Main piece: When we’re all leaving but we’re kind of late, someone will say “we’re all off like a herd of turtles”. But my family intentionally mispronounces it, so they say “we’re off like nerd of nerdles” or “we’re off like a turd of hurdles”.
Background: My informant is a twenty-year old woman from Richardson, Texas. Her father is from Malmesbury, a town Wiltshire, England, and her mother is from Dallas, Texas.
Explanation: Turtles are famously slow, so “we’re all off like a herd of turtles” means that “we are moving incredibly slowly and are definitely going to be late.”
Analysis: This folk simile exists to make light out of an unfortunate situation, that of being late. Being late can create anxiety, but having a funny saying allows the family to laugh it off, and also serves as a gentle reprimand that they should be moving faster. Additionally, intentionally misstating the phrase is another way to make light of the fact that they’ve made a mistake and don’t have enough time to get wherever they are going punctually, essentially saying that “we’re late, so we can’t do anything right, not even saying the phrase about being late”.