Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Satisfying my curiosity

 There were a couple of comments on my last post  about the origin of the saying my grandmother used: "enough blue sky to make a Dutch boy's pants".  

Curiosity led me to do a bit of research on the origin of the saying (or old saw* as I learned).  It comes from nautical lore: when there is enough blue sky to patch a Dutchman's breeches, expect clearing weather. (Old Farmer's Almanac).

Another site suggested that "sailors traditionally wore wide trousers, and Dutchmen traditionally wore even bigger ones, which in addition were blue."  Thus to make a pair of these pants, one would need to see quite a large patch of blue sky amidst the clouds.  

In some cases, the saying was changed to enough blue sky to patch a pair of pants.  Perhaps that was meant to be more optimistic.  Yet another article suggested that the blue sky had to be seen before 11 in the morning for the afternoon weather to improve.

The search results also brought up several references to Dutchman's Breeches, (Dicentra cucullaria) a herbaceous perennial in the poppy family.  I was surprised to learn that another name for it is Bleeding Heart.  It certainly doesn't look like the bleeding heart I'm familiar with. 

According to the U.S. Forest Service, this native wildflower grows primarily in the eastern United States, as well as the Pacific Northwest.  Reading that, made me curious so I googled Dutchman's Breeches and Canada, discovering this plant is also found in the Eastern provinces of Canada.

At the end of it all, I still don't know how much blue sky is needed to make (or patch) a Dutch boy's pants.  But on overcast days I'll keep looking for those holes. 

I'm curious too, is there a saying (or sayings) that you use that have their origins in the past?  One that springs to mind from my mom was, you have to eat a peck of dirt before your die.  I don't know where it came from...so that's a post for another day.

*A proverb or maxim, as in Mom's always repeating the old saw, “Haste makes waste.” This term uses saw in the sense of “saying,” and old in the sense of “wise” rather than old-fashioned. [Second half of 1400s] Dictionary.com


  1. Well aren't you full on info today. Learned something new today. Just about all old sayings or slang originate from something in the olden days.
    Doesn't look like bleeding heart I am used to seeing either.

  2. Wow, you did all our research for us. Thanks. I really liked that plant,the Dutchman's Breeches. My Mom almost always repeated the old saw,"red sky at night, sailor's delight: red sky in morning, sailor's take warning". It was just about every time she saw a red sky. Like most sayings, there is truth behind it.

  3. Terrific research, so interesting. I meant to Google and completely forgot, so I'm glad you did this post!

    The bleeding heart isn't the shape I recognize, either, though looking at it I would assume it's a variety of or a close cousin of the usual bleeding hearts I'm more familiar with.

    Mom always said haste makes waste and also the traditional phrase about seeing a red sky at night. I'm sure I could think of many others, given enough time! (Something will come to me at 2 AM. LOL.)

  4. It's amazing what I learn from bloggers! Thanks for today's information. I don't believe I had ever heard that expression about Dutchman's pants before.

  5. Wow, very interesting. Isn't it amazing what we can learn online. My Mom always said "Be there in two shakes of a lambs tail." Now I need to go and look that up.

    I have never seen a bleeding heart that looks like that, even the very few white ones I have seen.

    God bless.

  6. That was fun! And right on the edge of my memory, it seems my great aunt Betty said something very similar. Too long ago to be sure, but I think so. One of my faves and it's always true is: "Mackerel sky, soon wet or dry". And "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning". Both are totally true weather predictors.

  7. The extra wide Dutch trousers needing plenty of blue sky makes sense to me. The Netherlands was a great sea-faring nation, a maritime power until the eighteenth century, so there is probably much in their old sayings related to the sea.

    I am sure I use quite a few old sayings that were more prevalent in the past - I just can't think of any right now. I did come across, when reading old books, the fact that horses and mules apt to kick had red rags tied to their tails, and I have always thought that was the origin of similar cloths tied to truck-loads that project far beyond the truck's body (eg. a load of lumber). Do farmers and others still use that, or do they use signs now?

  8. It is always interesting to discover the origin of the 'archaic' almost sayings we've heard since childhood. Thank you for that today. Aren't they the cutest little flowers, Dutchman's Pants. :)


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