Dirty Broom

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Age: 17

Residence: San Antonio


“An old broom knows the dirty corners best.”


This informant is my little sister. We lived in Texas, New Mexico, and Florida, but we are of Irish descent. We love digging deep into family history, and upon learning this was a popular phrase in Ireland, began using it regularly.


This saying is a metaphor for age, knowledge, and the value of experience. The informant and I often use this saying when someone new enters our life and tries to change something that we believe shouldn’t be changed. For example, if there’s a new boss at work who fires a bunch of employees, we’ll say “an old broom knows the dirty corners best” in an almost spiteful way. Interestingly, this past-oriented way of thinking contradicts Dundes’ article discussing future orientation in American worldview. The dirty broom saying praises what is older and more experienced rather than what is deemed ‘newer’, ‘hotter’, or ‘better’ – it challenges novelty, something highly valued in American culture.