Unique land, unique phrases


When I was living out of state while in my 20s, I very rarely met anyone who had been to Iowa. “Oh, yes, I’ve been through there. . .” was what I usually heard when someone inquired about where I grew up.At least once the question was raised to ask me about how the potato crop was this season.

Sometimes the discussion was about just what the scenery is in Iowa, as in “We have the mountains and an ocean, you know.” The implication seemed to be that whatever is in the Midwest can’t possibly be as good. Someone I knew who lived in a New Hampshire mountain valley told me that he had been through Iowa on his way driving to California. So on his way through our state, he stopped his car on a rural road and climbed up on the hood to really look around. “It was like an ocean of corn all around me,” he remarked.

And although I’d never thought of it that way, I understood what Bill was saying.

Those folks who think we don’t have any pretty scenery should come look through my big front window at the panoramic view across gently rolling, lush green fields and pasture. Clumps of trees mark the farmsteads here and there along the gravel roads, and one can see for several miles.

If scenery like this is Iowa, then perhaps the way we talk is, too. It’s not so much the way we talk (although some think that’s unique, but I don’t hear it), but what we say. I was just reading about some of those phrases, such as: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

My grandma, the chief mender for the family, reminded me more than once, “A stitch in time saves nine.” When she heard me whistling, which was quite often, she would tease me with, “A whistling girl and a big fat hen often come to no good end.” Willing to take a chance, I kept whistling and still do today.

“Better safe than sorry,” is a warning that made a younger me impatient with my elders. Still does sometimes.

Some of the familiar Iowa sayings come from our agriculture roots: “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” Something I heard often–and probably said a lot, too–is “Close the door! Were you born in a barn?”

I’m not familiar with this old phrase, but it makes me smile: “As stubborn as a hog on ice.”

“You make a better door than a window!” was directed at someone standing in front of what I wanted to see

If you’re like me, these old sayings make you wonder if there are any good new sayings waiting for us someday.


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