Author Archives: liaskos

Saying Told to Children

“If Ifs and buts were candy and nuts oh what a Christmas we’d have!”

The informant says she heard the saying from her parents when she grew up in the 70’s-80’s. The informant grew up in Virginia outside of Washington D.C. It was primarily said to her and her siblings when she was in elementary school after she did something wrong and tried to make an excuse or justify it. It was a common saying according to her that was regularly said by teachers and other parents too

“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, oh what a Christmas we’d have!” is a quaint retort to a child’s excuse-making but it can tell us a lot about the goals and culture of parents in America at this time. It is a blend of personal accountability, practical wisdom, and the use of humor in teaching, that parents use while trying to instill important values in their children. This saying is meant to teach kids not to be someone who makes excuses and to instead just act the right way. It is said in a fun and memorable way that a kid would remember. This highlights the American spirit of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” or not making excuses and just working hard to be successful. This way of thinking was especially prevalent during the 70’s-80’s and this children’s saying highlights that parents goals at the time were to make sure their kids also thought this way too.

American Proverb

“Worse Things Have Happened to Better People”

The informant first heard this saying from a guest speaker at UVA when she was in college in the 80’s. The speaker was Ilana kloss, a pro tennis player and author. It greatly resonated with the informant and she still uses it to this day. It means that whatever you’re going through, it could probably could be worse. You say it to someone whenever they are feeling bad about themselves (usually not something very serious like a death).

“Worse things have happened to Better people” is meant to keep life in perspective and to help keep one’s own head up. The source for this proverb is a famous tennis player, who has no doubt had tough and frustrating losses in her career. However, at the end of the day she is still a pro tennis player and her life is pretty good despite what she may feel after a difficult loss. This saying helps bring perspective for the good things in peoples lives and to stop one from feeling overly sorry for themselves. It’s telling that it was used by a very successful individual (pro tennis player and repeated by another well off person ( someone econimcally well off and at a prestigious school). This proverb likely reflect the values of successful individuals as a way to remain happy using gratefulness. All in all this quote reflects the gratefulness and the pursuit of happiness by those that repeat it.

A Proverb From the South/Midwest

“Better than a stick in the eye”

This is a proverb that the informants mother used to repeat to describe something that happened that is only marginally good, usually to put life in perspective. That circumstances aren’t ideal, but that they could be worse. It’s similar to the phrase “better than nothing”. Her mother grew up near St. Louis, Georgia, and rural Illinois in the 40s-50s.

“Better than a stick in the eye”  is a reflection of resilience, perspective, and a pragmatic approach to life’s challenges valued by the community from which it came. It highlights values of endurance, gratitude, and humor as essential tools for navigating life’s ups and downs, deeply rooted in the personal, cultural, and historical context of the time and place from which it originates. Considering the historical context of the 1940s-50s in areas near St. Louis, Georgia, and rural Illinois, this proverb reflects the economic and social challenges of the time. Post-World War II America was a period of significant adjustment, with rural communities often facing economic hardships and societal shifts. It could also predate this time and originate further back to times like the great depression with even worse economic devastation. The saying may sum up the ethos of a generation accustomed to hard work, modest living, and finding contentment in stability rather than excess.