#Idiom: They must have let the bars down

I like to mix things up with a range of topics on my blog. When thinking about an idiom to write about today, I thought of a saying my father often said. Much to my surprise when I started researching it, I discovered… nothing.

I’m left not knowing if this saying was original with my father or perhaps it was so specifically local to our community that it didn’t make it into any books of idioms. I think this is the first time I’ve searched for something online and come up empty.

Nevertheless, I’ll write about it today and speculate about its origins. This promises to be my shortest blog post ever.

“They must have let the bars down.”

Have you ever heard that said? Do you have a clue what it means?

My father would say this if he drove up to a stop sign and there was so much traffic coming that he had to wait an inordinate amount of time before he could turn onto or cross the street.

This was a confusing thing to hear as a child. Not wanting to show my ignorance, though, I didn’t ask what he meant by that.

Photo by Derek Lee on Unsplash

It was something my father said so many times that it’s permanently ingrained in my head. When I come to a stop sign and there is so much traffic coming that I have to wait more than a little while to make my turn, “They must have let the bars down” flows through my brain and I can’t help but smile.

Photo by Monika Kubala on Unsplash

I think it was sometime after my father died that the saying came to mind and I asked my mother what it meant. Her explanation was that it referred to the letting down of the bars or gate keeping cows in an enclosure or pasture. With the bars let down (or pushed aside or the gate opened) the cows would likely see they had an escape route and break loose.

Photo by Jinen Shah on Unsplash

On a trip to Scotland, my sister and I were reminded as the saying. More than once, we saw where there were heavy iron bars in the ground the width of a gate or opening in a fence. Unable to get a steady footing on the bars, which were several inches apart, a cow would not be able to get to the opening and escape the pasture but a tractor, truck/lorry, or car could drive across and get through.

Our father grew up on a farm that in fact was a dairy farm during his teenage years. Did his father and older brothers utilize such bars in any of their pastures? Or perhaps he’d seen them used for that purpose elsewhere. Or maybe it was just a way of saying a gate made of iron bars had been opened to let the cows out of one enclosure to be led to another.

It’s too bad I didn’t have enough curiosity at the time to ask my father what he meant and whether he’d heard the expression used by others.

Is that it?

Is that it? Is that all there is?

That’s all I have for you.

If you’ve ever heard the saying and have a different explanation of it, please let me know.

Until my next blog post

Thank you for reading my blog

Keep reading good books.

Spend time with family, friends, and a hobby.

Perhaps above all, ask the older people in your life those questions you’ve put off asking. Ask them the questions you’ll wish someday that you had asked them because one day it will be too late. That day could be tomorrow.

Remember the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, Highland Park, ….

Janet

So it is.

Do you know someone who often ends a sentence with the phrase, “so it is” or “so he did” or “so they are?” You get the picture.

In my blog post on October 21, 2018 (Independent Bookstores are the Best!) I mentioned a bookmark that I purchased at Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina (see photo below) and I promised that I would explain why I just had to buy that particular bookmark in today’s blog post.

IMG_8379
Bookmark by Peter Pauper Press, Inc. (www.peterpauper.com)

There are a scattered few individuals among my father’s siblings and their descendants who pepper their speech with such sayings. One of my father’s sisters used these idioms. The interesting thing about this within our family is that none of her children or grandchildren picked up the practice as far as I know; however, one of her nieces uses the idiom a lot. I doubt if she’s even aware she’s saying it, so I don’t want to bring it to her attention. If made conscious of it, it might influence her speech pattern. She has young grandchildren, so it will be interesting to see if they pick up the idiom.

Is it from Kintyre?

A few years ago, I learned that in days of old this very idiom was common in the speech patterns of the people of the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland. That just happens to be where my Morrison ancestors lived before coming to America in the 1760s. I was delighted to learn that the idiom had perhaps been brought to America with my great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Or is it from Ireland?

Now a monkey wrench has been thrown into the mix. My sister enjoys reading novels written by Maeve Binchy. They take place in Ireland. The idiom “so he did” showed up recently in Ms. Binchy’s 2012 novel titled, A Week in Winter. I haven’t read any of  Ms. Binchy’s cozies, but I checked this one out just so I could enjoy her use of “so it is” (or a variation thereof.)

A few weeks ago I read the novel, Lying in Wait, by Liz Nugent. It takes place in Ireland. I’d gotten a little more than halfway through the book, to page 180, when I came to the following sentence:  “ʻA real gentleman, that’s what you are, now, a real gentleman so you are.’” And then, on page 262, “Very good to me so he was, before he even met Karen.” I thought perhaps the author had given this idiom to one particular character to distinguish him or her from the others but, when I looked back to the first example, I discovered “so you are” and “so he was” were said by two different people.

Does this quaint idiom come from Scotland or from Ireland? After ten generations in America, is there any way to tell? There probably is, but I don’t have the resources or energy to get to the bottom of this. For the time being I’m happy just to enjoy hearing and reading “so it is” occasionally.

Since my last blog post

I’ve been taking care of my sister. I’m “chief cook and bottle washer” for a while. I haven’t had much time to read or write.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m still reading The White Darkness, by David Grann. It is a very short book, but I’ve managed to make a two-week read out of it due to hospital stays, two trips back to the emergency room, and keeping track of pill and physical therapy schedules. I picked up two new releases at the public library and look forward to starting them this week.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Is there an idiom such as “so it is” within your family or circle of friends?  Tell us how and when it originated, if you know.

Janet