A Lick And A Promise



Pamela Perry Blaine

© September 2005


“I’ll just give this a lick and a promise”, my mother said as she quickly

mopped up a spill on the floor without moving any of the furniture.


“What is that supposed to mean”, I asked as in my young mind I

envisioned someone licking the floor with his or her tongue.


“It means that I’m in a hurry and I’m busy canning tomatoes

so I am going to just give it a lick with the mop and

promise to come back and do the job right later.


“A lick and a promise” was just one of the many old phrases that

I remember my mother, grandmother, and others using that they probably

 heard from the generations before them.


With the passing of time, many old phrases become obsolete

or even disappear.  This is unfortunate because some of them are

 very appropriate and humorous.


Here is a list that I came up with that I remember my parents and

grandparents using that we don’t hear much anymore.  Perhaps you have

some memorable old phrases of your own that you could add to the list:



A Bone to Pick:  (someone who wants to discuss a disagreement)


An Axe to Grind:  (Someone who has a hidden motive.  This phrase is

said to have originated from Benjamin Franklin who told a story

about a devious man who asked how a grinding wheel worked. 

He ended up walking away with his axe sharpened free of charge)


A bad apple spoils the whole barrel:  (one corrupt person can cause

all the others to go bad if you don’t remove the bad one)


At sea:  (lost or not understanding something)


Bad Egg:  (Someone who was not a good person)


Barking at a knot:  (meaning that your efforts were as

useless as a dog barking at a knot.)


Bee in your bonnet:  (To have an idea that won’t let loose)


Been through the mill: (had a rough time of it)


Between hay and grass:  (Not a child or an adult)


Blinky:  (Between sweet and sour…as in milk)


Calaboose (a jail)


Cattywampus:  (Something that sits crooked such as a piece

of furniture sitting at an angle)


Dicker (To barter or trade)


Feather In Your Cap:  (to accomplish a goal…this came from years

ago in wartime when warriors might receive a feather they

would put in their cap for defeating an enemy)


Hold your horses:  (Be patient!)


I reckon:  (I suppose)


Jawing:  (Talking or arguing)


Kit and caboodle:  (The whole thing)


Madder than an old wet hen:   (really angry)


Needs taken down a notch or two:  (like notches in a belt…usually

a young person who thinks too highly of himself and needs a lesson)


No Spring Chicken:  (Not young anymore)


Persnickety:  (overly particular or snobbish)


Pretty is as pretty does:  (your actions are more important than your looks)


Scalawag:  (a rascal or unprincipled person)


Scarce as hen’s teeth:  (something difficult to obtain)


Skedaddle:  (Get out of here quickly)


Sparking:  (courting)


Straight From the Horse’s Mouth:  (privileged information

from the one concerned)


Stringing around, gallivanting around, or piddling:  (Not doing anything of value)


Sunday go to meetin’ dress:  (The best dress you had)


Tie the Knot:  (to get married)


Too many irons in the fire:  (to be involved in too many things)


Tuckered out:  (tired and all worn out)


Under the weather:  (not feeling well…this term came from

going below deck on ships due to sea sickness thus

you go below or under the weather)


Wearing your “best bib and tucker”:  (Being all dressed up)


You aren’t the only duck in the pond:  (It’s not all about you)


Well, if you hold your horses, I reckon I’ll get this whole

kit and caboodle done and sent off to you. Please don’t be

too persnickety and get a bee in your bonnet because

 I’ve been pretty tuckered out and at sea lately because

I’m no spring chicken.  I haven’t been just stringin’ around

and I know I’m not the only duck in the pond, but I do have

 too many irons in the fire.  I might just be barking at a knot, but

I have tried to give this article more than just a lick and a promise!



Pamela Perry Blaine

© September 2005