I grew up in the South. I was born in rural Mississippi, lived for a brief few years in Florida during elementary and middle school, moved to Alabama as a teenager, came back to Mississippi for college, moved to Tennessee afterward, and now I’ve circled back to Mississippi again. Don’t get me wrong, I have lived other places here and there. I have traveled to other parts of the world and I have loved and appreciated beauty beyond my own backyard, but there is something about the South that always calls me back home. My roots are here, my family is here, and down here I don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Most of the time.
In the South, we learn there is always more than one way to do things. The cotillion and debutante ball crowd have a way of doing things, and the bumpkins from the backwater have another. Thanks to the strange and wonderful characters who dominated my childhood, I’m schooled in both. My mom was a debutante, but we were all from the backwater. I can bless your heart or butter your butt and call you a biscuit. I’m multi-talented like that.
In the South, we “bumpkins” tend to be particularly descriptive. We have to be. Satellite and GPS can’t find us, and there aren’t an abundance of street signs, so giving someone directions can take some very specific landmarks. Beyond that, there isn’t a lot to do in the middle of nowhere sometimes, so storytelling is in our blood. We sit around sharing anecdotes to pass the time. We could sit around telling stories that start off by saying it was hot, or we can talk about how it was hotter than blue blazes, hotter than a two dollar pistol, or hotter than the seventh circle of Hell. With all those options, hot doesn’t really seem to cover it anymore. Hot is boring. Hotter than a goat’s butt in a pepper patch is illustrative.
It works with cold, too. It might be freezing, but there is no need to use such mundane language. Not when you can say, “It’s as cold as a well digger’s ass in the Klondike out there!” Or, even, “It’s as cold as a witches tit in a brass bra in Wichita in the winter time!”
Of course, we have equally articulate sayings about topics other than the weather. For instance, if something is quite slippery, be it object or person, it is “slicker than owl shit.” Just how slick is that? Well, in the words of my own father, “Pretty damn slick.”
And if something is extremely rich and thick, it can be described as “three feet up a bull’s ass.” I’ve heard this used to describe decadent desserts. Ponder that for a moment.
We also have important words of wisdom to pass along to all who may need guidance in this world. And by guidance, I, of course, mean a huge old-fashioned reality check. Precious, timeless gems like “if you’re gonna be dumb, you better be tough,” and “the only place you will find sympathy around here is in the dictionary.” The latter of those two has an extended version, but I think I’ve already used enough curse words for one post. I do avoid them when I can.
And while you all know that someone who is caught off guard, and looks a little nervous looks like “a deer in the headlights”, they can also be “as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs.”
And we could tell someone to grow up and act like an adult. Or, and hear me out on this, you can tell them to put their big girl panties on and deal with it.
I have no earthly idea where these things originated, but when using a few of these quips in front of people who are not at all accustomed to my way of life, I have been met with more than few quizzical looks followed by “Excuse me?”
You should try it sometime. It’s fun.
Of course, don’t be fooled by the prim and proper way of saying things in these parts either. That little old lady from who you got directions back to the highway? When she said, “Bless your heart, I know you must be road weary,” what she really meant was, “You look like hell. Please get off my property before people start to think we know each other.”
I am sure there are other sayings from around the country, or even the world, which are equally hysterical and I assure you, I would love to know them. Please pass them on.
4 thoughts on “Slicker Than Owl Shit and Other Colorful Southern Sayings”
Ha. So glad I found this! I was referencing our “president” and his band of thieves and the old saying my mom always used was “dumber than owl shit” which I understood to know that he was really dumb. But how to spell that and what it actually was – well I went to google. I spelled it Alshit which only brought up a rock band 😳. So I put in owl shit and found my answer. But why she used it to describe dumb I do not know. She was born in 1911 so it must have been used by her relatives. Most were poor as most all little rural communities were. She was of English heritage, as was my dads family. He used words as he heard them which made for very colorful and sometimes hilarious stories. Thank you for this delightful article that brought back many memories of my younger days.
Why do southerners think they are the origins of all colloquialisms?
We don’t. I speak multiple languages and have worked and/or studied in several countries. I have learned new and different colloquialisms everywhere and find them all interesting and delightful. However, having been born and raised in the south, the width and breadth of colloquialisms in our daily speech, especially those of us who hail from “the back woods” is nearly unrivaled in my experience. That’s all.
My favorite is the Southern lady’s response to a snooty remark by the purring query, “What did you say?” Which does not seek a repetition of the inanity but is a dire warning of imminent retribution.