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Layers to Catch Meddlers

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Anna from Columbia, Mississippi, wonders about a phrase she heard as a youngster from her dad: leyores to catch meddlers or leyores to catch meddlers. Sometimes when she’d ask what he was doing, he’d respond with that cryptic saying, indicating that whatever he was doing, it was none of her business. Over the last 350 years, this expression was passed between generations and locations, particularly in the American South, resulting in at least 70 different versions. Variations of the first element include lareovers, layers, layovers, layovers, coppers, larobes, popovers, rows, rearovers, rareovers, a Pharaoh, a so-and-so, and a marrow. Sometimes the phrase expands in the other direction, as in lareovers for meddlers and crutches for lame ducks, and sometimes “meddlers” is spelled “medlars.” Other snarky answers from parents to children’s inquiries about what they’re doing include: I’m making a swinkle-swankle for a goose’s nightcap, or I’m making a silver new-nothing to put on your shoes. Other tongue-in-cheek craft projects include a whipple for a deuce’s poke, a hootenanny for a skywampus, and a fimfaddle to tie up the moon. In Anna’s case, her father sometimes answered her questions with the statement I’m writing a book. When she asked what it was about, he’d say We’ll make it a mystery and leave that chapter out of it. This is part of a complete episode.

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