This ain't our first rodeo.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse

Southerners would much rather paint a verbal picture than get straight to the point. We think "all hat and no cattle" is so much more entertaining and expressive than "pretentious." If you're worried that you might not get some of the more eccentric expressions on our list, have no fear. We'll put the fodder where the calf can get it.


Daddy's gonna skin your hide and nail it to the barn door!
(You're in serious trouble, little mister.)

You're old enough that your wants won't hurt you.
(You're mature enough to have good judgment.)

Once a man, twice a child.
(We revert to childlike behavior when we get old.)

Above expression with a Lionel Richie twist: Once a man, twice a child, and three times a lady.

That boy's all hat and no cattle.
(He's all talk. He's not the genuine article.)

I didn't just fall off the turnip truck.
(I'm not naive/inexperienced.)

This ain't my first rodeo.
(I know what I'm doing/I know what's what)

They're like two mules fighting over a turnip.
(They're both too stubborn to compromise.)

Somebody turned their goat loose.
(Somebody's crying.)

Somebody opened the floodgates.
(Traffic is really heavy.)

He was grinnin' like a mule eatin' briars trough a "bob" wire fence. (We say "bob" for "barbed.")
(He had a really big—and possibly self-satisfied—grin.)

I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
(I'm busy, frazzled, and distracted.)

Close as cat's breath.
(As in, "That couple's sitting close as cat's breath.")

We're wide open as a Case knife.
(We're really, really busy.)

Well, she just threw a real hissy fit.
(She expressed anger in a dramatic, unhinged, and quite possibly public way.)

She's tough as a pine knot.
(She's strong and determined. Also, don't mess with her.)

He ain't worth two cents.
(He's not very industrious and/or lacks character.)

From Texas: I'll teach you just how the cow at the cabbage.
(I'm about to tell you what's what/tell you off.)

I'll be on you like a duck on a June bug.
(I'll be all over you—as in, "You insult Mama and I'll be on you like a duck on a June bug.")


You'd best get glad in the same britches you got mad in.
(Deal with your situation and move on. Get over yourself.)

It won't be noticed on a galloping horse.
(It's close enough. Don't worry about the imperfections.)

If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas every day.
(We're all good at making excuses.)

Put the fodder where the calf can get it.
(Say it so we can understand it.)


He's one Twinkie shy of topping 300 pounds.
(He could lose a few.)

I look like who shot Lizzie.
(I'm disheveled.)

Tight as Dick's hat band.
(Really tight. "She had that hair pulled back tight as Dick's hat band.")

They look like they've been rode hard and put up wet.
(They're a mess. Refers to the way horses look if they're put in the stable without proper grooming after a hard ride. "Ridden" would ruin the impact entirely:)

He looks like he's been through three wars and a goat roping.
(He looks rough.)


That boy's a card short of a full deck.
(He's not all there.)

She's educated beyond her means to comprehend.
(She's not smart enough to understand what she supposedly learned.)

The elevator just don't stop there.
(He/she is lacking in the brainpower department.)

He's dumber than a box o' rocks. Bless his heart.
(He's never gonna be a brain surgeon.)

He's dumber than dirt. Bless his heart.
(Same as above.)

You must be outside your mind!
(Have you lost your mind?)

She's blind in one eye and can't see out of the other.
(She's clueless.)


It's comin' a gully washer.
(It's raining really hard.)


Look what the cat drug in!
(We haven't seen you in a long time. And we know it's supposed to be "dragged" but we don't care. It sounds better this way.)

This is stuck tighter than a hair in a biscuit.
(It's stuck way tight.)

This place is plumb nelly ("nearly").
(Used during a long trip, as in plumb nelly out of the city, plumb nelly out of state.)

Who are your people?
(Where are you from, what line of work is your father in, were you raised right, are you a suitable match for my son/daughter, do you have good financial prospects, are you educated, do you go to church . . .)

How's ya mama'n'em?
(How are your mother, father, and extended family?)

We're eatin' high on the hog.
(We're eating well.)

We're livin' high on the hog.
(We're prosperous.)

Things went to hell in a hand basket.
(The situation quickly deteriorated.)

After someone sneezes: Scat, Tom, your tail's in the gravy.
(A colorful alternative to "Scat, cat." We aren't sure why cats and sneezes are related. Unless you're allergic to Fluffy.)