As a child, I took whatever anyone said literally. I realized most kids do.
As an adult, I understand that ALL kids hear things literally. You would be surprised at some of the thoughts the kids have when listening to adults talk. I grew up around mostly adults and would always listen to the conversations.
Listed here are phrases I heard when I was a kid growing up in the South and the thoughts that would occur in my little head whenever I heard them. As a kid, I did not realize what a metaphor was or how much slang there is in the English language. I realize there is a lot of foul language in this one, so please do not take offense.
“It is raining harder than a cow pissing on a flat rock.”
(This one was from my daddy, who is a Texan) Sorta South
My thoughts: We do not have a cow and no one we know owns a cow. Do cows pee on rocks? Won’t the pee splash back on the cow if it pees on a rock? Why are there rocks in a cow pasture? How hard is the rain? What does a cow peeing on flat rock look like? How does a cow know it is peeing on a rock? Do cows pee when it raining?
“A month of Sundays”
My thoughts: How is this possible? What happens to the other days of the week in that month? Does that mean you have to go to church every day that month? If Sunday is the biblical day of rest, does anyone have to work that month? Does that mean you have to tithe every day? Why not a month of Saturdays?
“Treated like red headed step child, from Alabama, at a family reunion barbecue”
My thoughts: I do not know any red heads to ask about this without being rude. Why is it a red head and not blonde or brunette? We do not have family reunions because no one gets a long and my family ends up arguing about politics or whatever. Do I have to go to a family reunion? What does Alabama have to do with it if we live in Georgia? Why are people picking on step children, as I am one?
“Dumber than a sack of hammers”
My thoughts: Who owns an entire sack of hammers? How many hammers are in a sack anyway? Why a sack of hammers and not a tool box? How are hammers dumb? How dumb is a sack of hammers? Isn’t the sack pretty heavy?
“He doesn’t know whether to scratch his wrist or wind his butt”
My thoughts: Why would you do either one? Isn’t that phrase backwards and you just said it wrong? Are you drunk again uncle Bubba? Why does Uncle Bubba wear those overalls that make it hard to reach his butt to scratch it? Who even owns a watch that needs to be wound anymore? Everyone needs to scratch something at some point. Sometimes, I need to scratch my butt and my wrist. Why would people wind their wrist?
“Sweet Jesus, mother, Mary and Joseph”
My thoughts: OK, I do not attend a church, but I know the Biblical importance of these folks. Why is my MeeMaw (that is grandmother in the South) calling their names out like they are here or something? Why does she only call their names when she is mad and trying to talk under her breath? Why is MeeMaw stomping and waving her hands in the air as she calls the names? Time to quietly move away from MeeMaw. Seek refuge with Auntie Pru (my great aunt). Do Jesus, mother, Mary and Joseph know something I do not know? We do not have anyone in our family named Jesus, Mary or Joseph.
“Son of a bitch”
My thoughts: What is a bitch? I know it is not good to be called one as my mother says this when she is mad at a woman. Which boy do I know that has a bitch for a mom? Why have I never heard the phrase ‘daughter of a bitch’? Are boys the only ones who can be a son of a bitch? I was told a bitch was a female dog. Did this mean that the son had a dog for a mom?
“Bless your pointed little head”
My thoughts: Does having a pointed head hurt? It must be hard to find a hat that fits a pointed head. If you have a pointed head, does it stretch out your ears out like Spock or a Muppet? Is there a surgery to fix the point in the head? I would really like to meet someone with a pointed head to see what it looks like.
“For the love of all the angels in heaven”
My thoughts: How many angels are there in heaven? If you are speaking about angels and love, then why are you screamin’ and hollerin’ so much? What do angels have to do with what you are talking about? If you go to heaven, can you come back?
“What in the cotton pickin’ Sam hill”
(My MeeMaw said this a lot.)
My thoughts: What? That sentence does not even make sense. It does not even give me a clue to what you are trying to say! I know what cotton pickin’ means, but who is Sam and where is the hill? Where is Sam Hill located? Do they grow cotton on Sam Hill?
“I’ll be damned”
My thoughts: Whatever it means cannot be good. From the context it was used, I gleaned that it was some sort of sarcastic response to someone pointing out that you were wrong about something. This cannot be a compliment. If you are damned, do you go to hell? Is there a hell? If so, where is it?
“Spinning in the grave”
My thoughts: What? How can you spin in a grave if you are dead? I have never seen a dead person move. Does spinning in the grave start after you are buried? What happens if you start spinning really fast? If you spun fast enough, would you fly out of the grave? Can you spin in different directions? How is there room in the casket to spin?
“Kill Them with Kindness”
My thoughts: Mom says this, and I still do not know what it means. How can killing be kind? How exactly do you kill with kindness? Does this involve a weapon? Why would I need to kill anyone?
“Fuck You and the Horse You Rode in On.”
This was by far my favorite. It seemed like every time my Southern mom got in an argument with my dad she used this metaphor as her trump card.
My thoughts: I did not know what “fuck you” meant at the time, but I knew it meant angry cause my mom would yell it at my dad. However, I did know what a horse was and spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the complete phrase meant. I did know though that we did not have a horse. My grandfather did, but her name was Paige, not fuck you. (It took me years to get this one.) We do not ride horses, but maybe “fu” was a breed of horse or something? Why would my dad need to ride a horse in the middle of an argument with my mother? Where would my dad find a horse in the middle of this screaming match anyway? Did dad riding a horse make the argument over, then ride daddy ride! What did riding on a horse have to do with the argument, anyway? We live in a condo, where would we house a horse?
“A bat out of hell”
My thoughts: Are there bats in hell? Is hell a real place? What does a bat have to do with hell? What kind of bat, a flying bat or a baseball bat? I never got this one.
So, think before you speak to a kid!
If you see a kid with their face crinkled in confusion, they were probably recently at my house and trying to figure out what my folks were talking about.
Just know that whatever you say in front of a kid registers somewhere in their little brain. They may not look like they are taking it in, but I assure you they are listening.
Case and point. When I was a toddler, my mother tried to watch what she said in front of me. I vividly remember driving in our VW bug and some woman cut mom off in traffic. Usually mom had some choice words to say, but his time she kept her mouth shut to try to teach me something. However, I had other ideas. I looked at mom and noticed she did not react to this woman cutting us off. I decided to take matters into my own hands and help mom out.
I faced forward from the car seat, proceeded to put up my middle finger to the window and screamed, “bitch.” I was four years old.
Mom wanted to scold me. But she was too busy laughing to make it stick.
Do not get me wrong, I am not a Puritan with my language, by any stretch of the imagination. However, I try very hard to be clear when I am communicating. We live such fast-paced lives and hardly have time to communicate effectively anymore. Just know the kids are trying just as hard to understand.
By the way, if you ever figure out the “bat out of hell” metaphor, let me know!