We were new to the neighborhood, so my parents invited a few couples over to play bridge. Pleasantries were exchanged, families were discussed, backgrounds compared.
“You’re from New England!” my stepfather, a proud Connecticut Yankee, declared when he detected a telltale accent from one of the men.
“Yes,” the man said, “but I bet you can’t guess where my wife is from.”
The woman in question smiled broadly, but before she could speak to offer a snippet of her own regional locution, my mother piped up with the answer: “She must be from Scotland,” Mom said, “because the Scots have terrible teeth!”
Indeed, the woman was from Scotland, though the truth did not set my stepdad free from his embarrassment. My mother has always had a tendency to blurt out information that other people would keep to themselves. It’s not that she’s mean—far from it. It’s just that, like a blender without a lid, she doesn’t have the proper tool to keep her thoughts from spraying all over the room.
Alas, this is something of a hereditary trait in our family. Her mother also provided uncensored insights to people. When I turned 16, she generously offered to pay for me to get my nose fixed. Thanks anyway, Grandma!
People always laugh when I tell them stories about my family’s silver tongues, but they invariably have their own tales. So we at RD decided to collect readers’ favorite stories. Some of them are accidental zingers, like my mom’s. Others are language mix-ups that produce a sort of sweet word salad. Think of them all as a tribute to helpful moms everywhere—a verbal Mother’s Day gift! We even gave them a name: mamapropisms, after the inimitable literary character Mrs. Malaprop. Come to think of it, she was probably a mother too.
Pants on Fire
I confided that I was discreetly looking into other teaching positions while still employed by my current school district. Mom warned me, “Now, don’t go burning your britches behind you!” —Helene Rae Wise, San Ysidro, California
Not Dressed for Success
I always sat in the front row during rehearsals of the church choir, but when it was time for our big performance, I was sent to the back row. Dejected, I relayed my woes to Mom. She said, “Honey, it wasn’t because you can’t sing. It’s because you don’t know how to sit in a dress.” Somehow, that made me feel better. —Ernestina Holt, Plainfield, Indiana. Ha! Find out more of the best pieces of advice from mom.
Twisted Sandwich Wisdom
My mother would always say “Mind your PBJs” when she meant to say “Mind your p’s and q’s.” —Kathryn Schuller, Port St. Lucie, Florida
Messy Runs in the Family
Sometimes my mother would surprise us by visiting our house on Sundays after Mass. I was a busy mom with my own business and six children still at home. Housework was not at the top of my to-do list. One Sunday, my adult son, Dan, was also visiting. When Mom remarked that she hadn’t yet seen his apartment, he told her to let him know when she would like to see it so he could clean.
“I’d be embarrassed to have you just drop by,” Dan said. “It can be a real mess.”
“Worse than this?” she blurted. —Mary Potter Kenyon, Dubuque, Iowa
Wait—She Really Is a Good Girl!
My preteen daughter and I were out shopping. I called her over to where I was, and she responded with the same thing she always said whenever I needed her for something: “Just a sec!”
I didn’t even think before I called back, “No more secs for you, young lady. Get over here right now!” Big oops as soon as it left my mouth—and I noticed that people had turned around to stare at us. —Bonnie Skinner, Dyersburg, Tennessee
Running into Trouble
When my brother, my sister, and I were little kids and we ran around outdoors, my mom would say, “If you fall down and break your legs, don’t come running to me!”—Kathy Milici, Newton, New Jersey
Unless she is “near death,” as she puts it, my mom refuses to go to the doctor. Recently, she noticed her doctor at a church reception. The man nodded and smiled at her, and she walked over to join him at the dessert table.
“I really need to call you for a visit,” she confided. “I know it’s been a while.” He nodded knowingly, and she leaned closer to whisper into his ear, “You know, I would come see you more often if you wouldn’t ask me to take off my clothes every time.”
A red flush crept up the man’s neck, and he shook his head and smiled. “I believe you must have me confused with someone else,” he said. “Perhaps your doctor?”—Jan Semple McKinney, Paris, Texas
Stop the Presses
My husband had just opened a printing business. He called it Alpha Thermography because he specialized in thermography, a type of raised print. One day I overheard my mom telling one of her friends, “It’s called Alpha Pornography.” —Janice Seidner, Knoxville, Tennessee
Mother was a champion worrier. It didn’t matter how much my siblings and I tried to reassure her. “Worrying works!” she liked to say. “Look at all the things I’ve worried about that never happened.”—Elaine Benton, Hurst, Texas
The First National Bank of Mom
My mom spoke very little English. When I was going through my rebellious teenage years, I would often taunt her with the retort, “Leave me alone!” One day, I overheard her commiserating with a friend. “All my daughter ever says to me is ‘Give me a loan, give me a loan!’”—Kris Karaban, Highland Mills, New York
What Will the Neighbors Say?
When my mother did her laundry on a sunny day, she liked to hang her wash on a clothesline in the backyard. I was on the phone with her when an unexpected shower popped up. She said to me, “I have to go. It’s starting to rain, and I have to go outside and take off my clothes.” —Sandra Youse, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania
My, How You’ve Changed!
One day, my mother ran into a woman who said they had gone to high school together. Mom insisted she didn’t remember her. So the woman came to our house with her yearbook. She pointed out her photo and then my mother’s. “Well, of course I didn’t recognize you!” Mom said. “You were pretty back then!” —Debbie Haakenson, Anchor Point, Alaska
Need even more mom laughs in your life? These funny mom quotes will have you crying from laughter.