Today, I pay homage to my southern roots by going over some of the common sayings I heard growing up. I gathered a few of my faves, translated them, and loosely related them to personal finance. I did my best to keep this post relevant to money, but I won’t make any promises.
Saying: Ain’t got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.
Translation: You’re basically homeless. To elaborate, you’d sleep on the streets if others refused to financially support you.
No one repeats this saying with more disgust than my mother. No, my mama doesn’t harbor a natural disdain for the poor. Like most hardworking Americans, she’s annoyed with uppity broke people.
For instance, my cousin doesn’t buy her children non-brand name clothes. She won’t even accept them as gifts. For a high school dropout living on government assistance, she’s awfully particular. My mother and I can’t figure out how a person who depends on the forced generosity of taxpayers develops such a discriminating taste.
Saying: You can’t get blood out of a turnip.
Translation: You can only take from someone what they’re able to give.
I’m somewhat of an anomaly in my family. You see, I have great credit.
I don’t know the specifics of everyone’s finances, but I’d bet you two pieces of Popeye’s chicken and a biscuit that most of them either have no credit or bad credit. Amazingly, they’re unfazed by this.
I’ve never sensed that anyone in my extended family feared a creditor. They truly do not give a crap about their credit history. They frequently contend that they can’t repay their debts because they don’t have the money. That’s it. There’s nothing left to talk about. Lesser people allow harassing debt collectors to stress them out. Not my family. The only thing a collection agency gets from them is cussed out.
Saying: Running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Translation: You’re aimless and unproductive.
Fact: After a chicken is decapitated, it may still run around for a few minutes. It’s pretty much dead, so what’s the point?
Some people kick up clumps of dirt, flap their wings, and make a lot of fuss to give the appearance they’re swamped. But really, they engage in trivial foolishness to avoid meaningful work.
A few weeks ago, I witnessed the headless chicken metaphor in action. A fellow coffee shop patron would not stay seated. From the looks of things, she was there to hangout with her friends. But she kept jumping up to serve them, darting back and forth to the counter. An untrained eavesdropper would think she was super busy. I saw through all the fanfare. I wouldn’t be shocked if the only thing she did all day was distract other people.
Saying: Sweep off your own back porch.
Translation: Mind yo’ business.
For some reason, people with messed up finances (and *clears throat* relationships) love to dole out unsolicited advice.
Think about it. If your porch is cluttered and crawling with cockroaches, you’re not in a position to help me clear off my porch? Worry about what you got going on. Get your stuff together first. Then–and only then–can you tell me what I need to do.
Saying: Your eyes are bigger than your belly.
Translation: You’re greedy.
You thought you were hungry enough to eat a ginormous plate of food. Unfortunately, you grossly overestimated how much you could consume.
As a child, if I was lucky, I could enjoy the fullness of my belly, step away from the half eaten plate of food, and carry on about my day. If not, an angry adult family member might force me to gorge myself on ALL the food I fixed. Oh, what a miserable feeling it is to be so stuffed you have to breathe out of your mouth.
Can you imagine how much money you’d save if you had to read old books before you bought new ones? Or wear shoes a set number of times before racing back to the mall? The horror!
Saying: A hard head make a soft behind.
Translation: Obey the rules, or get your butt whipped.
I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but when I was coming up, I got beatings. Sometimes I refer to them as spankings in an effort to sound more mainstream. But I heard “Go git me a switch” too many times to convince myself that I was “spanked.”
My dad, who rarely hit us, loved this phrase. He reminded us that disobedience leads to punishment by the Universe, or worse, my mother.
Of course you shouldn’t blindly do what others tell you. However, there are times we ignore good counsel, follow our own misguided advice, and screw everything up. For instance, years I ignored almost every personal finance experts’ advice to create a written budget. Once Dave Ramsey convinced me budgets were where it’s at, I increased my net worth by over $30,000 in one year.
To think, I wandered around with a tender behind all those years because I refused to listen.
What were some of the common sayings you heard when you were growing up?