Gathering Idioms While I May

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may—you never know what tomorrow will bring. Youth is a fleeting thing, so gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” From “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”, by Robert Herrick.

I love idioms, pithy sayings that communicate, not via literal meaning, but through symbolism and metaphor. Herrick,  for example, wasn’t literally encouraging anyone to pick flowers, but to do what’s important now, to seize the moment because he knows from experience that everything has a time and season.

I believe in the power of idioms to illuminate important principles that can serve us well should we pay attention. In fact, I’ve begun collecting idioms and would love to hear your favorites.  Will you share one or two along with their meanings below in the comments?

I’ll get us started.

“Wish in one hand, spit in the other.” The Professor and I use this saying to express that something we’d really like to happen just ain’t  gonna.

And this.

“Everybody likes you when you aren’t doing anything.” In life and politics you may be very popular when you aren’t trying to disturb the established status quo. Stay quiet and you could live to run another race.

What are your favorite idioms?



  1. What a good question. – Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) is credited with saying that ‘a proverb is a short sentence based on long experience’.

    My oft used idiom – ‘Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.”

    Once you asked, I was curious about the saying and through internet sleuthing found out one of the earliest records of this saying in English, appears in James Sanford’s Garden of Pleasure, 1573- “He that goeth to bedde wyth Dogges, aryseth with fleas.” It has consistently appeared in literature and proverb collections down the centuries. As with all ancient proverbs, it has a Latin variant, which says- “qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent” (they who lie with dogs will rise with fleas).


    1. Love it! One day when I was having a particularly trying day in Tuolumne County my favorite vet Wes Whitman made a ranch call and shared with me: illegitimi non carborundum. That great fount of knowledge Wikipedia says it’s: “A humorous pseudo-Latin expression meant to translate as “don’t let the bastards grind you down,” meaning do not succumb to the oppressive influence of others.” I felt better immediately! Thanks, Lisa!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I tend to refer to the elephant in the room quite a bit…….that one enormous, uncomfortable and important thing that unfortunately no one wants to say out loud. …..I also like the one about life (or fill in the blank here) isnt a bed of roses…..meaning life isn’t inherently pleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
    Not to count on something happening until after it’s already happened. Live each day as it comes.


  4. I use “chicken and egg situation” fairly often. And “it’s not rocket surgery” just to see if people are paying attention. Fun topic.


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