By: Brooke Schultz, Communications Coordinator, CRI
Take a deep breath and brace yourself – I’m about to shower you with a fun play on words related to agriculture. Maybe it’s just the English nerd in me, but I have a weird fascination for idioms, what they stand for and where they originated. I figured what better way to merge my nerdy language enthusiasm with your passion for agriculture?
Before I begin spewing idioms at you, it would probably help if you understood what an idiom is. Similar to a metaphor, an idiom is a set expression or phrase that is not interpreted literally. The phrase is understood to mean something quite different from what the individual words of the phrase would imply. Examples of idioms include: raining cats and dogs, sick as a dog, jumping the gun, piece of cake, break a leg, etc.
So, what are some of the fun idioms used that relate to agriculture? I’ve listed my 10 favorites below. Take a look!
1. Born in a barn.
One could guess this phrase was originated in reference to farmers leaving their barn doors open to allow cattle to head out to the pasture freely. This was probably my dad’s favorite saying while I was growing up. Since he paid the heat bill, he was sure to let my brother and me (and even our friends) know he was unhappy when we left the front door open by quipping this phrase. (To which I would respond in typical teenage fashion, “I don’t know, dad, was I? You were there and would know better than me.” Thankfully my dad and I had a good relationship where we could banter back and forth like that.)
This idiom seems pretty self-explanatory – Don’t make assumptions and rely on something you’re unsure about. It would be a bummer to think you’re going to have 10 chickens, only to find out three of them died so you only have seven. (Or, to make it a little more relatable to members and customers ... planning on having xx amount of calves born and join the herd, only to have a significant number of them die from a disease outbreak.) That could really throw a wrench in future plans and profitability.
3. Take the bull by the horns.
Warning: Do not try this at home. (Actually, you probably shouldn’t try this anywhere.) Rather than taking this idiom literally, one should know this implies you should confront a problem head on. Yes, when there is an issue that needs to be handled, you should put your boots on, saddle up and take the bull by the horns. (Idioms! Idioms everywhere!)
4. Cream of the crop.
The best of the best. The bee’s knees. The cat’s meow. The crème de la crème. Need I say more? I mean, I think we all know it’s a fairly shared opinion that the cream is the best part of the milk. Speaking of milk...
5. Milk it for all it’s worth.
No, I’m not referring to literally milking your cow for all she’s worth (although you can go ahead and do that too)! Rather, this idiom means to take full advantage of a situation. Like on those rare occasions you actually have a day off, you should milk it for all it’s worth. (Sleep in. Spend some much needed time with family. Take a road trip. Visit the beach. Do anything and everything you would want to do on your day off. Trust me, you’ve earned it!)
6. You reap what you sow.
While literally, yes, you reap what you sow (aka you gather what you plant), this idiom means everything that happens to you is a result of your own actions. Every action has a consequence, so make sure what you sow is worth the reap. And since we’re on the topic of crops...
7. Make hay while the sun shines.
Seize the day! Carpe diem! As a farmer or rancher, you know it’s imperative to take advantage of good weather, so what do you do? You make hay while the sun shines (literally).
Put simply: wait a moment. While the origin of this idiom hasn’t been verified, most explanations historically relate to horse riding or driving a horse-drawn vehicle. (You know those chickens I referred to earlier? You should probably hold your horses on counting them before they hatch.)
9. Bull in a china shop.
Can you imagine a bull let loose in a store filled with expensive, fragile china? I’m sure my grandmother would be cringing at the thought. This idiom describes individuals who are careless in the way they move or behave. I cannot count how many times I’ve used this phrase to describe a particular friend who just plows through delicate spaces. (See what I did there?)
10. A needle in a haystack.
I’m sure you all know objects compared to “a needle in a haystack” refers to something that is extremely difficult or impossible to find ... like when you’re running around taking care of a million things, then misplace your car keys in the process. We all know finding them is like finding a needle in a haystack (and then you eventually find them in the fridge 20 minutes later). Or when you’re about to begin harvesting, only to realize you cannot find that hitch pin you swore you just had. Or maybe you parents have heard it when your children are looking for something but just CANNOT find it (only for you to find it within five minutes of looking).
Well, there you have it, folks. My top 10 ag idioms. I hope this blog post gave you a break from your mundane chores and responsibilities and helped you realize how colorful and fun our language can be!