found “hell’s bells and panther tracks”. My mother used to say it in times of great stress or annoyance. She didn’t ever use a swear word and therefore this saying took the place of all the nasties. I thought for years that it was “and panter-trax” and, in my very young head and it being WW2, I thought it was referring to a division of German tanks. Mum’s sayings are great but little kids reasoning makes for a laugh. Thank you for solving my puzzle.

  3. “Have an apple” is from “White Christmas”. Bing Crosby snubs the dancing girl at the theater. “Doris: Well, I like that! Without so much as a “kiss my foot” or “have an apple.”

  4. And MY mother used to say “Well Hells bells and panther tracks and all the calf’s got loose”!! Or her OTHER favorite was “Ye Gods and little fish hooks”!!

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