Tag Archives: radish

Lithuanian Folk Simile: “Healthy as a Radish”


Original script: “Sveikas kaip ridikas.”

Transliteration: “Healthy like radish” / “Healthy as a radish.”

Free translation: “Snug as a bug in a rug.”


IZ is a 20 year-old college student from Lisle, Illinois, living in Los Angeles, California. Both her parents’ families immigrated to the United States during World War II and remain connected to their Lithuanian roots through strong immigrant communities in the US.

“My dad loves this one,” IZ said about this folk simile. She described it as one that is only used around close family members and said by adults to children in an affectionate manner. “It’s a little silly,” she said, “because it rhymes.” For this reason, we chose “snug as a bug in a rug” as a potential free translation of this phrase, since it preserves both the rhyming and silly tone of the saying, as well as its social dynamic of being a saying communicated from parents to children.

IZ recalls both her father and grandfather using this expression to communicate comfort at times of sickness — a time when one has a red face, alluding to the color of the radish. She emphasized that it would only be said informally among family, from adult to child.


As IZ explained this folk simile to me, she was quick to mention her association of these words with her father. This represents the power of folklore to be associated with a specific person even as it is a broader cultural production. I would infer that many other Lithuanian kids are reminded of family upon hearing these words. 

The strict confinement of this phrase to the nuclear family serves to define the boundaries of the family to young children as they learn social dynamics. Additionally, the knowledge that this phrase is only said to children implies also a knowledge of what is appropriate language to adults.

This proverbial phrase also contains variation in that it can be applied to diverse instances of redness, including from the cold. Lithuania is a country with very cold winters and moderate summers. I can imagine potential variation in this phrase being applied to redness from the cold. An ironic application could refer to redness from drinking — this would subvert the norms of only using this proverbial phrase toward children. More research is needed to see if this is an existing variation of the phrase.

The appearance of radishes in this phrase speaks to the cuisine of the country. Lithuania’s climate is suited to growing root vegetables, including radishes but also potatoes and beets.

“I’ve Had The Radish”

Main piece:

“I’ve had the radish” as a saying of exasperation and general exhaustion with someone or something.


My informant is a 49 year old woman living in Kansas City, Missouri. She grew up in Joplin but moved around during her 20s, living for some period in Philadelphia. There, she worked for a large non-profit and one of the women there, named Tamar, commonly used this phrase in an exasperated reaction to something. Eventually, the informant and her fellow coworkers and friends started using it out of habit without fully understanding its origin or meaning. Much later, they researched it and they believe it comes from the practice of eating a radish at the end of dinner to clean one’s pallet. Now, it is used in her family and amongst her friends as a statement of finality with something or someone.


I have heard this phrase throughout my life but this exchange happened in her living room following my asking if she knew of any folklore sayings.


For me, part of the appeal of this phrase is the strangeness of it to someone outside of a culture that uses it. For other similar sayings bound to a specific saying, generally I feel as though one can roughly figure out at least part of what is being said with it. However, from an outsider’s perspective, the phrase “I’ve had the radish” seemingly has very little to do with one being at the end of their patience. This point was emphasized by my informant who also found interest in the phrase originated in utter confusion. In this regard, the phrase can serve as an indicator for who is within a specific culture. The other major component of this phrase is the ties to an agricultural life in an urban environment. The notion of eating a radish as a palette cleanser for a meal is mostly only applicable to those that have consistent radish crops. The assumption is therefore that this phrase has ties to a more agricultural culture. While a modern world might not have this tradition of eating a radish at the end of dinner, by using the phrase, the culture remains alive albeit in a new form.