25 Southern Grandparents' Sayings That Deserve a Comeback

Grab your umbrella because Memaw says it's coming up a cloud.

senior women laughing
From frogs' hair to store-bought air, Southern grandparents know how to turn a colorful phrase. Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images

We're not saying yesteryear was better than today, but it was definitely more earthy and colorful. If you don't believe that, just tune into your Southern grandparents—or your favorite memories of them. Some of their expressions were rooted in farm life, while others had a "don't get above your raisin'" edge designed to bring uppity youngsters back down to earth. "Lord have mercy," just about everything Memaw and Papaw said was memorable and worth a revival (not a tent revival, but a conversational one). Our Facebook Brain Trust shared colorful grandparents' sayings that deserve a comeback. Tell us what we missed:

"Close the door! You're letting out all the store-bought air!"

Translation: Keep the door closed when the air conditioner's running.

"You just better get glad in the same clothes (or britches) you got mad in."

Translation: Change your attitude and change it soon.

"You better get off that high horse you're riding, girl!"

Translation: Just remember who paid for your braces/ballet lessons/college education/wedding.

"Do that again and you'll get a ring upside the head!"

Translation: Memaw is referring to her wedding ring. We always knew she was bluffing.

"You children behave, or I'll whistle for the big yella dog!"

Translation: The reader who shared this one said she was grown before she realized her grandmother didn't own a dog.

"Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

Translation: That's the truth; deal with it! This phrase isn't exclusively Southern, we realize, but it loses something when you hear it in any other accent.

"Check the Farmers' Almanac and make sure the fish are in the feet."

Translation: The "Man of Signs," an Almanac staple, relates Zodiac signs to body parts, showing their correlation during certain times of year and suggesting optimum times for planting, etc.

"It's coming up a cloud."

Translation: A storm is approaching.

"I believe it's finally fairing off."

Translation: The storm is over and the sky is clearing.

"Once a man, twice a child."

Translation: Pepaw's getting more and more childlike now that he's 90.

"I'm going to bed. Y'all stay as long as you like."

Translation: Go home already.

"Reckon I'll mosey on down the road."

Translation: I'm leaving.

"I'll be there directly."

Translation: I'll be there right away.

"I'm fair to middlin'."

Translation: "Fair to middling" refers to cotton grades, this one being average.

"Into every life a little rain must fall."

Translation: It can't be sweet tea and magnolias ALL the time.

"It's always darkest before the dawn."

Translation: Your situation looks the absolute worst right before it gets better.

"I wish I had some ear bobs/ear screws to match this necklace."

Translation: Ear bobs/ear screws = earrings

"I've got some Kleenex in my pocketbook if you need one."

Translation: Pocketbook = purse

"I'm just give out."

Translation: I'm exhausted.

"I've got a hitch in my get-along."/"I've got a hitch in my giddy-up."

Translation: I've pulled a muscle/my arthritis is flaring up. Or, I'm moving slowly.

"Let's go loaferin' this morning."

Translation: Let's ramble about with no particular destination in mind and no schedule to keep.

"Y'all stay and eat. We've got a gracious plenty."

Translation: Memaw cooked so much that she'll run out of kinfolks before she runs out of fried chicken.

"Hitch your wagon to a star, honey!"

Translation: Go for it! Whatever your "it" might be.

"You're not holding your mouth right."

Translation: It's sort of "you're not concentrating, you're not watching your form, and you're not determined enough" all rolled into one. Southern men, especially, use this one when instructing children on casting a line, swinging a bat, etc. Bless your heart.

"You children go sit at the little table—the big table's full."

Translation: The "children" are all pushing 40, but as long as the senior relatives are still with us, those whippersnappers can just hightail it to the living room.

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