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That Time of the Month and Other Euphemisms

My mom painted this young lady falling off the roof, inspired by a recent conversation with her friends.

menstruation, that time of the month, euphemisms, getting your period, midlife, midlife women, featured

Painting by Nancy Kiehne for Friend for the Ride.

During their high school and college days, in the forties and fifties, Mom said they felt oh so sophisticated confiding in one another:  ”I fell off the roof.”

Meaning:  ”It’s that time of the month.”

We wondered where this expression came from.

I had no luck googling, so I checked with Harry Finley at MUM, the Museum of Menstruation.

Harry doesn’t know either, but he remembers a visitor to the museum in 1994 who was writing a book on expressions.   The writer thought “falling off the roof” came from the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Perhaps, but when I reported this back to Mom, she commented that the  girls in Baltimore and the girls she met at Duke certainly knew it too.

Harry’s MUM site boasts an incredible online archive of materials related to menstruation.

A pamphlet titled “As One Girl to Another, is dated 1943.

Produced by Kotex, the page below refers to the “crazy nicknames” girls have for their periods.

Yep, one of those crazy nicknames is “falling off the roof.”

Menstruation Booklet

But I still have no idea where the expression came from.

Any ideas?

Falling Off the Roof

My mom, Nancy Kiehne, paints in acrylics and watercolor. To see more of her work, check out her Tumblr site.


Read more from Barbara Younger on her blog, Friend for the Ride

Barbara Younger

Barbara Younger's blog, A Friend for the Ride: Encouraging Words for the Menopause Roller Coaster, takes an upbeat look at menopause and midlife. She welcomes guest posts! Shoot her an email at the address on her "About the Blog and Me" page. The author of over twenty books for adults and children, Barbara holds an a MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Barbara lives in a 180-year-old house in the small town of Hillsborough, North Carolina with her husband Cliff and collections of everything from dolls to Golden Books to butter boxes. She's the mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to one adorable baby boy.

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Sunday 21st of August 2016

I was born in 1955. When I was growing up I often heard my mother say, "Grandma fell off the roof again." so of course the next time I seen my grandmothers, I was amazed they weren't wrapped in bandages like a mummy, or with body casts...Often wondered what they had been doing on the roof in the first place...finally around the time I turned twelve, my mother finally explained to me what she meant...I never knew where the phrase originated from. It's just something she always said when it was that time of the month for herself or for my sisters & me. My mother was born in 1926 and died in 1997. It may have originated as a form of code between women, during WWII when many women took over traditional men's roles in offices & factories, where they had to work with or around the men, who weren't accepted into the military,

Barbara Younger

Wednesday 8th of January 2014


Excellent research, esp. the 1960 date. You wonder what makes expressions fall out of favor?

Anne Parris

Wednesday 8th of January 2014

I know I stop using slang once my mother starts using it!

Anne Parris

Wednesday 8th of January 2014

Found this, Barbara:

"Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British . . . ," identifies "I've (just) fallen off the roof" as "a US feminine expression meaning 'I've (just) started my period' and part-euph. said to a friend or a husband; late, perhaps mid-, [19th to 20th century], but by c. 1960 no longer used." He doesn't identify the origin or give the "going nuts" meaning. The "Dictionary of American Slang" doesn't have the expression at all.

Robert L. Chapman writes in The "Dictionary of American Slang, Third Edition" : fall off the roof v phr by 1930s To menstruate, esp to begin a menstrual period [probably a fanciful way to explain bleeding]"

Barbara Younger

Tuesday 7th of January 2014

Good thought! You might be right.

Amy Sherman

Tuesday 7th of January 2014

I fell off the roof and bled out?

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