Word Ghosts from the Past

Have you ever uttered a phrase that you know came from your past, but you’re not sure where or why?

“Pet the cat nicely.” I’m petting the cat, but why would I say that to myself? Did I say that to my children when they were little, or did someone say it to me when I pet one of the family cats too roughly?

“Take a bite of egg, then take a bite of toast.” Ha, I know that one. I hated eggs. When my dad cooked, he scrambled them hard and usually browned them. To soften the experience of having to “clean my plate” my mom would tell me if I combined a forkful of eggs with a bite of toast, the toast taste would be dominant. I still do this.

The last one reminds me that “clean your plate, there are starving kids in China” was a frequent admonition. But why not “clean your plate, food is expensive and we can’t afford to waste it” or “clean your plate, there are starving kids just about everywhere?” Was my mother told this or my grandmother? I suspect it came from a well-publicized famine in China in the ‘50s. But it could have been anytime. Famines have been around for centuries.

Contradicting the last one was one that had to be an inside joke in my family. “Don’t be a Saso.” That was said to me when I ate more than necessary…maybe cleaning other people’s plates. Who or what was a Saso? I suspect it was a nickname of some distant cousin of my mother’s or my grandmother’s who must have engorged himself, yet that phrase passes through my mind whenever I reach for a second helping, even today.

My daughter reminded me of one prominent in our family that still haunts me, because I still do it. “Eat a cookie. You’ll feel better.” She reminded me it must be somewhat universal because of that line in Mary Poppins. “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Yup, sugar is my go-to remedy when I’m feeling bad.

I’ll leave you with that ghost. Do you have any? I’m sure you do.

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