March 15th, 2016
Bill Bruehl wrote asking about an Irish saying. Here’s his email… 80 years ago my grandfather, an Irish immigrant, used to say this: “When I was goin’ up hummer hummer jary I met a regum a tegum takin’ away me alli ca pal…” There is more to it that I forget. My Uncles knew it […]
November 27th, 2015
Monique wrote from France about sayings related to days of the week. Here’s her email: Are there any idioms in English about the days of the week? In French, when we put a button in the wrong buttonhole, we call that "Boutonner lundi avec mardi." (Buttoning Monday with Tuesday.) We also have the proverb, "Qui […]
November 20th, 2015
There’s an interesting book that features food wisdom and proverbs from around the world called "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. The book is about learning to think about eating in a more healthy way. The sayings are interesting. I’ve tried to find some of the non-English sayings in their original languages – sometimes I found […]
November 3rd, 2015
The saying, "Cross my heart" (sometimes followed by "hope to die") is a way children swear that what they say or promise is completely true and sincere. When I was a child, growing up in New York, we said… Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. While you say […]
March 12th, 2015
Cecyle wrote to us looking for help with a saying her mom would recite… Hi Lisa, My mother used to repeat a saying (about 20 lines) about common sense things that we should all do. I only remember a few lines: If you put it down, pick it up, If you get it out, […]
October 8th, 2014
Did you ever wonder whether specific proverbs and idiomatic expressions are still used in the English language? Here I discuss some phrases that begin with the letter "A" and how well-known they are. These proverbs are specifically about animals. They can be found on the site The Phrase Finder. The discussion here is specially from […]
March 12th, 2013
Here’s an Irish Blessing just in time for St. Patrick’s Day… Irish Blessing May your pockets be heavy And your heart be light. May good luck pursue you Each morning and night. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! -Mama Lisa
April 11th, 2012
“Who Laid an Egg?” is a kids saying meaning, “Who farted?” The cartoon above is a play on the expression by 5th grader Lila Pomerantz.
April 2nd, 2012
I saw a note on Facebook about the saying “Mama had a baby and its head popped off”. It’s said when you see a dandelion. While saying it you pop off the dandelion head like in the video below. I had never heard this one. It’s a bit like what kids say when they walk […]
March 27th, 2012
The last three days of March are said to be "borrowed from April." March said to April. I see 3 sheep upon a hill; And if you’ll lend me three days I’ll find a way to make them die. The first of them was wind and wet, The second of them was snow and sleet, […]
March 20th, 2012
Jeremy Shatan wrote from New York: "It’s the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Around this time of the year, my mom would always say: ‘Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, the boid is on the wing.’ Yes, just like that." This saying is all in "New Yorkese", a New York accent. It […]
January 27th, 2012
A while ago, I talked about how my daughter’s class made drawings illustrating the literal meanings of idiomatic expressions. This is a great way to help children, and people learning English as a second language, to understand these sayings.. One drawing my daughter did was an illustration of the expression "follow your nose". "Follow your […]
November 30th, 2011
My daughter’s fifth grade class was given a really interesting assignment. The teacher asked them to make drawings that illustrated the literal meanings of common sayings. In American English "You’re on a roll" means you’re going from success to success. Here’s a drawing my daughter did of the literal meaning of being on a roll! […]
June 13th, 2011
Photo of Poison Ivy There’s a saying to help identify Poison Ivy… "Leaves of Three, Let it Be!" So if you see a plant that has three leaves be extra careful! See the photo above of poison ivy? The leaves look a bit like ivy. Unfortunately, I took this in my own backyard!
July 28th, 2010
Ayako Egawa wrote to me from Japan about the proverb, “The Grass is always greener on the other side.” The proverb means that people always think that others have it better in life, even if it’s not the case. Interestingly, Ayako said that this proverb also exists in Japan. Here’s what she wrote: Hi Lisa, […]
March 6th, 2010
Monique Palomares works with me on the French and Spanish versions of Mama Lisa’s World. She sent me some proverbs about March from different European countries in response to a post I did about Italian Proverbs about March. Here’s what Monique wrote… Here are some proverbs in Occitan, Catalan, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German about […]
March 2nd, 2010
Yesterday, I was talking with a lady, whose parents are from Italy, about how happy I am that it’s finally March. She said, “Why?” I said because February is finally over. She said, “Marzo è pazzo”. It’s an Italian saying meaning “March is crazy”… you can never depend on March weather. This same saying can […]
February 2nd, 2010
The significance of Groundhog Day is really that it marks the midpoint of winter. We’re halfway there folks! Here’s the famous saying that’s told on this day… MP3 Recording of Groundhog Saying If the groundhog sees his shadow We will have six more weeks of Winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, We will have […]
October 19th, 2009
Oscar Teliz told me his grandmother used to say in Spanish, “No hay mal que dure cien anos, ni cuerpo que lo soporte” which is an obscure saying meaning, “No bad occurrence will last forever, and if it did, you wouldn’t be able to stand it anyway.” My grandma always said, “What will be, will […]
July 24th, 2009
Now’s a good time to keep this proverb in mind… if you’re going to take a walk on the beach or near a river… you may want to check a high tide chart… because… Time and tide wait for no man. My husband and I almost learned this lesson the hard way today. We were […]
June 15th, 2009
Friendship is no plant of hasty growth, Though planted in esteem’s deep-fixed soil, The gradual culture of kind intercourse Must bring it to perfection. By Joanna Baillie
July 25th, 2007
I love to hear the different ways people spoke in the past. It’s similar to how I enjoy hearing different languages. You can imagine life in another time or place. Quite a while back, Arlene Charest wrote me with some rhymes and sayings she remembered from growing up in the 1940’s. I felt these are […]
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People everywhere love Christmas - but we don't all celebrate it the same way. Mama Lisa's Christmas Around The World is a celebration of the diversity and love with which many different cultures mark this joyful time of year.You'll read about traditions and songs from many different nations. The songs are given in their original languages and with English translations.What makes the book really special is the many comments from Mama Lisa's correspondents who have shared stories and memories from their own lives. The memories of childhood touch us forever!
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