Six of one, half dozen of

Every once in a while someone will look at me funny.

First, I wonder if I have something on my shirt or a cowlick in my hair, but then I realize it’s because I have uttered one of those expressions that puzzle people.

I grew up including sayings such as this week’s title in my vocabulary, so sometimes I forget that everyone isn’t aware of what they mean. It made me wonder what other signature phrases may go right over people’s heads…

My Gramps was famous for expressions, and made-up words for things. If you were around him enough as I was when I was young, then it was easy to know what he meant by “hand me the thing-um-a-jig in the whats-ummy there in the corner” (read: pass me the spatula in the drawer, so I can flip the pancakes).

He also used some words that do really exist in dictionaries, but you might not think they would… like “flibbertigibbet”. You know, as in “That Mrs. So-and-so was a real flibbertigibbet, keeping you at the fence all afternoon with her chatter if you weren’t careful."

I loved hearing words like that. I used to think that it must have been my Gramps who invented cool words. I figured he gave Mary Poppins the idea for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

I tried to look up “six of one…” to see if there was an interesting story behind it, but I couldn’t find anything except that the saying has existed since the 1800s.

It means,of course, that two alternatives are equal. “Shall we take Main Street or the back way home?” Gramps would reply,” It’s six of one, half dozen of the other."

The most interesting twist to all this is that he also used an alternative: “One horse, one rabbit." This phrase was used in the same way, although I am not sure how horses and rabbits could be interchangeable.

The more time I spent with my Gramps, the more easily I came to understand all his sayings and habits. It became something special between us. We were like two peas in a pod. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

I have had the good fortune to develop many special relationships in my life, one of the current ones being with my husband. We met working in the kitchen, and we still cook together often. It seems many expressions exist around cooking and eating, and since Martin is a francophone, he has even more sayings that he brings from his mother tongue.

The other day I was making raspberry sauce for a trifle and we had to cool it down, so we poured it from the pot into a bowl and Martin said, “Just put its bum in the water.”

There was a larger bowl half full of water sitting on the counter, so I knew just what he meant. He said the same thing about the herbs I washed for garnish. I put their bums in water, too. It made me feel special knowing that I could keep up with what he needed.

It’s fun to share a special moment with someone close. I got the same cozy feeling as when I tasted the trifle later.

I suppose I could get quite corny at this point, “going whole hog” on the food expressions or on cute little ditties about the poignancy of friendship. But that would really “take the cake," don’t you think?

(Did you know that comes from cake walk competitions in the 1800s? They were something like musical chairs only the last person left got to “take the cake” as a prize.)

Here’s to good times shared with loved ones – if you’re not sure how to find any of either, here’s a trifle recipe. You can use it as an excuse to invite friends over.

Remember that old saying, “Eat, drink and be merry!”

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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