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Many use the phrase life hack to describe a novel or clever solution to an everyday problem. Before this expression became popular I remember seeing another phrase in the English language to describe the same thing. It is possible that it also refers to a secret passed down within a family.

I remember this phrase from the title of a TV programme that used to air in the UK. It had segments of homemakers using half a plastic bottle to make a funnel, or using an old dustbin to make a home for hedgehogs.

Does anyone know the phrase I'm trying to remember?

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  • Sort of grandmother lifehacks?:lifehacker.com/…
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:00
  • Most people have no clue what “life hack” is intended to mean.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:18
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    "We often use...?" WHO often use? Honestly, I've never HEARD anyone say "life hack." I've SEEN it - in the headlines of poorly written Yahoo "helpful hints" articles... supposedly, somebody thinks it's clever. I sincerely don't hold out much hope for "hack" replacing "hint", "tip", or "trick", in the day to day lexicon because "hack" will always conjure images of hatchets and cleavers and blood and gore.
    – Oldbag
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:26
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    For medicine/illnesses there were/are "home remedies"; though your question has sparked a vague recollection in me that there's a broader or more general term.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:32
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    List of Britiish TV Programmes
    – Ed Miller
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 16:16

5 Answers 5

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Folklore:

noun

[MASS NOUN]
1 The traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth.

ODO

Which includes: Folk wisdom, Folk memory, Folk music, Folk remedies, Folk medicine, etc.

From etymonline.com

Folklore:

"traditional beliefs and customs of the common people," 1846, coined by antiquarian William J. Thoms (1803-1885) as an Anglo-Saxonism (replacing popular antiquities) in imitation of German compounds in Volk- and first published in the "Athenaeum" of Aug. 22, 1846; see folk + lore. Old English folclar meant "homily."

This word revived folk in a modern sense of "of the common people, whose culture is handed down orally," and opened up a flood of compound formations: Folk art (1892), folk-hero (1874), folk-medicine (1877), folk-tale (1850; Old English folctalu meant "genealogy"), folk-song (1847, "a song of the people," translating German Volkslied), folk-singer (1876), folk-dance (1877).

lore:

Old English lar "learning, what is taught, knowledge, science, doctrine, art of teaching," from Proto-Germanic *laizo (Old Saxon lera, Old Frisian lare, Middle Dutch lere, Dutch leer, Old High German lera, German Lehre "teaching, precept, doctrine"), from PIE *leis- (1) "track, furrow" (see learn).

A current TV program entitled Folklorist.

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  • Thanks but that is not the phrase I am looking for... Sorry I do not have any good information to give. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:54
  • No problem, Alex. It is not the word you are looking for, but it may be the word someone else is looking for in the future. Good question!
    – ScotM
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:59
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    I would add "folk wisdom".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 17:16
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The recipe for Coca Cola is a trade secret. There is an old family secret that tells you to use it as a cleaning solution because it contains citric acid.

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  • 1
    IIUC, it also contains phosphoric acid, which is more corrosive than citric acid. Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 8:39
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tried-and-true / tried and true (methods) (adj.)

Proved good, desirable, or feasible : shown or known to be worthy

A tried-and-true sales technique
M-W

Used by many people and proved to be effective:

Most people would prefer to stick to tried and true methods of birth control.
Cambridge


Grandma was a woman of primitive means. She preferred to use her old tried-and-true methods of doing things—from washing, drying, ironing, and sewing out clothes to finding food for out table and how she prepared it.
Cheryl Soden Moreland; Kokomo Kid (2014)

Once you've established the perimeters of your research and start searching for your Polish, Czech, or Slovak roots, you'll want to adhere to tried-and-true methods and concepts that apply to all genealogy research. Following these guidelines helps you avert unnecessary brick walls and trace the right ancestors.
Lisa Alzo; The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide (2016)

My tried and true way of cooking rice seems to turn out just right every times, and it is the easiest method possible. My grandfather taught me to cook it this way, so I don't claim any credit for its success, but try it for yourself.
Terri Wuerthner; In a Cajun Kitchen (2007)

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Do any of these terms ring a bell?

Folkways

Folk ingenuity is surely a phrase that describes such "life hacks." The concept is quite interestingly explored in the article "Folk Ingenuity Behind Bars" by Bruce Jackson, published New York Folkore Quarterly Vol.22, Iss. 4.

Longheld traditions

Mimetics/mimetic theory, in a cultural anthropological sense, is another term that comes to mind as it could relate to this topic and you might find the word or phrase you seek by looking into mimetics.

I hope this helps.

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Before hacks were "hints & kinks" as in:

An ARRL book with a plain red cover and the title text "Hints & Kinks for the Radio Amateur"

I see "shop kinks" in Ngram from 1895. The Concise OED says a kink is, "a mental twist or quirk."

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