Clichés are the English versions of ancient Chinese proverbs. I think people who use clichés are actually saying to you, “I don’t have the time or patience to talk to you about your problem, so here is some wisdom I read on a coffee mug.”
For Christmas, I received an electronic talking calendar called “A Cliché for Every Day.” This stupid thing is motion-activated. Every time I’m within 5 feet of it, a voice sounding exactly like Charlie Brown’s teacher spews out the cliché of the day.
First thing I did was take it off the refrigerator and tape it to the bathroom scale. I never go near that thing. I have to tell you: A cliché every day will not keep the doctor away, but it will make you yearn for the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.
As a farmer, a lot of these clichés do not make sense to me. In fact, I know they weren’t written with farmers in mind. For instance, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” No, all work and no play kind of makes Jack a farmer who is “all dressed up with nowhere to go.”
Jack is dressed for the occasion because farmers live and work “in the middle of nowhere.” When Jack was a boy, people always accused him of acting “like he had ants in his pants.” You know why? Because Jack was a farm kid, and if a farm kid acts like he has ants in his pants … he does.
Jack’s dad always had to “make hay while the sun shines,” which is usually right after a good rainstorm – in which all the fire ants made their new home in the hay bales Jack was stacking by hand.
Ol’ Jack was a lot like his dad because “the acorn didn’t fall far from the tree,” which made it a little tricky mowing around them, but Jack always knew where he could “catch a blind pig.”
He was kicked out of 4-H for falsifying documents in the chicken-raising contest by “counting chickens before they hatch.” Jack liked to pheasant hunt with his bare hands because “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” That was until Jack discovered guns and birdshot, and then he got all three.
Jack got back to the house and realized “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” After some investigating, he noticed it was only because the septic tank was leaking and needed a new drain field installed.
My grandpa used to say he was “nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” Apparently, someone just “let the cat out of the bag.” The cat has a right to be nervous. He knows someone in that room put him in the bag. Now all of a sudden, he is “like a cat on a hot tin roof.”
What’s up with this cat? I’ll tell you what’s up. “A cat has nine lives,” and he has already burned up seven of them. The cat wants to “get out of Dodge” ’cause the cat knows “you can’t swing a dead cat in there” and somebody in those rocking chairs is thinking about it.
One of the oldest clichés is, “Broke the bank.” This was actually written by a dairy farmer in the early 1700s – and the original translation has been lost through time. The original text said, “Broke by the bank.”
You may not think it’s true, but you can “bet your bottom dollar on it.” Bottom dollars are the only dollars I own. As a dairy farmer, I’ve never been paid top dollar for anything. I know, I know: “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” At these prices, why bother? PD
Tim is a Florida dairy farmer and stand-up comedian. Visit him at Tim the Dairy Farmer Agricultureal Comedian website.