“Better than a punch in the nose!”

Text: “Better than a punch in the nose!”

Minor Genre: Folk Speech – Simile


M said, “My grandmother would always say that [proverb] whenever we would complain about something that we didn’t like. She lived through the Depression, and I think she grew up fairly poor. There are a lot of those proverbs and euphemisms about ‘hard work’ from her generation.”


This piece of folk speech reminds me of the saying, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” They both are used to shut down a complaint with the implication that the situation at hand could be made worse, and therefore it is not something to complain about. I think my father [M] is probably correct about its popularity within the generation that lived through the Depression; in trying to raise the subsequent generations who did not need to endure the same levels of hardship, it is likely that those who lived through the Depression shared a mindset that the newer generations didn’t have anything to complain about, as they had not experienced true struggle.

I heard this phrase a few times growing up from my grandmother (M’s dad). However, she would always use it in a comedic tone, getting people to laugh while accepting the situation at hand rather than interpreting the phrase as a true threat of physical abuse.