I grew up in the southeastern portion of the United States, as did my parents, grand-parents, great-grandparents, etc before me. There are some things we say and do in the South that I truly didn’t realize weren’t normal until I got old enough to notice that nobody else seemed to do or say them. And before you think it, I’m not talking about racism. I’ve seen that every place I’ve ever traveled. I’m not excusing it by any means, but based on my experience, it’s not particular to the South–or the U.S.
Now, while my family tree harbors Natives who called this land home long before Europeans ever set foot on the continent and slaves that were brought here against their will, I’m a white girl. So I can only give the perspective of a white girl. And yes, that could be very different of the perspective, actions, and opinions of a POC in the South. I’m openly admitting that.
Having provided you with my general disclaimers, the South is a special place to me. I love to travel, both domestically and internationally, but there is always something special about coming home, and the South is my home. I love it. But we are a special breed.
When I worked in New York, my coworkers would often give me blank stares or quizzical looks and I’d have to back track in my head to figure out what I had said. It was usually a southern colloquialism that I had to explain. The same was true when I lived abroad briefly. Some stuff just doesn’t translate.
I’ve written a post before about colorful southern sayings, so if you’d like you can consider this part two. It can be just for kicks and giggles, or if you’re a writer you can use it to help shape your characters. What are the colloquialisms that unite them with or separate them from other characters? If a “chosen one” girl from the province is suddenly dropped in the palace and has to fulfill her destiny of slaying the monarch who is secretly a member of the legion of the undead, there’s a solid chance she’s not going to blend in seamlessly. And I don’t mean just because she still has a beating heart. Bless her.
So here is a small smattering of sayings that you’ll most likely only hear in the South.
- “If the creek don’t rise.” This is actually the shorthand of a longer saying, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” It means that I intend to and will, unless something completely out of my control happens; e.g. a local flood that washes out the road. “I’ll be there by six o’clock, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.”
- “Aren’t you precious?” This falls in line with “Bless your heart.” It can sometimes be taken at face value, a sweet compliment. Other times is can absolutely be said sarcastically and be a huge insult. We’re versatile like that. So whether it means you’re adorable or screw you is all about the context clues.
- “Quit being ugly.” This refers to bad or rude behavior, not the way someone looks. If a person is “being ugly” it means they’re acting like a jerk.
- “That dog won’t hunt.” Never gonna happen.
- “Can’t never could.” It means if you start off with a defeatist attitude, the odds of success are nil. Generally used when someone is whining that they’re incapable of doing something.
- “Too big for his britches.” First off, britches are pants. I assume it somehow traces back to the term breeches, but that’s more of a theory than an actual etymology of the word. If someone is too big for their britches, it means they are so full of themselves that they can’t even fasten their pants.
- “Ain’t got the good sense God gave dirt.” Stupid. Epically stupid. Dumber than dirt.
- “Useless as a screen door on a submarine.” This one is pretty vivid, so I probably don’t need to explain it.
- “I’m fixin’ to.” I am preparing to do so. Example: “I’m fixin’ to go to the grocery store, do you need me to get anything for you?”
- “All gussied up.” Dressed up fancier than normal. Cinderella couldn’t go to the ball until her Godmother helped her get all gussied up.
I’m sure I’ll come back around and do another one of these someday. There are just too many things to choose from. This doesn’t even scratch the surface. We are a culture that loves similes and metaphors, that’s for sure.
I want to know what the sayings from your home are. Let me know in the comments!