Idioms inspired by farm life
For a very long time (how long is debated and not the point here), societies were agrarian, and many idioms inspired by farm life wormed their way into our languages (there’s one). I’m not going to get into the phrases in different languages. English has plenty! The ones in this post are presented in imperative form, but they’re not always used that way. They can be used in a declarative or descriptive format as well.
Ideas for character development
Writers may find many of these expressions useful in their books. A character doesn’t have to be from a farm to have that kind of sensibility or to use these figures of speech. It may make for an interesting twist if a character who is otherwise sophisticated uses down-home phrases.
Most of these are casual expressions, used among friends and family, not in a business environment. Farmers and country-dwellers are generally less formal and “refined” and are more accepting of nature and its coarseness, which are part of daily life. Speaking as one, I can say that, and most would agree with me. That said, just because coarseness may be acceptable, among most, rudeness usually is not.
Idioms inspired by farm life
Here’s a list of some common idioms inspired by farm life. The idioms are in bold, and the explanations are under them in regular text. Use them as desired, and remember that you can twist them into new sayings, too.
Quit being a chicken.
Stop being needlessly fearful. Just do what I want you to do, without expressing your doubts about it.
Make hay while the sun shines.
Do it while you have the chance. Take an opportunity when it presents itself. “The truck didn’t need to be returned for another six hours, so we put it to good use and moved some things into storage. My father always said to make hay while the sun shines.”
Don’t waste time. “You could have had it done already, but you wasted all that time. It’s too late now. You should learn to make hay while the sun shines.”
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Don’t make everything dependent on one thing. Don’t invest everything you have into one venture. If all of your eggs are in one basket and you trip, all of the eggs may be broken. Granted, there should be more eggs tomorrow, but there may not be, and, in the meantime, you have no eggs.
Take the bull by the horns.
Face the challenging and potentially dangerous situation and take action regarding it. “Sally took the bull by the horns and told her mother-in-law how things were going to be from now on.” (Sally has guts.)
Don’t have a cow.
Stay calm. Don’t get overly upset about something. Relax. People use this to say that the person they are referring to will overreact to something that they (the speakers) personally don’t think is a big deal. “I can’t tell my mom I got a tattoo. She’ll have a cow.”
Bet the farm.
Also phrased, “You can bet the farm on that,” it means to trust the veracity of what the person is saying. Rest assured. Take the risk because it’s not a risk.
Bring home the bacon.
Earn an income and support your family. It’s not usually used in reference to a farmer, interestingly enough, but to corporate jobs, or jobs where the person is employed by someone else and works for someone else instead of being self-employed as most farmers are.
Strengthen oneself. This is usually related to physical strength and muscle-building, but it can also refer to emotional/mental toughening. “Beef up, boy. You’re a wimp.”
Be the breadwinner.
Related to “bring home the bacon.” This one also expresses an imperative to earn money, but the difference is that it means to earn more money than one’s spouse does. Sometimes it’s said “be the main breadwinner,” or “be the sole breadwinner.”
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
Don’t be so sure that what you want to have happen is actually going to happen. It’s unpredictable how many eggs will actually produce chicks. You might not get everything (or anything) you’re hoping for.
Also see other farm phrases your characters might use.