Informant: Tracy McGeagh is my mother and was born with the name Mara Tracy Weiss. She is now 50 years old and lives in Pacific Palisades, California. She was raised in Malibu, California and in Santa Monica, California and went to College at UCLA. She got her Law Degree after she graduated college and practice Family law for many years and still does briefly today. Her mother’s side of the family is from Wales, with Irish- Catholic heritage and her Father is Jewish, with Hungarian blood. She was not raised practicing either of the two religions, but celebrated both Catholic and Jewish holidays. Later in life she decided to be confirmed as Catholic and not practice her Jewish roots. She had 3 children who she helped raise as Catholic as well.
My mom always says, “And we’re off like a herd of turtles!”
This particular expression is one that is very easy to explain and holds some simple humor. My mom first heard this saying from her Uncle David who is from Wales. It is unknown if this expression comes from Irish folk speech, but she learned it from him. “Off like a heard of turtles” is a phrase that is said when a group of people gets into a car and is ready to leave for a trip, errand, or anything involving driving in a car. The reason for the “herd” part of the phrase is because their is usually a group of people present when it is said. The “turtle” part of the expression refers to the fact that the group took a long time to get ready to leave for the journey or are just moving very slowly. If the group is lagging or being forgetful, thus making the departure time significantly behind schedule, that is when the phrase is stated. Imagine a herd of turtles, that would be a pretty slow moving herd. Therefore, the subtle humor and reason for the expression makes sense and is easily understood.
I personally love this phrase because I grew up hearing it. My mom used to always say this because me and my two siblings would always take a very long time to get into the car and we really probably moved at the pace of a herd of turtles. The phrase is catchy and humorous. Also, the person who usually says the expression is the one person who was ready to leave on time, therefore it adds a little shot at the slowness of the others in the group.