Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Hill Country Hootie Hoo: Keep your eyes peeled

by Terry Thornton

One of my favorite expressions when asking others to help me watch for a turn or to be on the lookout for something is "Keep your eyes peeled."

After a recent round of eye surgery, I've been thinking about the eye proverbs I've heard --- and did a little research and found some more.

So peel your eyes --- here are some eye proverbs.

The eye is bigger than the belly. At Parham, I always heard this as "your eye was bigger than your stomach" when I'd leave lots of uneaten food on my plate. And then I would hear a discourse about wasting food and all those hungry children. I never did figure it out. If I ate my food greedily and sopped the plate clean, wouldn't those same kids still be hungry? And if I left food on my plate, it would end up the slop bucket, fed to the farm animals, and those same kids would still be hungry. It was confusing to say the least --- but I gradually solved the problem. Over time I expanded my stomach to the measure of my eye and confusion was alleviated.

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Oh yes, revenge proverbs abound --- but is there a hidden meaning in this old proverb?

Look through a keyhole and your eye will be sore. Nobody likes a peeping Tom or a "look through the keyhole" voyeur either. Spying on others was a worse offense than eavesdropping according to the admonitions I received as a child. I had a friend, however, who was years ahead of the rest of us kids in maturational development because of all the things he learned peeping through keyholes. The events he described we could only guess as to their significance.

The eye is blind if the mind is troubled. This seems a straightforward proverb --- and one with which most would agree.

What the eye has seen, the hand may do. I guess this is the forerunner of "Seeing is believing." Certainly both proverbs contain elements of truth. Experience, based upon firsthand observations, is often all one needs to be able to build.

And if you've just had eye surgery, you need this most proper of proverbs: You should never touch your eye but with your elbow. Eyes healing from surgery are sometimes itchy; I can scratch my newly repaired and hopeful newly improved eye if I use only my elbow to so do. Nothing else is permitted.

Keep your eyes peeled for more proverbs/old sayings about eyes.

Meanwhile you might enjoy reading W. Gurney Benham's A Book of Quotations, Proverbs and Household Words (Philadelphia: J. E. Lippincott Company. 1907).

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