10 Things You’ll (Probably) Only Hear in the South

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.

  1. “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.”
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “That dog won’t hunt.” Never gonna happen.
  5. “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.
  6. “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.
  7. “Ain’t got the good sense God gave dirt.” Stupid. Epically stupid. Dumber than dirt.
  8. “Useless as a screen door on a submarine.” This one is pretty vivid, so I probably don’t need to explain it.
  9. “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?”
  10. “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!

Slicker Than Owl Shit and Other Colorful Southern Sayings

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.

crazy cocktail

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.