If you’ve ever offered unsolicited advice to someone, there’s a chance you’ve heard the phrase, “You know, this ain’t my first rodeo!” or “I wasn’t born yesterday!” Furthermore, you may not have had to even look closely to see that their body language has become mildly defensive and their tone a bit derisive. This is because those two phrases — in this country anyway — can be translated to mean that the topic being discussed or debated is an area in which they have extensive experience or they have at least experienced it enough to feel confident about it.
In researching provenance of this figurative language, it might surprise many that the earliest record of it hails from less than 40 years ago in the 1981 biopic about Joan Crawford entitled “Mommie Dearest.” The movie was based on the controversial book that was written by Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter, Christina Crawford, as a revealing diatribe about her alleged wicked mother. In the movie, Joan Crawford crosses wires with the Pepsi Board of Directors after the untimely death of her fourth husband, Alfred Steele, who had been acting President of Pepsi Board. During a particularly rigid confrontation when the other board members threaten to forcibly remove her from the board, she cannot be calmed and shouts, “Don’t f~(k with me fellas! This ain’t my first rodeo!” This occurrence has also generated a debate of appointing credit in the correct direction: should it go to actor Faye Dunaway, who played the role of Joan Crawford, or should the movie script writer receive some kudos?
Fast forward nine years to an encounter that country singer Vern Gosdin had with some carpenters working on his house. He purportedly compliments their work and is told in response, “This ain’t our first rodeo!” That comment compelled Gosdin to write the song by that very name, “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” that became moderately popular.
Not so ironically, there exists the British form of a similar statement in England. They generally quip, “I didn’t come down with the last shower,” wherein the word shower indicates a rain shower.
Regardless, the phrase itself is a clever although cliche way to let others know in no uncertain terms that you are challenging them in an area in which they are familiar. After all, such figurative language is a better way of passing on this information instead of just irately ranting, “I know what I’m talking about!”