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April 11, 2011 6:00 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite old fashioned phrases?

I love hearing/using phrases that are no longer in vogue. I am particularly looking for things that you might hear your grandparents/great aunt say.

For an idea of what I'm looking for, here are a few of my favorites (courtesy of my delightful family members):

- She doesn't know if she's on foot or on horseback.
- I feel like I've been rode hard and put away wet.

(The fact that both of the above are equine related is purely coincidental.)

posted by WaspEnterprises to Writing & Language (152 answers total) 100 users marked this as a favorite
posted by bz at 6:01 PM on April 11, 2011

I stopped a work meeting cold last weak when I mentioned that an issue being discussed wasn't "my particular bugaboo".

From my grandmother:" He's as cool as the other side of the pillow" and "it was just as black as your old hat".
posted by kimdog at 6:04 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Let's blow this pop stand = Let's get out of here.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 6:05 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Catch you on the flip side.
posted by birdherder at 6:08 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's a real old-tyme saying or not, since I first heard it on 'Lonesome Dove', but I've been saying 'like a duck on a june-bug' whenever it seems appropriate.
posted by Bron at 6:11 PM on April 11, 2011

Chasing something 'around Robin Hood's barn'
'God willing and the crik don't rise.'
"She's just talking to hear her head rattle"
"I wouldn't know him from Adam's off ox"
And, my all time favorite: "How do some people get through life when they haven't got the sense that God gave geese?"
posted by SLC Mom at 6:12 PM on April 11, 2011

"Looks like it's gonna come a gusher," because it sounds dirty but isn't.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 6:13 PM on April 11, 2011

That'll fix his wagon!
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:14 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

"God willing and the creek don't rise".
posted by Allee Katze at 6:14 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Oh my stars!"
posted by Ellemeno at 6:15 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by BeerFilter at 6:15 PM on April 11, 2011

The hell you say!
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:16 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by dhammond at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2011

My grandparents (particularly my grandmother) all said the following with great frequency:

"Let's blow this popsicle stand/popcorn joint" (let's go)
"We're off like a herd of turtles" (well, we're finally going)
"Two shakes of a dead lamb's tail" (it's going to be awhile)
"She's easier to jump over than walk around" (regarding a heavy, short person)
"He's so short she'd have to stand on a brick to kick a duck in the ass" (requires no explanation)
"Someone hit him with the ugly stick" (also requires no explanation)
"I forgot what I was going to say; must've been a lie."
And the all-purpose exclamation: "Well, good night, nurse!"
posted by scody at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

gah: "he's so short he'd have to stand on a brick...."
posted by scody at 6:18 PM on April 11, 2011

"Drat!" (via W.C. Fields)

"What in tarnation?"

"What in the name of Sam Hill?"

"Well I'll be!" ("Well I'll be darned!" "Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!" etc.)

"Gee willickers!"

"Golly gosh!"

"dad-blasted" (e.g. "I can't get the dad-blasted thing to work!")

"Oh bother!" (via Winnie the Pooh)
posted by John Cohen at 6:19 PM on April 11, 2011

Since Christ was a child.
posted by ifandonlyif at 6:20 PM on April 11, 2011

"Go pound sand"
"Bob's your uncle" (UKist)
posted by availablelight at 6:20 PM on April 11, 2011

There's the Flapper's Dictionary, posted on the Blue the other day.
posted by holterbarbour at 6:22 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"putnyr" = "pretty near" As in, "He's putnyr the tallest guy I ever saw."
posted by webhund at 6:23 PM on April 11, 2011

This askme is a good source of old-fashioned exclamations.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:27 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Oh my land!"

Heard a woman at work say this the other day. No idea where it comes from. Seems to be an expression of disbelief, but I'm not really sure.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 6:29 PM on April 11, 2011

This thread has some doozies.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:31 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

They aren't really phrases, but I love old-timey slang for certain...uh...types of women? It's just fun to say "Trollop! Minx! Slattern!" (none of it meant in offensive way, of course). Trollop is definitely my fave.

I'm also fond of the phrase "gilding the lily", but almost no one ever reacts/knows what I'm talking about when I say it :(
posted by sprezzy at 6:34 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

"shit fire!" (and the closely related "shit fuzzy fire and save the matches!" which is my moms favorite)
"My stars and garters!"
"Don't know your ass from a hole in the ground"

Apparently my maternal grandmother enjoys her curse words.
posted by MultiFaceted at 6:35 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

When my grandpa is surprised to find out something is true or real, he'll say, "Well as sure as the devil's a witch!"
posted by HotPatatta at 6:36 PM on April 11, 2011

-Heavens above!
-Goodness gracious.
-Gracious me.
-Oh dear.
-Oh for heaven's sake!

[I used to say these when I worked with kids and was trying to curb my swearing. Now I alternate between these and real swear words, which can be...strange.)

"it's like coals to Newcastle" (pointless action)
"pennywise and pound foolish" (making bad decisions based on short term thinking)
"He knows what side his bread's buttered on." (he does what is needed to preserve his own best interests)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:38 PM on April 11, 2011

"Sometimes you gotta ride the horse what brung ya."
posted by hegemone at 6:39 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!!
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:40 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like referring to the hackneyed as "old hat."
posted by illenion at 6:40 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

My grandfather would exclaim, "Good Night Shirt!"
posted by chookibing at 6:45 PM on April 11, 2011

From my husband's grandfather: "like two cats squirming in a bag" (referring to a woman's butt).
posted by methroach at 6:46 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

(from my grandmother)
"Lord love a duck."
"If 'if' was a skiff, we would all take a boat ride."

(from my grandfather)
"Tuckered out"
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph"
posted by dayintoday at 6:46 PM on April 11, 2011

I'm also fond of the phrase "gilding the lily", but almost no one ever reacts/knows what I'm talking about when I say it

I know what it means, but mainly it reminds me of an old Del Shannon tune, which my mom had on a 45 and I used to listen to on her old portable record player while dancing around the living room.

Also: my grandfather used to say "holy cow" all the time. So apparently I'm now turning into him.

posted by scody at 6:48 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

From my grandmother: "it's hotter than ten mothers from hell out there" and "it's colder than ten mothers from hell out there" depending on the season.
posted by otters walk among us at 6:49 PM on April 11, 2011

Being from country families, I got a million of these, although few of them clean.
My Tennessee grandparents would say in surprise, "Well, good night!" chookibing, yours is the closest thing to another occurrence that I've seen.
Someone who looks ragged "looks like the cracker Death ate."
The exclamation "Gracious!" (I didn't realize that I did this until it was pointed out to me.)
"Good Lord and butter!" (This is actually from Bloom County.)
If you're feeling meta, there is also "hot as a spicy country analogy," but not everybody can pull that off.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:49 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not sure if this counts, but my dad asked me if I wanted the "parson's nose" last thanksgiving. I didn't know what it was, but knowing my dad, I guessed it had something to do with the ass.

He also picked up from my grandfather, "no drinking until the sun's over the yardarm". Which where we lived, was about noon, maybe a little earlier.
posted by mrgoat at 6:50 PM on April 11, 2011

At bedtime, my dad would say he was going to hit the hay.
posted by Fichereader at 6:52 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I read in the Oxford English Dictionary once that an archaic idiom for vomiting was 'to cast one's craw'. Ever since I have referred to throwing up as casting my craw.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:55 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Along the lines of "rode hard and put away wet" there is "looks like he's been drug through a knot-hole backwards"

And of course, regarding the unintelligent: "dumb as a sack of hammers" and "Up in heaven when God was passing out brains, she thought God said 'trains' and said 'I don't want to go anywhere!'"

What are the odds of that? "Well, Slim to None, and Slim's just left town."
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:57 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

cold as a witch's tit

one brick short of a load

I say GOOD DAY, sir (an insult)

heinous (this one's making a comeback)
posted by aunt_winnifred at 6:57 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know the source, but I have been appending "as soon as give you the time of day" when warning my kids about people acting dangerously -- "get back from the curb, those drivers will run you over as soon as give you the time of day."

I have also used the word "fortnight" in meetings a few times over the past couple of months, mostly to take people by surprise and get their attention. The word is old-time here in the US, but I picked it up in contemporary use in the UK
posted by cgk at 6:59 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

My father used to say, "a month of Sundays", meaning 'a long, dull time.'
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:00 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

"I need that like I need teeth in my asshole".

My family is weird about Christmas sweaters, ok?
posted by ttyn at 7:01 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

"He's all wool and a yard wide." (shows generosity/integrity)

"I'm sore like a bad dog."
posted by timeo danaos at 7:01 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't stand this phrase (don't really know why it bugs me), but my dad uses the phrase "Mickey Mouse" in a pejorative sense, generally meaning "to mess around, wishy washy, irritate, etc." He's 70 and was born in India, fwiw. I don't really know where he gets it, but it appears to be a generational thing.

Example: "I really don't like how on Dancing With the Stars, they Mickey Mouse around and wait until after the commercial break to tell me who's safe and who's not."
posted by raztaj at 7:04 PM on April 11, 2011

"An empty wagon makes a lot of noise".
posted by effluvia at 7:04 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

From my wonderful former neighbor in rural Connecticut (who, apropos of absolutely nothing, was the head of civil service under 7 presidents) "It's hotter'n the hinges of hell."

From my non-cussing Mormon grandparents from Utah, I got "Oh, for Pete's sake."
posted by amelioration at 7:06 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

"Go pound sand." (down a rat hole)
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:10 PM on April 11, 2011

My mum always said, "Two shakes of a lamb's tail," which means "soon," which seems to be the opposite of "two shakes of a dead lamb's tail," which apparently means "never." Distorted Britishisms!

Also from my parents:

-calling someone "me duck" as an endearment
-"Your money or your life!" (In jokes about mugging)
-calling someone a "speed merchant" when they are driving too fast
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:12 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also... the old folks in my family described loose women by saying...

"She's the town bike."
posted by amelioration at 7:13 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

From Pete Campbell on Mad Men:

"Hell's bells, Trudy!"

"A thing like that!"

posted by droplet at 7:15 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Harumph. Harumph. Harumph.

A few weeks ago my wife used "That's the bee's knees" non-ironically.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 7:19 PM on April 11, 2011

I've been hoisted by my own petard. (Explanation.)
posted by wackybrit at 7:24 PM on April 11, 2011

I have a great affinity for 40s/50s/60s culture, so here are some expressions that I like (most of which I have actually used):

"That's not my bag" (or, "That's not my scene")
"sock it to me"
"cramp my style"
"i dig it"
referring to something/someone cool as "hip" or "hip and happening"
posted by LaurenIpsum at 7:27 PM on April 11, 2011

Similar to hegemone's above: "You've gotta dance with the one that brung you." (Instead of riding the horse.)

"Cut a fat hog in the ass" to describe a failed attempt following bravado... like when you pass up a decent parking spot thinking there's a better one up front, and there isn't, you really cut a fat hog in the ass.

"Sh*t in one hand and wish in the other, and see which gets full first."
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:30 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Banana oil!" (Incredulity)
"I have to go see a man about a horse." (For when I need to pee.)

The other day:

"Well, you know what they say: No man is a hero to his valet."
"No. Nobody says that."
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:31 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Chewed up one side and down the other" for a scolding.

Donnybrook = melee, fistfight, general rowdyness

"(I) feel like I been shot at and missed and shit at and hit!" (anyone can guess what that's like)
posted by bebrave! at 7:33 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"He's as old / ugly as sin!"
"She's got more [whatever] than you can shake a stick at."

God, so many of the replies in this thread are things that I've said, like, yesterday...
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 7:34 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Hide and watch" when you are betting something is going to happen.

I'd do _____ "every day and twice on Sundays."
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:40 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

When drinking: "My first today, by god I need it."
When irritated: Criminy!
posted by soviet sleepover at 7:41 PM on April 11, 2011

When my grandfather farted, he'd say that he "kicked the old man out because he couldn't pay the rent."

My husband's grandmother would ask nosepicking children if they'd found the piano yet.

Another person in my husband's family would tell children "we're eating bread!" through a closed door when fun things were being done without them. We use that one a lot--it's funny to say, because what's more universally boring-sounding than that?
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:41 PM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

1) "She's dumb as a stone"

2) "Just between you, me and the fencepost"

3) "To each his own" said the old lady as she kissed the cow.

4) "I'd worship the ground she walks on if she'd live in a different neighborhood."

5) "Mercy, Mercy! Sakes alive!"

6) "He looks like the cat who ate the cream"

#4 is my own and I want to believe I made up #2
posted by goalyeehah at 7:50 PM on April 11, 2011

Also: "Useless as tits on a boar"

"Not worth the powder to blow him away"

"Hit you so hard your kids will limp"

Yikes! Mine are all so violent and angry! Thank goodness they are all just expressions!
posted by bebrave! at 7:50 PM on April 11, 2011

I hear and/or say a good chunk of this stuff all the time. Do people still say "well, I never!"? Non-ironically?
posted by SMPA at 7:50 PM on April 11, 2011

My father-in-law says, "for crimenently" when he has a difficult decision to make.
posted by Linnee at 7:51 PM on April 11, 2011

"If wishes were horses, we all would ride."

And one of my favorites that I read in a book somewhere: "Shit in one hand, and dream in the other. See which fills up first."
Yeah, I can be kinda crass & bleak sometimes
posted by smirkette at 7:54 PM on April 11, 2011

It's hotter than two rats screwin' in a wool sock.
posted by leetheflea at 7:57 PM on April 11, 2011

"Stop making three ruts!" means stop dragging your ass. A favorite of my Dads at chore time.
posted by victoriab at 7:58 PM on April 11, 2011

One more: "It'll stop hurting when the pain goes away"
posted by bebrave! at 7:59 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Horse's patoot
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:15 PM on April 11, 2011

Here are things I've heard from the older generations of my family:

"bide a wee" (wait awhile)
"hotter than a whore in church" (self explanatory)
"she's got some jam in her jelly" (full figured woman)
"go light somewhere" (go away)
"what's all this kerfuffle?" (what's all this commotion/racket/etc.)
posted by katyggls at 8:31 PM on April 11, 2011

Criminedly! (my grandpa always said this in good-natured surprise, like "well I'll be!")

You lie like a rug!

He's got more [whatever] than Carter's got pills

That's the greatest thing since peanut butter

Oh, fudge (the other eff word!)

Jeeminy Christmas (instead of taking the Lord's name in vain)

Jeezy Crow (ditto)
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:37 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't know how old this really is (1860's, apparently), but "Sweat Fanny Adams" is a nice stand-in for Sweet Fuck All (nothing at all).
posted by porpoise at 8:53 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

"It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick." Meaning it could be worse.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:58 PM on April 11, 2011

"If you can't dance, the floor must be crooked" (i.e., a poor workman blames his tools); from my parents' Indian childhood.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:59 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't let the screen door hit you in the ass on the way out.

It's colder than a well diggers ass in Georgia. (never really understood that one)

You're cruisin' for a bruisin'.
posted by tamitang at 9:01 PM on April 11, 2011

"Oh, my land!" is indeed an expression of disbelief or dismay. My aunt says it all of the time. She will also say "Land o' Goshen!" She's only only going to be 77 this year (and not that much older than me), but she's said this stuff all of her life, influenced by her mother, who was 43 years older and born in 1891.

I really miss hearing the term "forenoon."

In the late '90s or so I first heard about being frugal enough to "squeeze the nickel
'til the buffalo shits." Loved it!

It's not an expression, but I'll throw in "visit/visited/visiting" for conversation among friends.

Weekly bugles' social columns will still use the verb "motor" many, many decades after it was novel to make the distinction (the correspondents who do so are dying off). As in "Jgirl motored to Swamp Yankeeville to see her aunt."
posted by jgirl at 9:04 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like "dig", as in "I really dig...", "Dig this:...!" and "Can you dig?" Though the latter is a bit much.

As for stuff inspired by family members, I believe "dadgummit!" is now a third generation faux-swear in my family.
posted by Sara C. at 9:09 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also "Shut the front door!" for STFU, though I don't think that's really country.
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 PM on April 11, 2011

My country, Southern family passed along these that I find ingrained in my vernacular:

"Hotter than two rats fuckin' in a wool sock"
"Hotter than a whore in church"
"Colder than a cast-iron toilet seat"
"Let's blow this popsicle stand/clam bake"
"Well shut the front door" said with same enthusiasm and cadence as "shut the fuck up"

Also when someone really DOES need to shut the front door, my dad will always say "we're not paying to heat the outside!"
posted by Juicy Avenger at 9:14 PM on April 11, 2011

"Some" used in the same way as "wicked" for "really" or "very."

"That pie was some good!"
posted by jgirl at 9:17 PM on April 11, 2011

Belfast sayings...

"I'll swing with a smile on Crumlin Road" and was my Grandmother's threat that she'd go happily to the gallows in Crumlin Road prison (right after strangling you).

Also, "Do you think I floated down the Lagan in a bubble?", saying she didn't believe you and wondered how dumb you though she was.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:19 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

In case those weren't crass enough, I also love how my great-grandmother would declare "kiss my grits" for "kiss my ass".
posted by Juicy Avenger at 9:22 PM on April 11, 2011

(S/he/it) is as useless as tits on a boar hog.
Does a bear shit in the buckwheat?
Talking as fast as a clatterbone up a goose's ass. (I have no idea what a clatterbone is)
Fuck you and the horse you road in on.
Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets filled up first. (to a kid wishing for something)
posted by deborah at 9:26 PM on April 11, 2011

oh, another one from grandma:

"Don't kid a kidder, and don't get into a pissing contest with a skunk" (don't try to fool someone who's better at fooling people than you'll ever be)
posted by scody at 9:30 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dumb as a bag of hair

Dumb as a box of rocks

After listening to enough Chicago White Sox broadcasts on the TV, I've started saying "Mercy!" like Ken Harrelson does when I'm surprised or impressed by something (00:57 in the video). He also says Dadgummit! a lot.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:44 PM on April 11, 2011

"Well, shucky darn and slop the chickens!"

"Holy Moses!"
posted by SisterHavana at 9:46 PM on April 11, 2011

"Hotter than a freshly fornicated fox in a forest fire"
"Colder than a witches tit (in a brass bra)"
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:47 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're caught in a trap, worry about the cheese later and get busy gettin' out of the trap.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:05 PM on April 11, 2011

Wasn't 'til I left home that I came to realize the rest of the world didn't talk the way my extended family did:

“He’s so mean he could hunt bear with a switch”.
“Meaner than dog shittin’ tacks”.
“Meaner/sorrier than a broke-dick dog”.
“Happier than a dog with two peters”.
“Happier than a pig in shit”.
“Slicker ‘n snot on a doorknob”. (To be “slick” is slang for “charming with intent to deceive”)
“‘Slicker ‘n a cat’s ass”/”Slick as snail snot”/”Slicker ‘n the devil in velvet pants”/”Slicker’n grass thru a goose”/”Slicker’n snot on a brass doorknob/”Slicker’n goose grease on a glass doorknob.”
“He could sell a drowning man a glass of water”/”He could talk the dogs off of a meat truck”
“All hat and no cattle”
“He acts like he’s ten feet tall and bullet-proof.”
“He would steal the shitball from a blind tumblebug, give him a marble and put him on the wrong road home.” (an incredibly dishonest person)
“He’d want a new rope to be hung” (a very picky person)
“She’s just eat up with sorry” (Very lazy. In the South, “sorry” is roughly synonymous with “lazy”, but it indicates worse than lazy. A lazy person might be redeemed; a sorry person there’s no hope for.)

“Ain’t got the good sense God gave gravel”.
“Dumb as a box of rocks.”
“He’s dumber than a day old pig.”
“She’s about as bright as a 10-watt bulb”.
“He couldn’t drive a boot up a mule’s ass with the directions written on the toe.”
“He’s so dumb he couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were on the bottom”
“He’s one ass-kicking away from being a pretty nice fella”.
“He is ten pounds of stupid (shit) in a five pound bag.”
“If you put her brains in a thimble they’d rattle like road apples in a bushel basket”

“He’s as ugly as a pan of worms.”
“She’s uglier than homemade sin”.
“He’s uglier than a mud fence”.
“She looks like she was rode hard and put up wet” (These days, thanks to the use of the word “rode”, the phrase now has an unfortunately sexual connotation. However, if you’ve ever seen a horse that has been “rode hard” and then not given a good rub-down and clean-up before being returned to stable, you’ll understand how this phrase came into use).
“He looks like he was hit with a bag of nickels”
“She looks like the northbound side of a southbound mule”
“His head’s wore out two bodies” (he looks older than his years)
“Big as a house and twice as ugly”.
“She could eat corn through a picket fence” (describing a buck-toothed person)
“Built like a brick shit-house”.
“He’s easier to jump over than walk around”.
“It looks like she’s been set on fire and put out with a shoe”. (Also heard: “It looks like her face caught fire and they beat it out with a rake.”)
“He looks like he was drug through a knothole backwards”/”pulled through a bush backwards”
“She looks like rats nested in her hair last night”/”Her hair looks like a hornet’s nest”
“She looks like she combed her hair with an egg beater”
“He looks like the backside of bad weather”
“He looks like five miles of bad road”.
“She’s so ugly, she’d make a freight train take a dirt road”.
“He’s so ugly, tears run down the back of his head.”
“She’s got a face like a foot” (see Sarah Jessica Parker. Also “She’s got a face like a man’s knee”).
“She’s got tits like a fried egg hanging on a nail”
“He had a face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle”.
“Face like a bulldog chewing a wasp
“Face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle
“Face like a bee keepers apprentice
“Face like a sand blasted tomato
“……………….cobblers thumb
“……………….boiled fist
“……………….welders bench etc etc
“More chins than a Chinese phone book”
“Fatter than a tick on a coon dog”
“Last time I saw an ass like that Lester Piggot was whipping it”
“As tall as a Georgia pine”
“Knee-high to a grasshopper” (a short person, usually a child: “Why, I haven’t seen you since you were Knee-high to a grasshopper!”)
For someone skinny: “He looks like a bag of antlers”.
“If she turned sideways she wouldn’t cast a shadow” (another skinny person)
“She’s prettier than a speckled pup in a red wagon”
“When she walks away, it looks like two cats fighting in a bag” (This is a compliment–it refers to the attractive way a woman swings her hips)

“Rainin’ like a cow pissing on a flat rock”.
“It’s raining pitchforks and plowhandles”
“Cold as a witch’s tit”. (sometimes “in a brass bra” is added to the end of that phrase)
“Colder than a whore’s heart”
"Colder than a mother-in-law's love."
“Hotter than two rats fuckin’ in a wool sock”.
“Hotter than a June bride in a featherbed”
“Hotter than a two dollar pistol”
“So hot it’d burn the hair off a pig’s back”
Deep snow is sometimes referred to as “asshole deep to a tall indian.”

“Busier than a bird-dog in featherin’ season”/”Busier than a one- eyed cat watching nine rat holes” (More well -known versions include “Busy as a one-armed paper hanger” and “Busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kickin’ contest”)
“Faster than shit through a tin horn”.
“Shaking like a dog shitting peach seeds”/”Shaking like a dog shitting razorblades”
“Sweating like a whore in church”.
“She works harder than a country mule”
“He was so confused, he didn’t know whether to shit or go blind”. (I have also heard: “I was so confused, I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind, so I closed one eye and farted” and “Didn’t know whether to scratch my ass or wind my watch”)
“Tits in a wringer” (caught in an awful situation)
“She’s got more _____________ than Carter’s got pills”
“He’s a hard dog to keep on the porch” (you're never around when I want you)
“Shining like a diamond in a goat’s ass.” (Which is use to refer to either a clean place within a messy place or a person doing a good job among idiots.)
“We’re living at the foot of the cross” (at a lucky occurrence)
When someone cant resist interfering with whatever you’re doing: “You just hold the tail; I’m fuckin’ this cat” (I’ve heard the reverse of this, namely: “You’re the one fucking this cat, I’m just holding the tail.”)
” Handier than side pockets on a toad’s ass”
“I’m finer’n frog hair and twice as fluffy.” (I’m feeling really good!)
“Can’t hear thunder” (said of someone whose hearing is going)
“Madder than spit on a griddle” (pissed)
“I’m so mad I could chew nails, and fart tacks” (really pissed)
“She was fit to be tied” (really, really pissed)
“He’s shittin in high cotton” (Everythings coming up roses. See also: “The cotton is high and the fish are jumpin’”)
“It’s as plain as a pig on a sofa.”

“I wouldn’t piss on his teeth if his mouth was on fire”
“I’d like to buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth.”
“They’re just tryin’ to cut a fat hog” (they’re asking for more than it’s worth; they’re greedy)
“He didn’t get here on a paved road”
“Don’t call him a cowboy, ’til you’ve seen him ride.”
Threat: “I’ll beat you like a rented mule/red-headed step-child”
“Useful as tits on a boar”. (mean utterly useless, of course. Also “Worthless as tits on a boar hog”)
“As useful as tits on a door”
“Useless as tits on a tomcat”
“As useless as a milk bucket under a bull”
“Couldn’t fall off a fence in a wind storm” (Southerners really don’t like useless people)
“I called him everything but a child of God”
“Wouldn’t say soo-ee if the pigs were eating him” (he’s lazy)
“He’s so clumsy he’s like a bear cub playing with his pecker”
“She’s tighter than bark on a tree” (she’s very tight with her money. see also “tighter than Dick’s hat band”, “tighter than a frog’s ass underwater”, “tighter than a pig in a whorehouse chimney”, and “tighter than a preacher’s dick in a cat’s ass.”)

“That dog won’t hunt” (that’s a bad idea, that won’t work)
“That’s as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.” (a dishonest situation. see also “Crooked as a bedspring” and “Crookeder than a barrel of fish hooks”)
Expressing surprise or disbelief: “Well fry my legs and call ‘em drumsticks.”
Said of someone who’s been dead a while: “There’s not enough left of him to spread on toast”.
A foul odor: “liable to knock a buzzard off a shit wagon”
Of things that are none of my business and I don’t want to get involved: “Not my pig, not my farm”. (See also: “I don’t have a dog in that fight”)
“Bad news rides a fast horse” (Bad news travels fast)
Of someone who’s poor: “He doesn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of”
“If steamboats were selling for a dime a dozen, I couldn’t buy the echo of the whistle.”
“I need ___ like Custer needs Indians”
“I may have been born yesterday, but I stayed up all night.” (Translation: I’m not THAT much of a fool. See also “”I was born yesterday, but I got up early.”)
“Do you want your dinner now, or when you get it?”
“I’m so hungry I could eat my elbows.” (see also “I could eat a horse and chase the driver”)
To encourage guests to leave: “Here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?” (Also: “Well, I better go to bed so these nice people can go home.”)
“I’m gonna have a Come to Jesus meeting with him” (I’m gonna give him one last chance to shape up)
“About as broad as it is long” (equivalent to “six one way, half-dozen the other”)
“Went to the outhouse to do his business and the hogs ate him ” (“I have no idea where he is”. See also: “I haven’t seen hide nor hair of ‘em”)

“Well, people in hell want ice water; that don’t mean that they get it.”
“If the dog hadn’t stopped to shit, he’d have caught the rabbit.”

Child: I wish [wish goes here]
Grandma: Wish in one hand and shit in the other. See which one gets filled first.

To an impatient request: “Would you like shit or a sandwich? You can have the shit right now, but the sandwich will take a little while to make.”
“That’s life in the putty knife factory”
“If you were born to be shot, you’ll never drown.” (Don’t worry about things you can’t change)
“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”
“Something in the milk ain’t clean” (something’s wrong, something’s suspicious.)
“Water is bad enough in your shoes; why do you want it in your stomach?” (Translation: “Have some bourbon instead”)
“I didn’t do enough to break Sunday” (I didn’t get anything done)
“Lord willin’ and the Creek don’t rise” (“If all goes well”. See also “Lord willin’ and the clothesline don’t fall down”)
posted by magstheaxe at 10:29 PM on April 11, 2011 [18 favorites]

I forgot grandma's favorite: Oh malarkey! (nonsense! bullshit!)
posted by scody at 10:30 PM on April 11, 2011

"Great Caesar's ghost!"

"She's so ugly she'd make a freight train take a dirt road."

"Whatever churns yer butter."

"Busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest."

"Say, what's the big idea...???" and "moxie", from the 20s, I think.
posted by zardoz at 10:36 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fuddle Duddle.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
Ain't it the truth.
Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.
I didn't just fall off the turnip/ cabbage truck.
Itchin for a bitchin.
Just because it shakes, doesn't mean its jelly. (fat person)
A bird in the hand, is worth two in the bush.
Eatin high on the hog.
He's not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
They've only got one oar in the water.
Stops and makes you think doesn't it?
Hells bells.
posted by Taurid at 10:40 PM on April 11, 2011

Well, Gawd on Friday I must be old as dirt cuz I say prit' near al of these things!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:53 PM on April 11, 2011

Holy Toledo!
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 11:05 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:17 PM on April 11, 2011

Old as dirt.
Dumber than wood.
Dumber than a bag of hammers.
He's a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

And perhaps my all time favorite:

I can call my ass a turkey, but that don't mean it's Thanksgiving.
posted by zardoz at 11:19 PM on April 11, 2011

Built for comfort, not for speed [weighty folk]

Too late she cried, waving her wooden leg [regret]

A wigwam for a goose's bridle [a 'thingumajig' or a 'whatsitsname']

Born in a barn? [don't you shut doors after you?]

Was your dad a glass-maker? [I can't see through you, get out of my way]

x...couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery.

Not even in jest... [get outta town, no way!]

He/she's gotta kangaroo in the top paddock [is a few planks short of a full deck]

He/she's got a face for radio [ouch]
posted by honey-barbara at 11:21 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I often say "Good night!" instead of good grief (which I also say sometimes) or good God.

When flustered, I say "Curses!"

I'm fond of the phrase "stuff and nonsense" and use it in a variety of contexts.

Recently, my English boyfriend said a friend was "having kittens". I think it meant he was really nervous & agitated, but I'd have to check.
posted by bibliophibianj at 11:46 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

My grandparents had a Yiddish phrase they used a lot, which translated to "May you grow like an onion, with your head in the ground." That's always been a personal favorite. I also like it when people refer to things as the "Cat's Pajamas."
posted by baronessa at 12:18 AM on April 12, 2011

(May be AUSist)
His blood is worth bottling (a good person) often contracted to 'he's a bottler'
Cheap at twice the price
You look like the wreck of the Hesperus
Arse like an angry mob
Lots of various rhyming slang...
Two chances.. Buckley's and Nunn (now just expressed as 'Buckley's chance' or 'You've got Buckley's)
posted by Trivia Newton John at 12:27 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Sure as God made little green apples" (absolutely certain)
"God bless it" (as a substitute for God damn it)

Someone up thread mentioned the use of "Mickey Mouse" as a pejorative and I have also heard Mickey Mouse used to mean "small-time, amateurish or trivial". The Wikipedia entry on Mickey Mouse provides some examples, including this one:
In 1984, just after an ice hockey game in which Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers beat the New Jersey Devils 13-4, Gretzky was quoted as saying to a reporter, "Well, it's time they got their act together, they're ruining the whole league. They had better stop running a Mickey Mouse organization and put somebody on the ice."

A favorite expression I have heard in Maine from older people is a negative term that people who live there year around use for summer people - they have been known to call them "the Summer complaints."
posted by gudrun at 12:44 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

My father was a fount of silly phrases which he'd acquired or invented. He was born in 1922 and raised in Lincoln and Grimsby, northern England. Some of the ones I particularly like...

Whenever someone would trip or stumble he'd say, "Pick your feet up... and put 'em in your pocket."

If you were searching for something and asked him where it was he'd say, "In my weskit pocket behind the clock."

When referring to a stupid person: "I've seen more brains in a fish supper."

He had a slightly coy euphemism for shit, which was "garden stuff". So he'd say things like "That's a load of garden stuff" if he thought you were talking rubbish.
posted by Decani at 3:18 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
posted by bricksNmortar at 3:45 AM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

I still use 'Cor blimey' as an expression of surprise. As well as 'having kittens' in the way bibliophibianj suggests.

In the West Midlands some people use 'round the Wrekin' for 'round the houses' (or, going the long way round).
posted by plonkee at 4:11 AM on April 12, 2011

"Darker than hell's cellar".
posted by ryanshepard at 5:42 AM on April 12, 2011

I haven't seen you since Moses wore short pants
posted by jasondigitized at 6:29 AM on April 12, 2011

From my grandmother [b.1903], I picked up the exclamation "Hark!"—which is then usually followed by a turn of the head (to see whose car is pulling in, for example).
posted by mimi at 6:40 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If hopes and wishes were loaves and fishes, we'd never go hungry again.
and similarly
If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas.

I haven't seen you in a coon's age

And one of my favorites

I feel more like I do now than I did when I came in.
posted by Dojie at 6:43 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

My Dad likes "Holy Sapoleo".

For the longest time, we thought Sapoleo was just a made-up word. Turns out it's a brand of soap current at the turn of the 20th century, that used the "cleanliness is next to godliness" idea for its branding and slogans. Hence, Holy sapoleo!
posted by LN at 6:44 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Cheese and crackers!"
"Thank the Baby Jesus!" (my grandma)
"Either shit or get off the pot!" (my grandma, means hurry up and decide)
"Well, I'll be!" (my grandpa)
"He couldn't tell a [noun] from a hole in the ground!" (entire family)
"He doesn't know shit from Shinola!"
"I could do better with a wooden stick!" (my grandpa, often when complaining about the weatherman)
posted by castlebravo at 7:11 AM on April 12, 2011

"Jesus Christ on a crutch!"
"Between you, me and the fencepost"
"Here comes the judge"
posted by jadepearl at 7:15 AM on April 12, 2011

No one says "praytell" anymore.

Also: ending sentences with "Whaddaya say?"
posted by Blandanomics at 7:23 AM on April 12, 2011

My favorite comeback to "Well, I never!" -

"Believe me, dearie, it shows!"
posted by dnash at 7:30 AM on April 12, 2011

"Okey Doke!"
"Okey Dokey!"
posted by Thorzdad at 7:33 AM on April 12, 2011

Bless your heart.
posted by princelyfox at 7:34 AM on April 12, 2011

Sweating like a whore in church (I've seen hotter upthread a cople of times, which just doesn't make sense)
Since God was a boy
As useful as a sack of wet mice
Jumpin Jehosefat!
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 7:50 AM on April 12, 2011

"That's like shoveling flies across a barn." (Doing something pointless and/or endless.)

"Oh, balls." (Kinda like, "Oh, shit." My grandpa said this, and so do I. People thinks it's so vulgar, which tickles me to no end.)

"That's the cat's ass." (To describe something great, like, "The pay isn't much, but the benefits are the cat's ass.")

I try to cuss less around my kids, which has resulted in me saying, Drat, Blast it All, Curses, Egad, and the like. I have not yet resorted to using "sugar" as a cuss word.
posted by Leta at 8:06 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

My grandpa used to say "oh balls" too! I've never known anyone else who said it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:10 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hot dog!
For goodness sake!
Heavens to Betsy!
Oh my word!
Land's sakes!
Man alive!
posted by mike_bling at 8:13 AM on April 12, 2011

Calling someone "a little buck snort"

Two sheets to the wind
Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle.
What d'ya hear? What d'ya say?
Don't build on the low side of the road
Sugar honey iced tea (instead of shit)
posted by vitabellosi at 8:18 AM on April 12, 2011

He thinks he hung the moon.
Everything's hunky-dory.
posted by Killick at 8:27 AM on April 12, 2011

When I mentioned that I fancied one of the waitresses at a restaurant I worked at, the ancient dishwasher called her a 'nickel and dime dishrag slut'. True on all counts...
posted by juliewhite at 9:00 AM on April 12, 2011

Ah! And the ever-useful ejaculation, 'huzzah!'
posted by juliewhite at 9:01 AM on April 12, 2011

Tighter than Dick's hatband
Like Coxey's army (numerous people)
Looked like Death (eating) on a cracker (said of someone who looks very ill)
High, wide, and handsome
Well, I swan if he ain't . . . ! (abbreviated form of "Well, I will swear on a Bible that . . .")
Spittin' image ("He's the spirit and image of . . . ")
Oh, Law! ("Oh, Lord!")

These are from Tennessee and the South.
posted by Jenna Brown at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2011


"I haven't seen him since Heck was a pup" or " . . . since Hector was a pup" (a long time)
"I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers!" (I'd sleep with her.)

That is all.
posted by Jenna Brown at 9:14 AM on April 12, 2011

"You might as well go sit in the corner and spit wooden nickels" (said when you are being useless)
posted by devonia at 10:23 AM on April 12, 2011

Like Coxey's army (numerous people)
posted by Jenna Brown at 12:08 PM on April 12

"Coxey's Army was a protest march by unemployed workers from the United States, led by the populist Jacob Coxey..."

You look like the wreck of the Hesperus
posted by Trivia Newton John at 3:27 AM

"The Wreck of the Hesperus is a narrative poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, first published in Ballads and Other Poems in 1842...Longfellow combined fact and fancy to create this, one of his best-known, most macabre, and most enduring poems..."

Huh. Learned something new today.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:31 AM on April 12, 2011

I think this one only dates back to the 1980s: "Holy Moses Malone"
posted by seiryuu at 10:38 AM on April 12, 2011

To quote my grandmother's favorite phrase: "Tough titty said the kitty when the milk ran dry."

Meaning, stop your complaining. Tough luck. So it goes.
posted by Windigo at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2011

To say someone "tore his drawers" to mean he did something stupid or got in an embarrassing situation through his own fault.
posted by jayder at 11:50 AM on April 12, 2011

Flatter than a fritter (to describe flat things)
Well, I swaney (have no idea about spelling: pronounced swan-ee. Euphemism for "I swear")
That liked to scare the peawockey out of me! / that 'bout scared the peawocky out of me!
Living (or eating) high on the hog (having lots of money, living in comfort or luxury)
In high cotton (life is easy)
posted by aka burlap at 12:31 PM on April 12, 2011

I have a friend from Virginia who's full of these types of sayings. He once described a big butt as resembling "two pigs fighting over a milk dud." My favorite, though, was when a friend won a raffle and he said "that boy's so lucky, he could go bobbing for apples and come up with a titty in his mouth." And whenever I'm really nervous, I find myself "sweating like a whore in church."
posted by Mendl at 1:53 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a fan of "Holy Old Segovia" which seems to mean "holy cow" in the part of Nova Scotia we visit each summer.
posted by semacd at 4:52 PM on April 12, 2011

"dollars to donuts" - I love this Wikipedia definition: Betting someone dollars to donuts is a rhetorical device that indicates that the person is confident but unlikely to care enough about the future event to put their money where their mouth is.

"Lord have mercy!" - an old boyfriend used to say this all the time to express surprise or astonishment. I have picked it up and use it all the time!

"She's got a back on her like a forty dollar hog" - my late grandfather used to say this, and now my mom does, I have no idea why the hog costs forty dollars
posted by jabes at 6:45 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Lost ball in high weeds" - someone who's inept or flighty

Also, I adore the word alas. Use it all the time.
posted by shopefowler at 9:07 PM on April 12, 2011

Also, "take a swag at it." A SWAG is a scientific wild-ass guess.
posted by shopefowler at 9:09 PM on April 12, 2011

My dad used to say, "Ain't no fence around the store" meaning that if I wanted something I could buy it for myself.
Old as pepper and almost as old as salt.
Get on with you!!
posted by ohshenandoah at 9:37 PM on April 12, 2011

more grandma-isms:
I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck (from this song)
He's full of piss and vinegar
posted by scody at 10:14 PM on April 12, 2011

My dad says "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a streetcar!" I don't know what it means or why he says it.

My grandfather is a fan of "FUBAR"
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:15 AM on April 13, 2011

Dunno if these are old timey, and they're rather vulgar but my dad always said them back in the '60s through the '80s: "crazier than a shithouse rat" and "that guy's mouth goes like a sick bird's ass".
posted by ifjuly at 8:34 AM on April 13, 2011

When my (Brooklynese) grandma regretted doing something stupid, she'd say "I could kick myself from here to Canarsie!"

When I looked tired, she'd say "You won't have to be rocked to sleep tonight."

An ex-boyfriend's Kentucky relatives, when proud of something, would "feel like they shot the bear."
posted by tangerine at 10:25 AM on April 13, 2011

Here's another one, courtesy of
posted by holterbarbour at 4:44 PM on April 13, 2011

I tend to say "Jesus Christ" a lot, but lately the six-year-old who lives with me has started blithely repeating words he shouldn't, and a few months ago after hurting myself pretty badly I said "Jeepers creepers" instead.

I felt simultaneously like an idiot and a parenting genius, and now I say it all the time.
posted by kostia at 6:51 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Needs must when the Devil drives.
No rest for the wicked.
Idle hands are the Devil's playmate.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2011

I didn't know 'dollars to donuts' or 'dig' were archaic. 'Fortnight' is in common use in Aus.
'What's the use in changing horses in midstream?'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:40 PM on April 13, 2011

similar to "spit on a griddle" above, my Uncle Dewey says "Quicker than a fart in a skillet." and my mom and all her sisters, whenever they're astounded by something, quote all the names of this Dagenhart family they grew up near: "Oh me mercy, Horace and Percy, Omelie Curly and Wren."
posted by frances1972 at 12:23 PM on April 14, 2011

I have always like to say "Sittin' pretty!"
posted by planetkyoto at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2011

I love, Holy cow!
Jeez, Louise.
my Nebraska aunt used to proclaim Land sakes' alive! which I always heard as Land Snakes Alive, conjuring a very vivid picture of where she hailed from.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:00 AM on April 15, 2011

Hotdog! (must be said in your best Jimmy Stewart voice.)
posted by punchtothehead at 8:15 AM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was knee high to a grasshopper.
Still wet behind the ears.
I don't chew my cabbage twice.
We used to walk ( insert any number here) miles to and from school and it was uphill both ways.
Once in a blue moon.
"See you later" which would get the reply "not if I see you first".
Don't you roll those cotton balls at me.

Theres also one about "pissing/peeing gasoline on an open fire" but I can't recall the exact wording....or meaning.
posted by Taurid at 9:41 AM on April 17, 2011

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