If You Know These Sayings, You Definitely Grew Up in the South

Our way with words goes way beyond "fixin' to." Check out our Southernisms 2.0.

Two Women Talking Over Fence
Our way with words goes way beyond "fixin' to." Check out our Southernisms 2.0. Photo: Getty/FPG/Staff

When it comes to language, Southerners are not normal. And we like it that way. We shun the simple, straightforward, and direct in favor of more colorful means of self-expression, Southern style. Why would Daddy settle for "We've been having fried chicken quite often" when he can present us with a fully realized picture of his situation: "I've been eatin' so much fried chicken lately that I feel called to preach!"

But it's not just the visual and emotional zip we're going for. It's also the rhythm. Consider the flat and uninspired "I am delighted" vs. "I'm tickled as a speckled pup." It's the difference between "I find him intellectually deficient" and "That boy's a few fries shy of a Happy Meal." Note the musicality of the latter—how it rolls off the tongue. (BTW, one can also be "pretty as a speckled pup." The speckled pup is a versatile little thing. Bless his heart.)

We wondered how far beyond "bless your heart" we could go and recruited our FB Southern brain trust to help us out. Here are some lesser-known Southern sayings we came up with—let us know what we missed!

Southern Superstitions

  • My nose itches; company must be coming.
  • Dear heaven, there's a bird in the house; somebody's about to die.

Weather-Related Sayings

  • It's comin' up a cloud. (It's about to storm.)
  • It's comin' a toad-strangler. (It's raining really hard.)
  • It's fairin' off. (The aforementioned storm is passing.)

Expressions About Ignorance

  • Her elevator doesn't go all the way to the top, bless her heart.
  • That boy's about half a bubble off plumb, God love him.
  • He ain't the sharpest tool in the shed.
  • That girl ain't wrapped tight.
  • Have you lost your marbles?
  • That fella's a few bricks shy of a load.
  • Well, the lights are on, but ain't nobody home.

Southernisms About the World

  • I feel pecked by a hundred chickens. (I have stress coming from many sources.)
  • I've got a Champagne appetite on a Kool-Aid budget. (I want more than I can afford.)
  • That dog'll hunt. (That plan will work.)
  • Well, butter my backside and call me a biscuit! (Well, I'll be dang!)
  • I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. (I love you bunches. We like to sing this one to children.)
  • Whatever cranks your tractor. (Whatever makes you happy.)
  • That's just a lost ball in high weeds. (You've got yourself a lost cause, son.)
  • Don't go borrowing trouble. (Don't worry about the future.)
  • It'll all come out in the wash. (Everything will work out.)
  • If we don't get it in the wash, we'll get it in the rinse. (Everything really, really will work out.)
  • I'm fuller than a tick on a big dog. (And that is one full tick.)
  • I'm cold as a well-digger in "Id-y-ho." (The Idaho setting just adds oomph, don't you think?)
  • If I had a brain, I'd take it out and play with it. (I don't know what I was thinking.)
  • I'm fine as frog hair and not half as slick. (An enthusiastically positive response to "How are you?")
  • If wishes were horses, beggars could ride. (Quit wishing and get busy.)
  • Don't let the screen door hit you in the backside on the way out. (We trot this one out when a guest—usually a family member—tells us how very busy they are and how they really must be going—setting us up to beg them to stay.)
  • People in hell want ice water, but that don't mean they get it. (You don't always get what you want. Wait—didn't somebody famous say something REALLY close to that??)
  • Does that picture look cattywampus to you? (Is it crooked?)
  • You've just traded the devil for the witch. (You've swapped one bad situation for another.)
  • If you're gonna have a pity party, don't invite me. (I hate whining.)

Special Ways to Discuss People

  • He was drunker than Cooter Brown. (He was three sheets to the wind.)
  • He was about three sheets to the wind. (He was drunker than Cooter Brown.)
  • He ain't hit a lick at a snake in years. (He's lazy.)
  • She's gettin' above her raisin'. (She's acting snobby—which is pointless because we all know where she came from.)
  • I'm gonna yank her baldheaded! (Mama's had enough of that woman.)
  • I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full o' rockin' chairs! (Poor kitty. Keep moving!)
  • She drove her ducks to a bad pond o' water. (We don't like her husband/boyfriend.)
  • Last time I saw you, you were knee-high to a grasshopper. (I haven't seen you since you were a child.)
  • He's meaner than a two-headed snake. (Because a one-headed snake isn't nearly mean enough to describe him.)
  • I'll bet he has to run around in the shower to get wet. (He's on the thin side.)
  • That fits her like socks on a rooster. (Not so well.)
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