Family saying legacy: Don’t eat they all!

Through the years we Hollises have accumulated a potpourri of sayings that we cherish and never tire of repeating. Some we coined ourselves; some we collected from other sources. Often, I remember them around the holidays, from all those wonderful family gatherings of the past.


It’s a shame, however, that when my generation passes away, most of these sayings will fade away as well. I really can’t see my three great-nieces – who are 12, 10 and 7 – getting into the hang of using them. I doubt even my nephews and nieces who are in their 40s have ever let them pass their lips. But I guess that’s OK. That’s probably how it’s always been.
One of the tops on my list of family sayings came from my Aunt Corrie Parker, Daddy’s youngest sister. They grew up on a cotton farm in Spearsville in the early 1900s, with their youthful days straddling both sides of the Depression.
One week, the preacher came for Sunday dinner. With five children and my grandmother Sallie Hollis around the table – as well as the preacher and his wife – the baby girl got worried. As the food started making its rounds – going first, of course, to the guests – Aunt Corrie just couldn’t stop herself. Seeing the pile of fried chicken dwindling, she cried out, “Don’t eat they all, preacher – don’t eat they all!”
My entire life, I’ve heard this saying, and I still use it with my husband and friends. But now I aim it at myself rather than others. Looking down at my clean plate, I often admit – either sheepishly or proudly, depending on the situation – “I ate they all.” I’ve even taught one of my best friends to make that declaration.
Then there’s Mama and Daddy’s favorite phrase for when they had an exceptionally good time: “We had a large time.” Love it. I can still hear each of my parents’ voices saying those words. I recently found out, though, that they weren’t the ones who invented it. I had always thought that they and their families had coined it, but it seems we have to share this colloquial expression with other regions and other groups of people. Bummer.
So, no, we weren’t averse to borrowing from others. Here’s another saying to prove it. One family favorite came from the days before I was born when minister V.E. Howard had returned home to preach a gospel meeting at the old Rocky Branch Church of Christ, on the hill up from the cemetery. One visitor in the audience was constantly validating V.E.’s comments by bellowing out “Amen!”
Finally, when V.E. got to the heart of the message, the visitor reached for the only superlative he could find: “Amen, brother! You’re scrapin’ the rind now!”
Sometimes today, I still want to holler that out in certain situations. The words just feel so good in my mouth. (Try it, with a special emphasis on “scrapin’,” and see what you think.)
Then, of course, there are just the old sayings in general. I’m sorry to see them go by the wayside as well. Like, “I’ll fix YOUR wagon.” Or “’Pert near.” Or “A lick and a promise,” which Mama used in reference to giving a little spank in public with the promise of something bigger back home. (Truth is, though, I don’t ever remember getting a whipping because the only time Mama spanked me, I cried so much she never had the heart to do it again. But I digress.)
Literally, there are just too many of these sayings to mention here. So until my next column, “Y’all look for me when you see me coming.”

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