My Georgia-born mother used to say, "Time is short and the water's risin'."

I think the expression was the title of a recent memoir, but couldn't find it on Amazon.

Is anyone familiar with its origin?

  • 1
    I'm more familiar with "Lord willin' and the crick don't rise." Used (in rural Kentucky, et al) to infer that a stated event will occur if nothing untoward prevents it.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 17, 2017 at 0:19
  • 2
    @HotLicks You don't mean infer; you mean imply.
    – tchrist
    Jul 17, 2017 at 1:20
  • 5
    @Cascabel I think you meant 'Etlanna'
    – Mitch
    Jul 17, 2017 at 1:35
  • 1
    @tchrist - I thought I was doing pretty good to come up with "untoward".
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 17, 2017 at 1:50
  • 1
    @tchrist Good pick-up. I really like to keep this clip handy: youtube.com/watch?v=oYqHMBTtZsc :)
    – Dog Lover
    Jul 17, 2017 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


The only thing I found is this:

Time Is Short and the Water Rises, Operation Gwamba: The Story of the Rescue of 10,000 Animals from Certain Death in a South American Rain Forest. Hardcover – January, 1967

by John Walsh (Author), Robert Gannon (Author)

This seems too recent (1967) to be the source of a folk saying. However, the title could come from an older saying, which I have not been able to find so far.

A candidate for an older saying which your mother and her neighbors might have adapted is:

God willing and the creek don't rise

Sources: World Wide Words and Wikipedia, The creek don't rise

Note that the time is short is a Biblical saying (Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:29), which is extensively discussed at Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. It is thus possible that your mother's community combined a Biblical saying warning that time is short with an old regional saying about the rising [waters of the] creek (or crick). More Research is Needed.

  • Not sure why you'd have to be very young for your mother to have adopted this phrase from a source cited in '67, that was 50 years ago. My mother hadn't even been born yet and I'm 30!
    – talrnu
    Jul 17, 2017 at 2:53
  • 2
    @talmu You are 30. QED! But I get your point. I'll edit tomorrow.
    – ab2
    Jul 17, 2017 at 3:00
  • Compare "God willing and the creek don't rise" to "Come Hell or high water". It's reasonable to suspect that the former is derived from the latter as a somewhat milder assertion (though it's is no doubt possible that the reverse is true -- that the latter is derived from the former).
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 18, 2017 at 2:00
  • 2
    I remember my mother used to say this back in the early 1940s. I'm 80, and I have written about those days in a forthcoming Roman à clef.
    – wordshiner
    Jul 20, 2017 at 3:53

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