“When someone asks you the time and you don’t know what time it is because you’re not wearing a watch or don’t have your phone, my family always goes ‘Oh, it’s a hair past a freckle’ or ‘A freckle past a hair’. You use the two interchangeably just depending on whatever mood you’re in.”
OA is a 21-year-old American student at USC. She grew up in Washington. I asked her about any proverbs she knew of or sayings that were common to her. This proverb is used as a joke. “It’s something my dad did because his dad did it.”
Family folklore is special because it identifies people who are in the group (your family), and those who are out of the group easily. Things that might not seem funny to outsiders could be incredibly funny to your family, or vice versa. These things can develop from specific moments, or their origins can be more fluid. My friend mentioned that this was something she says to her friends now as well, which shows that even folklore that originates as family-specific has the capacity to grow beyond families and enter into a more widespread usage. This specific proverb seems to be related to “it’s time for you to get a watch,” as it pokes fun at the person for not knowing the time and highlights our society’s reliance on time. Timeliness is very important in the United States, whereas in other cultures being on time isn’t as important. So, when someone doesn’t have a watch or isn’t aware of what time it is, people make fun of them because they should know what time it is in a society where time is everything.