Old Wives Tales And Old Country Proverbs

Are they inspirational words of wisdom or simply old wive's tales? They bring with them a mystical sense of logic and magic but can also often be laden with the makings for some degree of fear and dread. One never knew if they were fact or fallacy. Growing up in the country under the parenthood of two old fashioned idealists I found my upbringing to be strongly influenced by the superstitions, proverbs, and common sense sayings which came from somewhere deep in the past but also of unknown origins. 

I grew up checking the colour of the sky at night and inspecting it again in the morning. Examining my tongue in the mirror to see if it had turned purple and swearing up down and sideways that my sister's tongue had a tell tale tinge to it. My parent's country wisdom taught me that you were not supposed to lie, you never hurt someone when they were down, and that you took time to help your neighbour out. By the time I could walk their wise old folklore sayings were embedded deep into my subconscious thought.

It was a taste of moral values learned the good old fashioned way. I cannot count the times that my dad went off to help a neighbour in need. Whether it was building a shed or plowing a driveway, if they called then he went. My mom's generosity was also very evident. She was always baking up something for someone or for some special event. If someone was feeling under the weather or moving into a new home she always had a little something special to pass along.

Living in the country we surprisingly had a pretty active social life. There were potlucks, neighbours always stopping by on their way into town, church functions, school functions, and dances down at the local community hall. Mom and dad always carried with them more than what they were asked to bring. Through my parent's generosity I learned to share simply because it was the right thing to do. You spread a little sunshine where you can and you share your blessings with those who have less than what you are blessed with.

Many of these old proverbs were based on rural farm life.

1. The early bird gets the worm.

2. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

3. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

4. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

5. Don't cry over spilt milk.

6. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

7. Birds of a feather flock together.

8. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.

9. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

10. Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

11. The chickens always come home to roost.

12: It can be dangerous around the person who flies off the handle

13: Never trust a fox in the hen house.

14: Never buy a pig in a poke.

Families were often looked at as a singular unit and the fault of one could easily fall onto the entire family. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree was a saying used to refer to a person spoiled by poor parenting or the carry over of a disreputable ancestry. It sums up to one having either bad genes or poor parenting. It was a saying I heard many times and is also one that I myself have often used.

Most of the lessons I was taught were just simple courtesy. I guess they now refer to this as country hospitality. In rural areas you tended to stand by one another and you rarely turned away someone who was in need. In the country essential services are not always close at hand so we tended to solve most problems on our own. Whether it was a neighbour or a stranger who was in need you were morally obligated to stop and help them out. If someone come to the door they were offered food or drink. If they were traveling a long distance then they were often offered an overnight stay.

You didn't walk away from someone who was knocked down whether he was a friend or foe. You helped them get back up. This simple common sense wisdom also insured a return of the favour should your family ever be in need. The words made sense then and they make sense now.

1. Love what you do and you will never work a day of your life.

2. God helps those who help themselves

3. Beggars can't be choosers.

4. Never slam a door behind you that you may want open in the future.

5. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

6. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

7. What goes around comes around.

8. Two wrongs don't make a right. (This is a saying that I often switch around to read: Two wrongs do make a right.)

9. Look at the mother before becoming engaged to the daughter.

10. Don't start off on the wrong foot.

11. All things in moderation.

12: A fool and his money are soon parted.

Some of those teachings came with a good dose of fear. I am pretty sure that some of those old sayings were created simply to keep kids minding their manners because there are more than a few of these old sayings that had me scared right out of my wits.

May lightening strike me dead was usually used as a test of ones honesty, loyalty, or faith and I truly did believe that I could be killed right there on the spot if I didn't mind my p's and q's. I was terrified whenever I had to walk home from school in a storm as I was sure that something I had done in the past was going to come back to knock me flat off my feet.

If a wolf howls or a bird hits the window then it is a warning that there is a message of death to come. The entire family would wait in fear to see who among our relatives would be next to meet their untimely fate. To a naive kid growing up in a small community it was all pretty scary stuff.

Which brings up a couple more of those oh so dreaded fear inspiring proverbs. I heard quite often the mention of skeletons in the closet and tales of old ghosts coming back to haunt a person when they least expected it. I still have visions of closet doors creaking open and a bunch of skeleton bones falling out onto the floor.

I learned early in life that luck was something one could stumble onto. We had a lucky horseshoe hanging on our wall and I diligently searched for four leaf clovers on my way to and from school. I truly did believe that there was a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and as a kid I had big dreams of one day finding it.

When it comes to friendship, love, or finding a solution to a problem two heads are always better than one. This saying is so true that it can virtually go without the saying.

Let your conscience be your guide.

When the going gets tough the tough get going.

Your tongue will turn purple if you tell a lie.

The old proverbs were generally based on principles of trust and respect. Honesty is the best policy pretty much sums it up. Telling the truth was how people learned to trust you and that trust was how your reputation was earned.

They brought with them a mystical sense of logic and magic but were also often laden with the makings for some degree of fear and dread. One never knew if they were fact or fallacy. 

I am not too sure which of the lessons I learned as a kid were old wives tales, proverbs, or just superstitions but I grew up with a wealth of old fashioned common sense weaved into my moral fibre. I look around today at the things that people are doing and I have to wonder what the heck is going on. I can't help but think a good swift kick from a horse might knock some good old fashioned common sense into them. A little touch of the country life can often be a good thing.

Related Articles by Lorelei Cohen

Why a 4 Leaf Clover is Lucky
Resilience: Our Ability to Adapt and Adjust to Change
The Legend of The Black Unicorn