My grandpa was the idiom colloquial king.  In fact, he would tell you those are just $6 words for a wooden nickel girl. Little did he know, but his one-liners set the frame from which I would reference life’s little dramas time and again. If you need some Midwestern charm, and who doesn’t, feel free to borrow some sugar steeped in a splash of vinegar from my grandpa. These idioms and colloquialisms may get you out of (or into) an otherwise tight spot…

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You would rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth. May times in our wisdom, we feel that it’s easier to just gloss over our troubles by telling a little white lie. But if you’re honest with yourself, you will remember how the lies had to stack up to cover one innocent untruth. If you’re faced with a dilemma and wonder whether it’s best to fabricate, omit, or just flat out lie, then pull this gem out of your pocket and get on with it. The truth is always the best method.


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Cowboy up. I had more than my share of bike accidents, broken hearts, and boo-boos of all kinds. It was always grandpa that reminded me that life is full of tough times so I better cowboy up and deal with it. He was a depression era man and had little empathy for mishaps that I deemed life-shattering at the tender age of 7. Once while lying on the ground after being thrown by a frisky mare, he sidled up beside me and said, “When you’re done jackin’ around down there, we’ve got fences that need mending. Cowboy up.” So I did.


image3-12You ain’t no wallflower, and this ain’t no dance. Now the meaning behind his words meant to get off my arse and get busy. He was lightning quick to remind me that there were tomatoes to be picked, the silver wouldn’t polish itself, and watching so much TV would rot my brain. Thank heavens he stepped in when he did. Otherwise, I might’ve applied for a job as a desk jockey later in life and died a slow death of boredom.


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Champagne taste on a beer budget. It was a guarantee that if I implored my grandpa to buy something for me at the grocery store that wasn’t on his list of necessities, he would look it over to see if what I had asked for was magically written there. I knew it wasn’t but my child-like optimism always held out for the best. His crow’s feet would wrinkle the sides of his eyes and break the bad news to me. Then he would tease me about my champagne taste.


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Bless your pea-pickin’ heart. In most parts of the country, bless your heart is an expression full of sympathy and meant as an endearment. But in the Midwest, it means you are sorely lacking in the intelligence department, likely not the sharpest knife in the drawer, or one brick short of a load. But if “pea-pickin’” is added, then it is presumed you just fell off the back of the hay wagon and you’re dumb as a box of rocks.



Rode hard and put up wet. Grandpa used this as a description for any human that showed up at church on Sunday morning after a long night with what he called “the devil’s water.” A hang-over is a sad state of affairs, but when coupled with your Sunday best, it’s just downright tacky.

You weren’t born in a barn. You may deem this as a good thing, even count your blessings that you have hospitals equipped with maternity wards where you come from.  But in my house, if grandpa yelled out “You weren’t born in a barn,” then you damn well better close the door because the swamp cooler wasn’t made to cool the outside.

Coke The pop vs. soda debate is long-standing. But if you grew up in my neck of the woods, then you should ask for a coke. As a matter of fact, you can expect your waitress to ask if she can bring you a coke and then follow that with “What kind? We’ve got Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew.” Grandpa always drank a 10-2-4, which is Dr. Pepper three times a day.

Fixin’ to. When my sainted grandmother would ask grandpa if he planned to ever fix the screen door, the clothes line, or get her jelly jars out of the attic, he always answered “I’m fixin’ to.”

Visitin’ vs. Talkin’ These words carry a double meaning. Visitin’ may mean that you literally drove over in the paneled station wagon to gather with friends. If you pick up the phone to call your neighbor, this also qualifies as visitin’, not talkin’. Talkin’ is used when grandpa would say, “You interrupted while I was talkin’” or because you knocked over his stack of prized garden rakes “You’re goin’ to get a talkn’ to when we get back to the house.”

Dinner on the ground. This is not an ant-infested picnic that you may be imagining right now. This is simply an event that is usually held in the church basement immediately after brother John said “Amen” in the sanctuary upstairs. Grandpa wasn’t really a social kind of guy, so his use of this colloquialism was always tongue in cheek.

image1-59Ranch Not all farmers are ranchers, rather owning Ranch in the Midwest is a condiment staple that transforms all food into delectable edibles. It doesn’t matter whether or not the steak is overcooked, the salad is already dressed in vinaigrette, or the snapped peas are perfect. A heaping dose of ranch dressing renders a Midwestern meal fit for a king.

You ain’t no wallflower, and this ain’t no dance.

You’re welcome.


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