Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: 10 Sage Cogitations from those on my family tree

Cogitations, advice, maxims or wisdom? No matter what you call these sayings, which have been passed down through the years on both my maternal and paternal family tree, they remain timeless. This post originally appeared in 2010 and consisted of seven sayings, or bits of advice, but today I've been able to add three more to the list.

1. "You've more to fear from the living than the dead".

Attributed to: my mom Mary, my dad Michael, Great-grand aunt Alice Fitzpatrick Ward (maternal), Uncle Patrick Geraghty (paternal), and a whole host of others principally in the 20th and 21st centuries. Good advice to keep in mind when you're feeling a little uncomfortable in an old cemetery while searching for familiar names.

2. "If you worry you die; if you don't worry you still die, so why worry."

Attributed to: my dad Michael. I also recall hearing the same from another relative, my father's uncle, my granduncle, William Halpin, a very calm and gentle soul who lived the maxim.

3. "Beware of hurting anyone to the heart, even though circumstances may appear to justify you."

Attributed to: Alice O'Kavanaugh Kettle, my maternal great-great-great-grandmother. According to his memoir, Andrew J. Kettle received this advice from his mother around 1847. Despite the fact that life in the period was very difficult in Ireland, due to the Great Famine, Alice O'Kavanaugh Kettle instilled in her children the importance of always considering others before yourself.

4. "For every ounce of pleasure in life, there is a pound of pain".

Attributed to: Great-grand-aunt Alice Fitzpatrick Ward (maternal). Strictly speaking this is not advice as such, but perhaps more of an acknowledgement that sometimes life can be difficult.

5. If he'd lived 'til next Thursday, he'd be dead a week.

Attributed to: No specific family member, but used by many. This is one of those odd sayings that always makes me laugh. I've heard this a lot in Ireland, particularly from older relatives, and once asked my mom why they don't just say 'he died two days ago', or whatever the number might be. Mom usually raises an eyebrow at me, and tells me it's just a way of speaking that does no harm.

6. "Cut your cloth according to your measure".

Attributed to: Grandfather Patrick Ball (maternal). In other words, 'don't spend what you don't have'. Wise advice in this age of credit crisis.

7. "A ha'penny saved is a punt earned".

Attributed to: Great-grand-aunt Alice Fitzpatrick Ward (maternal). This woman really knew how to save, and how to stretch a punt (the Irish version of pound). It is alleged that she was a wealthy woman, and gave a man, by the name of Harry Sutton, a significant portion of her wealth in order to pay for a Catholic church to be built in the United States, although I have yet to find evidence supporting this claim.

These days in Ireland, there is no long a half-penny since the Euro is the official currency, so I guess you could say a penny saved is a Euro earned. I'm pretty sure this saying is heard all over the world, no matter what the currency.

8. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all".

Attributed to my mom Mary and her great-aunt Alice Fitzpatrick Ward. Sage advice in our era of bullying.

9. "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

This is one of my favourite sayings, and although I'd like to be able to attribute it purely to my dad who used to say it, the saying was actually coined by the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. I think it speaks to the power of positive thinking. For those who believe in the power of the positive, no matter how bad things might get around them, they always look for the bright side, those stars twinkling in the sky.

10. "Always say Thank You."

Attributed to my mom Mary, and her mom Mary Angela, and her mom Mary, and quite possibly all moms (and dads) down through the ages. Showing Gratitude never goes amiss.

So...THANK YOU for reading this post and visiting this blog. Cheers! Jennifer

What sayings are popular on your family tree?


  1. Thanks Jennifer, some expressions are familiar, some are new, and some are "quaintly" expressed. I particularly like 3 and 4 while 5 makes me smile...very Irish. Beware of hurting anyone to the heart makes perfect sense...hurting is one thing, to the heart is another. Thanks

    1. Hi Pauleen,

      Thanks for your comments. They are always much appreciated. If only the world would take on 3, we would be better off.

      Cheers to you,

  2. My grandmother always said 1, 8, and 10. She also said "Lay down with the dogs, get up with the fleas."

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Thanks for your comments; they are much appreciated.


  3. "Cogitation" is such a delightful word:-)... 1,6 & 8 are very familiar and, of course, 10. My first realisation that so many family "sayings" had been passed down from my Irish GGGrandmother(born 1836) was on my first trip to Ireland and the taxi driver said "...and butter wouldn't "melt in his mouth"... amazingly, with exactly the same inflection. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. You've inspired me to begin my own family list. Cheers, Catherine.

  4. Hi Catherine,

    Thanks for your comments; they are much appreciated. You've made me smile because you've reminded me that my Auntie Bernadette used to also say 'butter wouldn't melt in his mouth'. I'll have to add that one to my list.



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Cheers, Jennifer

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