Tips for Adulthood: Five Things I Learned From My Grandmother

Each Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. This week’s list comes from my late Grandmother – Grandma Boylan – a wizened old Irish lady with a quick wit and often acerbic tongue. She died about 15 years ago, but  in my family we all still quote her regularly. Here are some of her favorite maxims for everyday life:

1. Hunger Makes Good Sauce. This is the most intuitive of the lot:  if you’re starving, you’ll eat anything.

2. An Hour Before Twelve Is Worth Two After. I don’t think that this one really hit home until after I was in my 30s (which was perhaps around the time that I stopped routinely going to bed after midnight). But Lord knows it’s true. No matter how many hours you sleep, you’ll feel twice as badly in the morning if you go to bed after 12.

3. Smarty Had a Party and There Was No One There But Smarty. Translated: Don’t be a wise-ass.

4. Go Ask Peter on Duck St. I have no idea where this expression comes from. It means “How should I know?” as in: “Grandma, where are the keys?” To which she would reply: “Go ask Peter on Duck St.” when she had no clue.  Fair enough. But who is Peter? And where is Duck Street?

And my all-time favorite:

5. Live Horse, Eat Grass. My father and I puzzled over this one for years. She said it all the time, and we had no earthly idea what it meant. And then I was reading the book No Country for Young Men by the Irish author, Julia O’Faolain, and right in the very first chapter, she used this expression in a way that caused me to finally understand it. It’s actually meant to be said as follows: “Live, Horse, and You’ll Eat Grass” – i.e., if you’re patient and keep your head down, you’ll eventually get what you deserve.

So there you are. And I am off to Finland as we speak. See you Monday.

Hei Hei.

Image: 12 o’clock by Nsub1 via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  • Reply Tim

    April 15, 2009, 6:11 pm

    Sorry to quibble with your etymology there, RealDels- but “live horse, eat grass” means that you end up with what you deserve based on the choices you make and on your behavior- live like a horse, you’ll eat grass….live like a hog, you’ll eat slops etc. Enjoy Helsinki, Hei,Het

  • Reply judy

    April 15, 2009, 7:45 pm

    These are great. Makes me wish I knew my grandparents (they passed before I was born.) I will happily accept grandparental advice from your grandmother! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Jacquelyn

    September 6, 2010, 10:37 am

    Hello – just found this blog when Googling an expression my mother used. (DOB 1928 Glasgow) She said “Live old horse and you’ll get hay”
    I inferred this meaning – if you keep on living, even though you’re old, you’ll get what you need (bit like the biblical “sparrows of the field” line ?) and further – every day you wake up and you’re still alive is a good day; you’ll get the air to breath and the simple things needed to keep going, as you have done for a long time before.

    A cheery enough sentiment, though sadly not always true. A little different from the take you and your commentors have described.

    • Reply delialloyd

      September 6, 2010, 11:11 am

      ha! fascinating – that must be the Scottish variant of my grandmother’s (Irish) one. Love it! It does seem that we are all coming at this from different angles. Thx for visiting!

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