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

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
senior women laughing
From frogs' hair to store-bought air, Southern grandparents know how to turn a colorful phrase.
| Credit: 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:

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

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

(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."

(Change your attitude and change it soon.)

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

(Just remember who paid for your braces/ballet lessons/college education/wedding.)

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

(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!"

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

"Put that in your Funk & Wagnalls!"

(Who remembers Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias?)

"Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

(Not exclusively Southern, we realize, but it loses something when you hear it in any other accent.)

"I ordered me some pretty new step-ins from the Sears catalog."

(A certain Aunt Rosie from Alabama referred to her ahem underpants as "step-ins.")

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

(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."

(A storm is approaching.)

"I believe it's finally fairing off."

(The storm is over and the sky is clearing.)

"Once a man, twice a child."

(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."

(Go home already.)

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

(I'm leaving.)

"I'll be there directly."

(I'll be there right away.)

"We're here because we're here!"

(Reader Mike, you'll have to comment and explain this one. We all want to know what your Memaw meant, bless her sweet heart.)

"I'm fair to middlin'."

(FYI, "fair to middling" refers to cotton grades, this one being average.)

"Into every life a little rain must fall."

(It can't be sweet tea and magnolias ALL the time.)

"It's always darkest before the dawn."

(Your situation looks the absolute worst right before it gets better.)

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

(Ear bobs/ear screws=earrings)

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


"I'm just give out."

(I'm exhausted.)

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

(I've pulled a muscle/my arthritis is flaring up.)

"I need to bake us a ‘pawn' of cornbread."


"Let's go loaferin' this morning."

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

"When it's time to wash the dishes, y'all are scarce as hen's teeth."

(Hen's teeth are indeed scarce.)

"That's finer than frogs' hair (split three ways)."

(Frogs' hair is indeed fine, especially when you split it three ways.)

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

(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!"

(Go for it! Whatever your "it" might be!)

"Now, this spanking is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you."

(No it won't, Memaw. That's why we always talked you out of it.)

"You children be quiet—the fish can hear you and they won't bite."

(Fish have ears, we guess??? Either that or Memaw just wants to fish in peace, and this is the quickest way to make the grandkids shush already.)

"You're not holding your mouth right."

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

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

(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.)