Phrases you're surprised people aren't familiar with

In one of my education classes the other day, we were asked to consider the meaning of the phrase “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach”, in small groups. When we broke out into them, one person said immediately “Oh, that’s so funny, I just heard that the other day”, and when i sort of stared at her in confusion, she confirmed that it had been the first time she’d ever heard that. In fact, several other people in our group also said they’d never heard the prhase before - one member was from a non-Western culture, so that’s possibly more understandable as I’m not sure how prevalent the saying is in other cultures, but it seems to me to be something you couldn’t possibly avoid while growing to be an adult. To me, it’s to the point of cliche - or is it really not that widespread?

I can see people not having heard that before.

Years ago I told a girlfriend “You’re a good egg.” She looked at me funny and said “And you’re a good… sperm?” She’d never heard that before.

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It’s déjà vu.

Most people are so used to hearing/saying “It’s déjà vu all over again” (linked to baseball player Yogi Bera) that the original phrase has been lost.

90% of this thread is going to be half mental.

Sounds like you took that fork in the road.

I did the Neilson TV ratings once, maybe it was about 20 years ago. Anyway, the idea was, I was supposed to keep a careful log of what TV shows I watched every day. Then, a representative would call me and ask me to read off my log.

One night, I was reading off my log, and I came across an entry where I had just written “channel surfing” for one of my 30-minute blocks.

The representative said, “you were watching surfing?”

I said, “No, I wasn’t watching anything in particular. I was channel surfing.”

“Channel surfing. Oh, that’s funny, I never heard that before.”


When you were channel surfing, did you run across any shows about surfing?

Many years ago my uncle was complaining that someone ripped off his glasses. My great aunt said “Oh no, I hope they weren’t broken.” In her defense, I think she was a little old to know Groovy Speak.

Leave Yogi alone! (crying)

For the record, Mister Berra himself tried to set the record straight by declaring “I never said half the things I really said.”

Oh, all right. My favorite is someone asking him “Hey Yogi, what time is it?” to which he replied “You mean right now?”


Not a phrase, but a word…

Feeling mildly silly, I recently referred to an umbrella as a “bumbershoot”; my wife of 41 years was baffled. She’d never heard or seen the word before.

And all those years I’d thought she knew everything.


I didn’t learn that a “bumbershoot” was an umbrella until my late 30s— and that was some time after I first heard the word associated with the Seattle festival.

Yes. My 8th-grade algebra teacher was from England. One day three “bad boys” came in late to class and she said sternly, “I know where *you *were–out in the parking lot with a fag in your mouth!”

Pandemonium, as you can imagine, reigned.

I told a student that he had no wiggle room.

He had no idea what that meant.

All of those mentioned so far are familiar to me.

I confuzzled someone not long ago (comparing stupid falls stories) when I said something about going “ass over tea-kettle”. I got the squint eyed head tilt "ruh?’ look, and a “you were carrying a kettle…???”

She didn’t get it even after I explained it.

“Six of one.” I say this constantly to say “it doesn’t matter,” and the longer phrase is “Six of one, half-dozen of the other.” I.e., it’s the same thing, no difference. I am constantly running into people who have no idea what in the ever-loving hell I’m talking about and they don’t know why I bust out with random numbers in the middle of a conversation.

I remember astounding someone in college when I said, “If wishes were horses then beggars might ride.” He was from L.A., and I think I lost him at “horse.”

I once told some coworkers (in an informal type setting) that an expected piece of mail that hadn’t arrived seemed to have gone “M.I.A.” and one actually got mad at me because she had no idea what it meant. (Everyone else understood fine.)

Recently, I mentioned that a movie had been “panned” and several people (including my husband) didn’t know what I meant.

Once in a very casuall business meeting someone brought up the fact that we had way too many printers. My boss said something along the lines of “do we really have that many?” to which I replied “Shit, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting one”.

The room erupted in laughter and it took me an hour to convince some of them I hadn’t made that up.

“Bumbershoot”? Sounds like something Winnie the Pooh might have mangled…

If you want to really confuse them, try my version:

“Half of one, six dozen of the other”

When I was young, I heard it as “6 of ½, dozen of the other.” Other than assuming it was about eggs (my main “dozen” referent at the time), I mentally filed it away as “nonsense phrase.” “Twelve of one, dozen of the other” would be a lot clearer.