Catchphrases · Memories · Notes from West London

“You want to take more water with it”

Here’s a catchphrase I first heard in the 1990s and use from time to time: “You want to take more water with it”. You might need to change the pronoun and verb forms as appropriate.

I can pinpoint the date and place where I first heard it: St Patrick’s Day 1993, near our local church. I accompanied my mother to an evening mass which was conducted partly in Gaelic. A week or so earlier, she had had a rather dramatic fall and there was some bruising on her face. After the service we were walking alongside a parishioner, an Irishman in his 70s I would guess, who asked if she’d had a fall. She said yes, but she was okay, no bones broken.

“Ah, you want to take more water with it, missus,” he advised.

We all laughed. He had clearly used the line before, but it was new to me, and it was, for the record, way off the mark. My mother didn’t drink.

I discovered a few months ago that my brother had never heard the expression before. As noted many times on this Blog, he has lived in Spain since the 1980s. We were on some form of video call (Skype, WhatsApp or Zoom, it’s hard to remember these days) and he told me that his wife had had a fall and broken her arm, but it was on the mend.

“She wants to take more water with it, Jim,” I suggested, expecting him to recognize the line, but it was unfamiliar to him, just as it was for me 28 years earlier. It was also clearly meant as a joke: his wife doesn’t drink either.

My wife is very familiar with the line, from me. A few weeks ago she and my daughter returned from athletics training with the news that one of the parents they know well (also a parishioner at our local church) was suffering from the effects of a fall.

“Did you suggest that she should take more water with it?” I asked.

She hadn’t, and probably just as well. It doesn’t always get a laugh. I used it a few years ago when the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor was recovering from a fall, and still had a cut or two on his face. I approached the subject less directly than the parishioner who had spoken to my mother back in 1993, something like: “There is an old line about taking more water with it Father …” He shook his head and gave me an admonishing look, not angry exactly, but probably a bit disappointed. And certainly not laughing. You can try the expression for yourself sometime. It might work for you, it might not. As with most catchphrases, it’s the way you tell ’em.


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