What does mean: She said her landlord was so mean that she would mind mice at crossroads ?

  • An expression indicating parsimony, always used in the conditional. oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199916191.001.0001/… – user 66974 Mar 19 at 15:13
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    Reasearch quickly turns up: Mind mice at crossroads: An expression indicating parsimony, always used in the conditional, as in ‘She said her landlord was so mean he'd mind ... [Brewer's Dictionary of Irish Phrase & Fable Edited by Sean McMahon and Jo O'Donoghue; Oxford Reference] – Edwin Ashworth Mar 19 at 15:15
  • @EdwinAshworth - it seems to be a productive expression, though. • (To be said of someone who is unhelpful) She’s fit to mind mice at a crossroads. bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2015/03/25-irish-sayings-to-live-by - and also Mind mice Someone who was enterprising in a bad way would “mind mice at crossroads”. A mean person“wouldn”t give you the steam off his porridge”. irishtimes.com/opinion/… – user 66974 Mar 19 at 15:18
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    @FumbleFingers - nonetheless it is clearly an Irish expression of which usage examples can be found in a number of sites as those shown above. Its usage may vary, true but that shouldn’t invalidate the question, at least in a site like this. – user 66974 Mar 19 at 17:51
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    @user66974: You're quite right, and I'd like to largely disown my previous comment. Fortunately I wasn't so intemperate as to VTC the question (if I had, I'd have retracted it by now anyway). I have to say the "meaning" (if it's possible to say it has a clear-cut meaning) doesn't seem very obvious or intuitive to me though. Why should she care if there are mice at the crossroads? She's obviously not going to see them across the road (they're not the Three Blind Mice! :) Is she worried they'll attack her? Or that she might run them over? The imagery just doesn't "gel" with me at all. – FumbleFingers Mar 19 at 18:07

If you're curious about the literal meaning of "so mean that she would mind mice at crossroads" from which the saying derives its metaphorical usage, first you need to realize that mean is used in the sense of "extremely frugal, cheap, stingy, or penurious" (see merriam-webster.com definition 5a for mean (adj.)]), and mind is used in the sense of "to pay attention to" or "to be careful or cautious about" (see, for example, merriam-webster.com definitions 4a and 7 of mind (v).)
So the intent of the saying is to convey that the person is extremely careful, cautious, and attentive when they think about spending money—so much so that it's the same as if, when crossing a road, they look for anything as small as a mouse coming their way, and won't take the risk of crossing if there is one.

  • LMGTFY. We shouldn't be inviting questions showing no signs of research when the research is so easy. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 19 at 16:02
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    @Edwin. I couldn't easily find the meaning (particularly, the "original" meaning). I think the question is fairly pointless because the usage has so little currency and gets used with different meanings anyway, but I'm kinda grateful to Hellion for enlightening me here! – FumbleFingers Mar 19 at 16:31
  • (I might have to do a little backpedalling here - apparently mind mice at a crossroads occurs sufficiently often to chart in NGrams.) – FumbleFingers Mar 19 at 16:34
  • But why would this support a declaration of meanness? – Jim Mar 19 at 18:42
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    @Hellion - Wow. Thanks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one before. – Jim Mar 19 at 20:55

Is appears to be an Irish saying whose meaning depends on context. Generally, as in your example, it refers to a tight, stingy person.

Mind Mice At Crossroads

A tight or miserly person who wouldn't want to part with there money.. can also refer to a quite and reserved person or in other slang terms, a 'dry' person.


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    LMGTFY. This is why we have the 'shows no signs of reasonable research' CV reason. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 19 at 16:03
  • I’d be hesitant to quote as authoritative any definition that contains there and quite as this one does. – Jim Mar 19 at 18:41

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