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Entry from February 03, 2009
“Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow”

"Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow” means the same as “might as well” (that is, there’s nothing else one can do). The phrase is cited in Ken Kesey’s Oregon novel Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), but appears in a December 1994 Texas Monthly article about “Texas Sayings” ("Can’t dance, never could sing, and it’s too wet to plow"). The phrase achieved greatest popularity in the 1970s, when it appeared in book and song titles.

“Too wet to plow” is too proverbial to trace; the entire phrase “Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow” has an unknown place and date of origin.


UsingEnglish.com
Idiom Definitions for ‘Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow’
When you can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow, you may as well do something because you can’t or don’t have the opportunity to do anything else.

The Daily Jolt
“Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow..., it is a Southern Baptist saying, that means we might as well just have sex.”
Prof. Morava, Calc 3, on the weather

Google Books
Sometimes a Great Notion: A Novel
By Ken Kesey
New York, NY: Penguin Books
1964
Pg. 589:
“Tell you what I’m thinking about doing; I’m thinking — since I already missed my game, nothing else to do, can’t dance, too wet to plow — that me, and Andy here might take us a little tugboat ride.”

20 March 1970, Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, MT), pg. 10, col. 5:
Janice feels she might as well do anything because “she can’t dance, it’s too wet to plow, too dry to stack hay, too windy to pick rocks, and anyway Granny’s got the motorcycle.” You might hear Janice saying this quite often as it is her favorite expression.

5 August 1973, Beckley (WV) Post-Herald and Register, pg. 3, col. 5:
She recalls telling a competing band leader who was trying to beat her out of bookings, “I can’t sing, I can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow, but I’ll make more money than you’ll ever make...You got a million dollar voice and a fifty-cent brain.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Can’t dance an’ it’s too wet to plow : poems
by Karl Elder
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: Dallas, TX. : Prickley Pear Press, 1975.

OCLC WorldCat record
Too wet to plow : Americana and homespun philosophy in beautiful prose, poetry, and art
by Frank Fuis
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: Hicksville, N.Y. : Exposition Press, ©1977.

OCLC WorldCat record
Too wet to plow
by Johnny Shines
Type:  Musical CD : Blues; English
Publisher: New York : Tomato, 1989, 1977.

Google Books
Dialect Clash in America:
Issues and Answers

By Paul Dickerson Brandes and Jeutonne Brewer
Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press
1977
Pg. 307:
Ye cain’t dance and it’s too wet to plow (nothing to do) .

13 May 1981, Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, “CACPO’s Transportation Prject Hinges on Grant” by R. Scott kapp, pg. B1, col. 3:
Farkas said he expects to hear in two weeks on the status of the grant and called the waiting period, a situation in which “you can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow.”

Google Books
You All Spoken Here
By Roy Wilder, Jr.
New York, NY: Viking Press
1984
Pg. 199:
I can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow: Where do we go from here?

OCLC WorldCat record
Too wet to plow : the family farm in transition
by Jeanne M Simonelli; Charles D Winters
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: New York : New Amsterdam, 1990.

More Colorful Texas Sayings Than You Can Shake a Stick At
Texans have unique ways of expressing their feelings. Common as cornbread, old as dirt, funny as all get-out&endash;homespun expressions link modern Texans to our rural and agricultural past, conveying the resolute spirit and plainspoken humor of our heroes and pioneers. Some sayings are instantly familiar because our parents and grandparents quoted them; others parallel the wisdom of biblical proverbs or Poor Richards Almanac.
-- Anne Dingus, Texas Monthly, December 1994
Here is a collection of the most geographically relevant expressions by category.
(...)
Acceptable
Might as well. Can’t dance, never could sing, and it’s too wet to plow.

Word Freaks
Re: Archaic Exclamations
Wed, September 1, 2004 - 9:46 PM
When I have no reason not to do something, I will either say “Might as well, can’t dance!” or “might as well, it’s too wet to plow!”

The Baptist Standard
Posted: 2/23/06
CYBER COLUMN:
Ladies and Gentlemen . . .
By Brett Younger (Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth—ed.)
(...)
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please take off your hats and put out your cigars, because it’s time for the thrill and excitement of Christian worship. Tell your mama to give you more than $3 for the offering, because this will be better than bowling barefoot with blindfolded deacons. I can’t dance, and it’s too wet to plow, so it must be time.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Tuesday, February 03, 2009 • Permalink