Celebrating Our Mothers: Phrases of Advice

“I WAS always taught that good manners cost nothing – but are worth such a lot.”Reese Witherspoon

Meryl Streep has been known to say, “we’re off like a herd of turtles” while Rita Wilson has taken a page from Hamlet’s Polonius in her momism, “to thine own self be true.” And the late Joan Rivers was known for telling her friends and family to “run your own race,” after hearing it from a mafioso in Vegas.

Mothers pass on a wealth of information to their children, often through words and catch phrases they say over and over (and that we sometimes cringe to hear come out of our own mouths as parents). We began thinking about some of the things our mothers said time and again, and asked our users to share some of the phrases and sayings they most associated with their mothers.

Thousands of Dictionary.com users responded with words and phrases—from heartfelt to hilarious—that remind them of their mother. Here are twenty of the top “momisms” submitted by our users that made us smile and think. Tell us in the comments if any of these momisms ring loud and clear or if you have others to add to the list!

  • To thine own self be true
  • Off like a herd of turtles
  • It’s not the job that gives dignity to the person; it’s the person who gives dignity to the job
  • Never worry and never hurry
  • You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink
  • Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without
  • That and $.50 get you a cup of coffee
  • Ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black
  • There is many a slip between the cup and the lip
  • If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
  • If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained
  • The hurrier I go, the behinder I get
  • What’s done in the dark will come to the light
  • Slower than molasses in January
  • Run your own race
  • Good manners cost nothing
  • Six of one, half dozen of the other
  • Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best


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