Farm Figures of Speech – Volume I

Farm Figures of Speech – Volume I


Farm Figures of Speech – Volume I

Someone recently told me that having a cow is trendy.  I don’t know about that. But I do know that a few generations ago it wasn’t trendy, it was normal. Everyone was a farmer. The evidence is in our language. I believe that almost every figure of speech comes from a farm. Here is Volume I – Farm Figures of Speech. We’ll start with some cow related figures of speech:

First, I’ll say what I think it means on the farm. Second, what I think it means today. Maybe I’ll be wrong. I won’t google it. You can tell me if I’m wrong in the comments, or if you have a different interpretation.


Cream of the crop

Milk separates into skim milk and cream. If you shake it, the skim and cream temporarily mix to become whole milk. The cream is the good stuff – it’s where the fat and the taste is, and it’s where the butter and ice cream and whipping cream and coffee cream comes from.

Today, the cream of the crop refers to the best of a group. This could be the best of a group of employees, the best idea of a brainstorming session, or the best of a team of athletes.


Cream rises to the top

As explained above, the cream is the best stuff. It is less dense than the skim milk, so left undisturbed, the cream will separate and rise to the top layer of a bucket or jar.

Today, maybe people use this phrase to say that the best or most capable people rise to the top of a group.


Skimming off the top

You can use a spoon or a ladle to remove the cream that is floating on top of the skim milk. Milk is often stored in jars, and a person might skim the cream off the top to get cream for their coffee, to ladle over strawberries, or to gather all the cream from several jars to make a batch of butter.

Today, skimming off the top could mean that someone is taking, possibly with connotations of stealing, from the kitty of money before distribution to the rest of the group.



Fast milking into a bucket, hot milk streaming out with each squeeze, makes a thick foam on top of the milk. Frothy.

Today, frothy can mean that a market (like a real estate market, or the price of used cars) is too hot, too high, that there is no substance supporting the prices and that the market could collapse.



If you massage a cow’s udder, you can often get her to relax and let out some more milk & cream for you to milk into the bucket.

Today, massage can mean to work someone with various persuasion techniques to get them to do what you want.


Holding back or holding out

If a cow is holding back, it means that she has more milk or cream to give, but that she won’t let you have it. You can pull and squeeze all you want, but if she is holding back, no more milk will come out.

Today, if someone is holding back, they may have information or resources that they are not letting you know about or access. Possibly they need to be massaged to get them to cooperate.



Cows have a rumen - a part of their stomach - and it is a chief trait of what makes a cow a cow. Cows eat grass. They swallow the grass with minimal chewing, and the grass goes directly into the rumen. Here it begins to be digested via fermentation by a host of symbiotic bacteria. Eventually the cow has swallowed enough grass to be full and she will lie down (or keep standing) and will ruminate. She'll be half-asleep, in a state of rest, and she will radiate an air of great content. Her jaws will be working up and down and side to side. Sometimes you will see her swallow, and there will be a momentary pause in the chewing. Then she will bring up another bit of cud from her rumen and start chewing again for a minute or two or three, and then once again swallow it back down. She is ruminating. She will ruminate for a large portion of the day, and like I said, she will appear rather relaxed and quite pleased with the world.

Today, people are said to be ruminating when mulling over an idea or when dwelling on a thought. Possibly they are working the idea over, breaking it down, making it more understandable, more digestible.


Kick the bucket

A cow is traditionally milked by hand into a bucket. The bucket is directly in front of or between the cow’s back legs. Cows have been bred to be good-natured for 10,000 years, but some cows don’t want to cooperate. They can kick the bucket over to show their displeasure at being tied up or being milked by a particular person or any other set of circumstances that makes her unhappy.

Today, kick the bucket means to die. Maybe this comes from a cow that kicked the bucket one time too many and had to go. The farmer would explain, “She kicked the bucket.”



Peppa and Goldie (our 2 sows) are pregnant. Peppa is in the top picture, and she is very pregnant. Piglets soon!

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I think all of your references were correct, would love to see the piglets


Funny kick the bucket interpretation
Good thing Bonnie has such a gentle disposition for a cow!


Love your updates & writings!
Congrats Peppa & Goldie 🐖 🐖
Have a wonderful Spring at the farm!


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