TEMPEST IN A TEAPOTHave you ever created a, “tempest in a teapot?” I have. This old saying describes a state I’ve put myself into I don’t know how many times.
Some minor problem comes up (minor means it doesn’t have any big effect on my life, my family, or my business) and I overreact. I fume and fuss and get myself all worked up to a lather. The only good thing about keeping your tempest in a teapot is you usually don’t involve anybody else in it.

 “That’s the last straw!” which is, of course, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” (Charles Dickens)

I’ve been intrigued by that image since I was a little girl. It’s incredible that it was just one straw that did it. Every single straw up to that one was fine. Then came that last, all-powerful straw — and bam!

CARTOON, CARTOON CAMEL, the straw that broke the camel’s back, CAMEL, FUNNY CAMEL

“Little pitchers have big ears.” When I was little, that’s what one of the grownups would invariableLITTLE PITCHERS have big ears say when they were going to talk about something they didn’t want me to hear. I’d always thought somebody in my family made it up. So I was surprised, and a little offended, to hear a stranger say it. “Little pitchers have big ears.”

But when the stranger said it I heard it in a different way. I reflected on the words and it occurred to me, pitchers don’t have anything that could be called ears. Some ancient amphorae had two handles that could be called ear-like, but they didn’t say amphorae. They clearly said pitchers.
Maybe pitchers wasn’t the right word. I suppose it could have been pictures – I’ve heard people pronounce the words the same way. But pictures don’t have ears either. So did they mean the people in little pictures had inordinately large ears. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be unkind to not only say it but turn it into a maxim?

“Root, hog, or die!”
Old saying, ROOT, HOG, OR DIE

“Root hog, or die.” Now there’s a great one. It gets right down to where we live. It’s about self-reliance, taking action, and standing on your own two feet. It proves another of my favorite quotes. “How you feel and what you have to do today have nothing to do with each other.” (author unknown)
I asked a few people about it. Thet’d never heard of it and didn’t get it. I told them I”d seen the hogs on Uncle Gus’s farm rooting around in the ground for food. I looked it up and thanks to Wikipedia learned it came from colonial times and has inspired several songs including one written in 1856 by G. W. H. Griffith
I’m right from old Virginny wid my pocket full ob news,
I’m worth twenty shillings right square in my shoes.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference to neither you nor I
Big pig or little pig, Root, hog, or die
And a folk song:
Sometimes it’s dreadful stormy and sometimes it’s pretty clear
You may work a month and you might work a year
But you can make a winning if you’ll come alive and try
For the whole world over, boys, it’s root hog or die.


  1. Beth says:

    Hah, I always thought “little pitchers have big ears” was personal to my family because our last name is Pitcher. The ear of a pitcher is the spout, I believe. I’ll have to study up on it now.

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