‘Out in the Wash’ Proverb

Main Piece

Literal Phrase: Everything will come out in the wash if the soap is strong enough.


Informant’s Interpretation: “Get over it.”

Personal Interpretation: A harsher rendition of “get over it,” implying that the individual can get over anything if they try hard enough. Pinning the success condition on “the soap” implies it’s the individuals’ responsibility to overcome whatever happened. By virtue of this, it encourages self-reliance.


My informant is a practicing speech pathologist in Pasadena, California. She is in her 70s and of European descent (English, Irish, and Welsh). She heard this proverb (and many others) from her mother, who had a “harsh parenting style” and “wasn’t good with words and emotions”–she instead used proverbs like this one to convey sentiment. She used this proverb and others like it as my informant and her siblings were growing up in both California and Kansas. Eventually, my informant notes that she would stop asking for advice in these situations, as she knew the proverb would be the response.

My informant disliked the use of this phrase in her childhood, finding it discounting of her emotions. She and her siblings now use this and their mom’s other proverbs (termed “Mommilies” among them) to tease each other in their adult life. Looking back, my informant can now appreciate the “truth” of the phrase.