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Phrases from the Farm

phrases from the farmFor a little background on this blog, we need to go back about a month or so. During this time, we here at the office were discussing the recent New England Patriots Super Bowl win. During this discussion, our marketing director brought up a recent interview he had seen featuring New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski. During the interview, Gronkowski was asked about the tussle that he and several other players were involved in at the very close of the game. Gronkowski responded by stating, “I knew it was the last game of the season, so I figured, whatever, I’m throwing haymakers.”  Putting aside any personal thoughts on the display at the end of the game, our marketing director brought up a good question that left all of us in the room searching for an answer. “Where does the saying “throwing haymakers” come from?” he asked. After some research, we found that the term throwing haymakers has come about due to the fact that the motion of throwing a punch is similar to the motion made when swinging a scythe. Scythes were of course used for manually cutting down grass and weeds in order to make hay, and thankfully, technology has made the use of these obsolete, but the saying has lived on for years. This conversation sparked my interest, and I began doing some research to see what other popular phrases have some sort of farming connection, and what I found was really quite fascinating.

“Cool as a cucumber”

In a sentence: When the pressure is on, John is always as cool as a cumber.   

This phrase is often used to describe someone that keeps calm in high stress or high pressure situations, rather than describing temperature as one may be led to believe. It is believed that this saying came about based on the fact that cucumbers are a warm season crop, and even on the hottest summer day, the inside of a cucumber is always cool to the touch. Even when the heat is on, cucumbers are cool to the core.

cool as a cucumber

“Cream of the crop”

In a sentence: I own many watches, but this particular watch is the cream of the crop.

Any dairy farmers should know where this saying comes from. This saying is used as another way to refer to something that is the best of the best. Cream is the richest part of milk, it is filled with fat molecules that are less dense than the milk itself, which causes it to separate and float, meaning the cream is literally separated from the crop. Regarded as one of the most delectable dairy related products, cream has become a somewhat coveted prize among farm children everywhere, as it is truly the best of the best.

milking cow

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

In a sentence: The outcome of this race looks good, but I wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Certainly an easy phrase to trace, this is used to encourage people not to risk everything on one single venture or output. It’s always better to take your time and complete a task with caution as opposed to risking it all to get something done quickly. One can only hope that this phrase came about strictly as a saying, and not from experience. With egg prices ranging anywhere from $2-$5 for a dozen, we certainly hope one overzealous and clumsy farmer didn’t learn this the hard way.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

“For the birds”

In a sentence: If you ask me, this winter weather is for the birds.

This phrase is used to describe something that is not pleasant or highly undesirable. This phrase first appeared in the years when horses or horse and buggy were the only means of transportation. During this time, horse manure in the streets was a very common site. Birds would flock to the streets and peck through the manure piles to feed on any undigested oats. The phrase that’s for the birds initially came about as a way for people to politely say that’s horse manure, but has been adapted over the years to refer to something that is unwanted or undesirable.

horse and buggy

“Feeling his/her oats”

In a sentence: Susan was feeling her oats and decided to go out dancing.

Another horse related saying, this phrase is used to describe someone that is full of energy. Traditionally, oats are considered to be the most energizing feed for horses. When consumed, horses display greater amounts of energy as compared to other grain or grass feeds. Due to this, when someone is feeling a little more energetic than usual, they are often said to be feeling their oats, as if they have eaten something that is responsible for the sudden boost in motivation.

oats for horses

“Make hay while the sun shines”

In a sentence: This is a great sale and even though my sister’s birthday isn’t for another month, I might as well make hay while the sun shines.

This is the easiest one of the bunch, right? Cutting, tedding, raking and bailing hay all must be done during the dry summer months. Working with wet or even slightly damp hay at any point during the process can greatly de-value the crop. Making hay while the sun shines simply means to take advantage of an opportunity that has presented itself.  Now, you of course want to look into the long range forecast for actually hay making, but the saying has come to be from farmers of old, who would wake up in the mornings, see the sun shining and figure today was as good a day as any to go out and make some hay.

making hay while the sun shines

Are there any other phrases that we missed? Have you heard any good explanations as to why some of these or other phrases have come about? Let us know by leaving a comment below. 

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gary #

    Enjoyed the article and the photos were carefully selected. How about; A day late and a dollar short?

    November 3, 2015
    • Hi Gary,
      Glad to hear you liked the article so much. Unfortunately, there really isn’t too much on where the term “a day late and dollar short came from”. From our research, the best we can find is that it’s used in scenarios to refer to a lack of effort. “Too little, too late” is immediately interchangeable with this phrase. One interesting fact with this is that the phrase is most often used only in regions/countries that place a high value on monetary standing and efforts.
      Thanks for the question and thanks for reading!

      November 20, 2015

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