Country Turns of Phrase


Heyday- really hay season

Given that I’ve long been a writer and interested in language, it’s little wonder that when we moved to the country I was struck by how many turns of phrase originate from rural living and in turn intrigued or amused at the context of their origins. According to, the expression “turn of phrase” itself was first used in 1779 by Benjamin Franklin referencing how words could be “turned”, like wood on a lathe, in order to craft their unique meaning.  Following are some of the phrases that have struck me along with an abbreviated Merriam Webster (or comparable) reference and their corresponding country context. As for me, I’ll take the country any day but keep my mind open to many perspectives as I listen and learn.


Merriam Webster states “a period of prosperity or vigor” while those of us in the country know that it is more of a season than a day. We struggle to find the right stretch of dry weather long enough to cut, wind-row, bale and haul in the season’s yield. Often, unexpected rainfall (a shower or a deluge) will foil one or more of these steps and lessen the quality of the hay or ruin it entirely. Of course, you also have to account for some of your machinery breaking down in the process. It’s tricky business and an art more than a science; some might say it’s mostly luck. We all agree, though, when the hay is baled and put up for the season, it’s time to celebrate!

Tough Row to Hoe indicates this to mean a “large, challenging task” while for those gardeners among us, this expression conjures rocks, roots and dirt clods situated along the line you choose for establishing a planting row. Such terrain humbles us and can be infuriating not to mention physically draining and daunting.

Going to Town

When you live deep in the country, often on gravel roads, sometimes off the grid, mostly off the land and definitely off the beaten path, days can stretch on when you don’t get in the car to go anywhere. Everything you need is right there on your property, in your pantry or root cellar, in your meat locker or library. Country living tends to be more self-sufficient than urban life so actually venturing off the homestead and into town gets to be a big deal. There’s always an important motive for your trip so you rise to the occasion and as James Rogers in his “Dictonary of Cliches” (Ballantine Books) would say, you go with gusto.

Growing Like a Weed

Merriam Webster indicates “growing very quickly” for this turn of phrase. Again, for those who garden, our experience of the growing behavior of weeds is quite a phenomenon. Weeds can double overnight and their growth is exponential the larger they get. Weeds can grow in the most prohibitive places and under the most impossible conditions. Drought? No problem. Clay? Not an issue. Drowning rain? No trouble. Weeds exhibit extraordinary tolerance, vigor and adaptability in their growth. It seems all we need do is turn our backs and weeds flourish.  We can only dream that our prize plants would grow so well.

5/30/2020 9:24:38 PM

Pourin' down rain.----Rain coming down steady.

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