Chicken Wordplay


Every now and then, here on the farm, I have one these amazing moments of etymological discovery - when all of a sudden, some word or trite expression I've used countless times makes sense in a completely new way. When you think about it, so many of our everyday adages have agricultural origins. Take for instance...

"Against the grain"
"Make hay when the sun shines!"
"An axe to grind"
"Putting the cart before the horse"
"The cream of the crop"

...and on and on.
It got me wondering just how many of the phrases we use everyday are derived from the farm. Can you think of any? I'd love to make a list. Help me out by adding them in the comment field below.

My new chickens have really underscored this farm-phrase origin issue.  A few weeks ago RM surprised me with a small flock for my birthday. (He also got me a massage at Stowe and took me out to dinner -- now that's a man who understands my range!) It's been so much fun collecting their eggs, and observing their funny little mannerisms and the truisms they represent...

Turns out sometimes chickens can be terribly excitable, fretful creatures...in other words, big fat chickens. When the young rooster tries to cut the dominant hen off at the feeder, he will inevitably be hen-pecked. That big hen really rules the roost! But she can also be a gentle, nurturing, cooing creature...the typical mother hen. And when my feisty little terrier sneaks in the coop, they all run around like chickens with their heads cut off (even though, thankfully, they are fully intact).  Even after all the feed is gone, they'll be searching around furiously for chicken scratch. And don't even get me started on chicken shit....

I wonder if any of my English professors would be pleased to see me using my degree to decode chicken cliches?
(Help me make a list of expressions derived from farm life! Please leave any you can think of in the comments field below.)

For those interested in learning more about keeping chickens, I'd definitely recommend the book Keeping Chickens, with Ashley English.  Ashley's Homemade Living books and her blog, Small Measure, have kept me entertained and inspired as I've waded through many of my rural adventures, and chicken husbandry has been no exception. Her writing is witty, and her book designs are uncommonly chic among the other dowdy Ag books on my shelf. Check her out!

Curtis (September 13, 2011 at 3:20 PM)  

"don't count your chickens before they hatch" of course

"fox in the henhouse"

"stubborn as a mule"

Erielle (September 14, 2011 at 9:55 PM)  

Wow, I never thought about that, but you're right, there do seem to be a lot that come from farming!Pretty much every cliché I can think of comes from the farm...
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Like finding a needle in a haystack.
When pigs fly!
That one about leading a horse to its water or something like that?
Old as dirt.
Kick the bucket.
I'll let you know if I think of any more!

Alison (September 15, 2011 at 6:56 PM)  

Oh, I just love these! More please...anyone?

Jennifer (September 28, 2011 at 1:51 PM)  

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

Anonymous –  (October 22, 2011 at 9:43 PM)  

My Grandmother always use to say, "the wilder the colt the tamer the mare."
...till the cows come home (and they always did when it was time to milk)

Erin B –  (November 4, 2011 at 11:05 AM)  

Some of these might be a stretch, but here goes:

- Nip it in the bud
- Run of the mill
- The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
- Horseplay
- Milk it for all it's worth
- Roll in the hay
- Feeling "Fenced in"

So many!!

Anonymous –  (June 19, 2012 at 8:17 PM)  

happy as a pig in shit
Dirt nap

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