Where’d it come from #52
God willing and the Creek don’t rise
You might think that this phrase refers to flash flooding; perhaps it makes you want to pile sandbags. No need to worry, it hasn’t a thing to do with water. The saying was written by Benjamin Hawkins, a late 18 century politician and Indian diplomat. While in the South, officials in Washington had requested that Hawkins return to the nation’s capital.
He wrote in response, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise,” meaning, I will so long as God sees fit and the Creek Indians don’t have an uprising.
Today, the phrase essentially means, “God willing.”
“God willing and the Creek don’t rise, I’ll be well enough to go to work tomorrow.”
The origins of this phrase are quite literal. Years ago, before washing was adopted as a daily ritual, it was common for people to develop nasty cases of acne that ultimately left scars on one’s cheeks.
In order to smooth out her complexion, a woman would sometimes fill these pock marks with beeswax. The problem was, if she sat too close to the fire or overheated after a vigorous dance, the wax would melt. She would, literally, lose face—a most humiliating occurrence.
We still use the phrase in a figurative sense, that is, to connote moments when we are embarrassed or when we lose our respectability.
“Boeing really lost face with the failure of their newest jumbo jet. So far, several aircraft have been grounded for mechanical malfunction.”
Ps and Qs
In the old days, you didn’t face an endless menu of boutique beers and mixed drinks when you bellied up to the bar. Local pubs and taverns kept it simple. You ordered a pint or a quart of ale and, if you were lucky, maybe there was a spit of beef rotating over the fire.
Of course, the barmaid’s job was to make sure that she kept the patrons’ drinks filled— both pints and quarts. She had to watch her Ps and Qs.
Today, the phrase refers to keeping an eye on things, most commonly, your manners.
“Whenever I’m around my girlfriend’s parents, I really watch my Ps and Qs. I’m trying to make a good impression.”
Modern women should be glad that they don’t have to wear corsets, which were terribly uncomfortable. These tight garments usually laced up the front in a straight line, and you weren’t a proper lady unless you were sporting one; hence the phrase “straight-laced,” which today, refers to anyone who is morally upright and on the level.
“Bob is as straight-laced a guy as you’ll ever meet. He doesn’t drink, and he makes a habit of being early to bed and early to rise.”