Old Wives’ Tales

My definition of old wives’ tales used to be ideas or superstitions that made no sense but that my mother believed in fervently.  And I better follow them or else. This helped form my image of my mother and it didn’t make arrogant little me exactly appreciate her intelligence.

I now believe that old wives’ tales can be divided into 3 categories.  The ones that I still think are stupid and can’t possibly have historical origins, the ones that I think sound stupid but probably have historical influence, and the ones that I thought were stupid and are TRUE.

Let’s tackle category 1 first.

  • Never did my grandmother’s back break, or, as far as I can tell, even hurt when I walked on a sidewalk oblivious to the cracks.  WATCH OUT! Seriously, Mom?

Spoiler Alert – the next two are about feminine issues, so guys might want to skip ahead unless you always wondered why your mother was going ballistic on your sister.

  • FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE YOU CAN’T GO TO THE DENTIST WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR FRIEND! “Friend” was my mother’s euphemism for a woman’s period. Which actually, is also a euphemism as well. So my daughters can make fun of me, too.  And the connection with the dentist was……..no clue.
  • No showering or hair washing when you have your period! So you better believe I spent a lot of time at girlfriends’ houses showering.

Guys, you can open your eyes now.

  • If a black cat crosses your path something terrible is going to happen.  I don’t remember what the terrible thing was, but I do remember thinking that as long as I didn’t trip on the cat, it should be okay.
  • Don’t sit on that cold bench or you’ll get a cold in your back.  Huh?

On to category 2.

  • BARBARA DON’T OPEN THAT UMBRELLA IN THE HOUSE!  While that still seems pretty silly to me, I can totally get that you might poke somebody’s eye out opening the umbrella, and no one, old wife or not, wants rain and snow dripping on their floor.
  • Under no circumstances whatsoever should you walk under a ladder. I doubt it warranted my mother’s insane reaction, but it isn’t a stretch to think that if someone was on said ladder with a can of paint, it could be disastrous to both the walk-underer and the on-top-of the ladder person.

Now category 3.

  • You know it’s going to rain when your bones ache.  Really, Mom?  Well, a couple of years ago I had significant shoulder surgery.  One day, at physical therapy, my shoulder was hurting a little more than usual.  I told the physical therapist that my mother would have said that rain was coming.  It then started to rain.  For real. The physical therapist replied that my mother was right.  Whaaaaaa????? She said that joints ached due to a change in barometric pressure.  You’ve got to be kidding me.

Sorry, Mom.



About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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30 Responses to Old Wives’ Tales

  1. Glazed says:

    How about, when your nose itches, it means you’re going to have company. That was a favorite of my grandmother. How do you prove it right or wrong? Eventually most people do have company. And my 81-year-old mother has had backaches for years. Sorry, Mom, for not being more careful when I walked on sidewalks.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    It’s like when grandmas used to say take honey for a cough or eat chicken noodle soup when you’re sick. The advice was poo-pooed by many, but now we know that honey can indeed help decrease a cough and the sodium in chicken noodle soup can be good for us when we’re ailing, And chicken noodle soup also has some anti-viral properties. So grandma was right all along. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I actually had a conversation today about bones aching in the rain and we concluded that “Native Americans” always could tell the weather was going to change because they were attuned to their bodies in a way we are too busy to be.
    I think it would be fun to take old wives tales and write stories about how they came to be. What do you think about that idea?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What does it mean to have a cold in your back? What does that look or feel like?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bea dM says:

    I also remember being “arrogant little me”! Now, living in a country where superstitions are still rampant, I’ve learned to change directions when a black cat looms. Something to do with crossing energy paths,,,, But relax with the umbrella thing, as long as you open it in the bathroom -that was my mother, for reasons of hygiene! On the other hand, don’t, whatever you do, ever place a hat on a bed !

    Liked by 3 people

  6. melchyy says:

    Haha i love grandmother quotes.They really matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. amommasview says:

    Oh that’s so funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. hahahaaaaa! Oh gotta love the old wives’ tales. One of my favourites – don’t eat the watermelon seeds or it will start growing in your stomach. The Asian version of opening the umbrella at home is that a snake will come into the house (?!!). Uh?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Remember how moms used to say “Your face will freeze that way!” when we made a sassy face? Maybe that accounts for my wrinkles now. As for a “cold in the back,” they might have been referring to pleurisy, an inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the rib cage. Seems I heard that word a lot when I was a kid. Now I know what causes it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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