The hand that rocks the cradles does what?

Categorized as 09/21/09 Goshen News column

Don’t we have an interesting language? It’s very colorful, full of fascinating, descriptive words and phrases.

Over time, our most common terms have simply become part of the national lexicon. We call them clichés, and the reason we use them is because, for the most part, they’re true.

Many of them are universal, but others are unique to certain regions, giving local culture its own color and flair. For instance, in the South, you might hear, “He’s been rode hard and put up wet.” This is clearly not a compliment as it means that either you’re not aging too well or you look like something the cat coughed up.

Out west, you’ll hear cowboy-isms like, “Go west, young man,” or, “Don’t squat on your spurs.” And who hasn’t used, “Ride ‘em, cowboy, ” or, “Howdy, pardner,” at some point?

So ingrained have many of these become that it’s hard to speak or write without using them. In fact, we seldom give a thought to where they came from or what they really mean.

For example, wouldn’t you love to know who coined the phrase, “Silence is golden?” Whoever it was, they didn’t have any toddlers, I know that. The fact of the matter is, sometimes silence is green.

You heard me. Just the other day as I was plowing through a stack of reports, it suddenly dawned on me that the house was quiet.

When you have a three footer, you learn real quick that there is silence and then there’s silence. This was definitely the sinister kind. Upon investigating, I found him decorating both hands, the table top, and his entire right arm with a green marker.

See what I mean? Silence can be green.

How about this one? “That was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.” But what if you live in a barrel of monkeys? And what if it’s not always fun? After all, monkeys are dirty creatures. They wear it. It’s part and parcel of their monkey suits. They get smelly, too, especially when they hit puberty, and they’re very suspicious of a bar of soap and a tub of water.

You tell yourself that you’re in the barrel, but not of it, and that helps a little. Until, that is, you attend a family reunion and you discover that there’s far more monkey blood in your half of the jungle than you’d care to admit. Which calls your whole theory into question.


Personally, I like the next one better. “She has a face that could launch a thousand ships.” Oh, I know this was written about Helen of Troy, but we mothers can use this one.

Let’s say you’re on the phone and a crumb cruncher interrupts, wanting to know if he can have a cookie. Or a TV show. Or a friend over. Or another cookie. This is highly distracting, and it instantly kicks you into hypertension. This is exactly where you should use your face to make one that will launch those little ships; pirate ships, that is, because that’s just what they’re doing. They’re pirating your happiness and hijacking the conversation you were enjoying with your friend.

The goal here is a launch, alright, straight out onto the high seas (a.k.a. the back yard). If you lack confidence in your ability to pull this off, then you need to get yourself in front of a mirror and practice, my friend.

Another good one is, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” In my experience, that hand also changes the diapers.

If it stopped with the rocking, this would be an easy deal. However, if you’ve put something in that cradle, then your hands will be busy for the next 18 years or so washing mounds of laundry roughly the size of the Appalachian foothills. They’ll also be busy cooking up enough food to feed a regiment and baking countless cookies to avoid being put out to pasture.

The term, “a game of inches,” certainly applies here because after you’ve filled the cradle, you’re playing exactly that. Like it or not, after you’ve had a baby, those numbers start changing, and they’re not in your favor. This leads to another cliché, “drowning your sorrows,” which is precisely why I have so many friends at Starbucks.

If you have a teenager, this next phrase will make a whole lot of sense; that is, “a hole big enough to drive a truck through.” Teenage logic and reasoning being what they are, this describes certain conversations you have with your teen in which the aforementioned qualities are missing. See above remedy.

“Put your money where your mouth is.” This is what happens when you see your local dentist. Friendly fellow though he is, this is exactly what you’ll doing, and plenty of it, I might add.

“Two hearts that beat as one.” Awww. That is sweet. This is what you’re looking for when you say, “I do.” Now, if you can just get The Mister to agree that your way of hanging the toilet paper is the right one, then – one more for you – you’ll be living “happily ever after.”

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