If You Know These Sayings, You Definitely Grew Up in the South
When it comes to language, Southerners are not normal. And we like it that way. We shun the simple, the straightforward, and the 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 take out his verbal paint brush and 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 braintrust to help us out. Here's what we came up with—let us know what we missed!
Some of our lesser-known expressions are married to Southern superstitions:
"My nose itches; company must be coming."
"Dear heaven, there's a bird in the house; somebody's about to die."
And then there's the weather:
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.)
We have a full range of expressions related to intelligence and overall mental health:
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.
She's crazy as a Betsy bug.
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.
Of course, some Southernisms simply allow us to comment on the world (and people) in our own special way:
He ain't hit a lick at a snake in years. (He's lazy.)
I feel pecked by a hundred chickens. (I have stress coming from many sources.)
I've got a Champagane appetite on a Kool-Aid budget. (I want more than I can afford.)
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.)
That dog'll hunt. (That plan will work.)
Well, butter my backside and call me a biscuit! (Well, I'll be dang!)
She's gettin' above her raisin'. (She's acting uppity—which is pointless because we all know where she came from.)
They're in high cotton now! (They're rich/prosperous.)
Last time I saw you, you were knee-high to a grasshopper. (I haven't seen you since you were a child.)
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.)
I'm gonna yank her baldheaded! (Mama's had enough of that woman.)
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.)
She drove her ducks to a bad pond o' water. (We don't like her husband/boyfriend.)
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.)
He's meaner than a two-headed snake. (Because a one-headed snake isn't nearly mean enough to describe him.)
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?)
I'm fine as frog hair and not half as slick. (An enthusiastically positive response to "How are you?")
I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full o' rockin' chairs! (Poor kitty. Keep moving!)
You've just traded the devil for the witch. (You've swapped one bad situation for another.)
I'll bet he has to run around in the shower to get wet. (He's on the thin side.)
If I had a brain, I'd take it out and play with it. (I don't know what I was thinking.)
That fits her like socks on a rooster. (Not so well.)
If wishes were horses, beggars could ride. (Quit wishing and get busy.)
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??)
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.)
If you're gonna have a pity party, don't invite me. (I hate whining.)
Does that picture look cattywampus to you? (Is it crooked?)
Besides expressions we all use, some comments are specific to Southern Mama's:
Do you know any Southernisms that we missed? Tell us all about them in Comments! That would make us feel just finer than frog hair.