Pappy-isms - the Wisdom of the Aged Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Pappy-isms - the Wisdom of the Aged

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To those of you unfamiliar with the term, a 'pappy-ism' is a sage word, quip, anecdote or piece of miscellaneous advice imparted to anyone within earshot by your father, or the father of a friend. The true beauty of pappy-isms is their ability to be shared with others, in the knowledge that they will be followed by, at worst, a knowing shake of the head, and, at best, a lively discussion punctuated by 'pappy' impressions.

They are, once you get over the initial embarrassment of something said by your own relation, quite simply a joy.

In order to illustrate the meaning of the -ism it is necessary to examine one particular pappy1. This pappy, though not the grandpappy of pappys when it comes to pappy-isms, is still in his own right the deliverer of many a profound statement. It is imagined that each pappy has some bias when it comes to the general make-up of their pappy-ism back catalogue (ie, each has a preference for one or more of the four key areas as mentioned above), and this pappy's penchant is for the sort of wisdom preceded by the words, 'Listen, listen...', and invariably ending with ' just be careful'.


Listen, listen, it's hot/sharp/live you know, so just be careful.

This is uttered after the occurrence of some minor disaster, such as burning/cutting/electrocution of oneself. The pappy had foreseen said disaster, but chose to reserve his warning until after it had taken place. A pappy classic.

Well, let me tell you...

This is a general pappy-ism used in everyday language, immediately prior to informing some unwitting bystander that they are, in fact, incredibly mistaken about any belief they may have held.

I can't get my breath...

This is a token exclamation used in conjunction with another; for example, a riposte to anyone who would dare refute the 'fact' that pappy is right about absolutely everything.

Call this music?

Potentially every teenager has heard this uttered at some point.

Stories – a Variation on the Theme

The pappy in question only has two stories to tell, and both have been heard told on numerous occasions. In fact, scarcely a month can go by without some inconsequential incident reminding him 'of the time when...'.

  • He met a member of the Monty Python cast while at work - Said comedian was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with some catchphrase or other. Pappy remarked that he [pappy] liked his [Python's] t-shirt, so the man removed said article, turned it inside-out, and donned it once more. This story has been passed around quite a bit, and many people have made it their own. Quite rightly, the tale now belongs to the public at large. Obviously when regaling a new audience it is advisable to beef it up somewhat, but the basic outline remains true: it is a non-story.

  • He arrested a member of a hard-rock group before they became famous - Self-explanatory. Another non-story.


It should be pointed out at this juncture that the telling of such tales should not be discouraged; in fact it should be positively encouraged. Further, the prevailing attitude towards such gems is not one of mockery, but of endearment. Without these pappy-isms to guide us, we would not be the people we are today.

Other People's Pappys

As stated above, pappy-ism is a widespread phenomenon. Other people's pappys are a rich source of wisdom and general wit. Below are a few favourites:

Aye, I got these t-shirts for two pounds off the market.

Spoken in direct response to a person telling the pappy in question that they had achieved a degree.

Very good, Margaret, very good.

The context of this one is unknown, but if one were to know personally the pappy responsible, the hearing of it would probably produce at least a modicum of amusement.

If [insert fact currently in debate] is true, then my dick's a bloater.

No explanation required.

If the wind changes, it'll stay that way.

The age old response to childish face-pulling.

The last things you see of your children are bills and dirty laundry.

Pappy, reclining in his favourite chair and sipping on a single malt whisky, musing over the frailties of father/child relationships. This is the quote which earns any aspiring pappy his wings.

Unplug the kettle at the wall, or all the electricity will leak out.

This, believe it or not, is a 'mammy-ism' - that rare breed which demonstrates that on average, mums have not quite grasped what is generally accepted by most physicists.

Switching the lights on and off uses up more electricity than leaving them on all the time.

Perhaps someone could volunteer a response to this misconception?

During the war/in my day/when I were a lad, et cetera.

No collection could ever be complete without this, the epitome of all that is 'pappy'. Drawing on his wisdom, pappy affirms our collective faith in the fact that he still lives in the days of yore.

It's cold enough out there for a walking stick.

Blank faces all round - pappy flashes the enigma card to an unsuspecting populace. And finally, when a pappy is hungry:

I could eat a buttered monkey/scabby donkey.



If one's peers begin spouting original pappy-isms 'off the cuff' be concerned and exercise caution in speaking with them in future. Pappy-isms should not be attempted by those without the world-beating knowledge which all fathers possess.

1For 'pappy' read 'dad' or 'father'. Or, if you're really posh, 'papa' (pronounced 'p-paaaaarr') - emphasis on the second syllable.

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