How to improve my southern speakin' skillz
May 8, 2008 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Please help me expand my base of quaint southern expressions, aphorisms and witticisms.

Obviously I need to read more southern literature and spend some quality time with the good ol' boys here in beautiful Raleigh, NC. But are there any online resources out there? Recommended books? Any southern maxim or locution you're partial to?
posted by willie11 to Writing & Language (103 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
"A wet dog in the house ain't the only way to tell it's raining"
posted by yalestar at 7:21 AM on May 8, 2008


The Triangle is not exactly dripping in red-eye gravy; you can easily get away with being a Yankee. However, I laughed at the following joke because I totally do this:

How do you say "fuck you" in the South?
"That's nice." (Or "bless your heart.")
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:28 AM on May 8, 2008 [10 favorites]


"Put a hurtin' on." Usually employed when describing the devouring of a sandwich.

Metroid Baby, OMG, I just snarfed coffee.
posted by desuetude at 7:34 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Referring to a rainstorm: "That was a frog-strangler."

"If it was a snake, it woulda bit him." Referring to something being nearby.

"You can't shake a stick without hitting a Yankee around here."

"I'm gonna knock you into next week." (My father to us children. When we were little.)

The well-publicized "That dog won't hunt" referring to something that will not work.

"The devil's beatin' his wife." When it is raining and the sun is out.

"She's eat up." Referring to someone inappropriately impressed with him/herself.
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 7:36 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metroid Baby beat me to my favorite. That's not an expression, it's a survival technique!

Even a spotted pig looks black at night. (Things will look better in the morning.)

X could Y the Z off a (animal). Talk the ear off a dog, hind leg off a mule, fleas off a cat, whatever. Infinitely adaptable.

I'm just as fat as a tick. (I'm full.) Cute as a bug. Sharp as a terrier.

Glory be! (Or my great-grandmother's extended version, Glory be to Saint Peter.) Laaaaawdy! My my! Hush yer mouth!

I'm fixin' to. (Getting ready to.)

Speaker A: Looks like it's gonna rain. Speaker B: Tryin' to.

Jeet yet?

I'm sure some of this is peculiar to Texas, but you'll hear some of these everywhere. I'll keep thinking.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:37 AM on May 8, 2008


"You don't have to be a chicken to know a rotten egg".

or my favorite for expressing amazement:

"Well tie my face to the side of a pig and roll me in the mud".

and lastly, one I never understood but was common in part of Alabama,

"I'm as flexible as a warm tub of water" (your guess is as good as mine).
posted by qwip at 7:37 AM on May 8, 2008


A right far piece = far away
Shut the door to = shut the door (although perhaps just my mother said this)
I'll be there directly = I'll be there soon
Buggy = shopping cart/carriage (depending on how Yankee you are/were)
Mama'n'em (mama and them) = my family

I'm East Tennessee-born, so NC might have its own Southernisms. Also, for God's sake, don't fake a Southern accent, particularly if you're originally from north of the Mason-Dixon line.
posted by timetoevolve at 7:38 AM on May 8, 2008


My wife's (Texan/Arkansan) family uses some of the ones above and also one of my personal favorites: "slicker than owl snot" for something that's slick or clever.
posted by JMOZ at 7:41 AM on May 8, 2008


Check out Tennessee Williams, watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (in parts on YT).

When a friend's mother is in a crowed room she says: "There's so many people in here you could stir 'em with a stick."
posted by dog food sugar at 7:43 AM on May 8, 2008


My favorite country-slang.
"she looks like she's been rode hard and put away wet."
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:43 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


My study skills teacher was always fond of, "slower than molasses going uphill in winter" to describe students being particularly thick and/or deliberately obtuse.
posted by oreonax at 7:44 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Look out for the Law." (means Patrol men are along the highway right now)
posted by dog food sugar at 7:45 AM on May 8, 2008


Oh, and the logical continuation of fiercecupcake's suggestion:

Speaker A: Jeet yet?
Speaker B: Naw.
Speaker A: Y'awnt to?
posted by timetoevolve at 7:46 AM on May 8, 2008


Instead of asking for a ride to Wal-Mart, grandma would ask me to carry her to the Wal-Marts. When things were very fine with my grandma, they were fine as frog's hair.

My boss always greeted me in the morning with "Whatcha know good?" Admittedly, I don't know how to respond to this question.

This was all in north Mississippi.
posted by gordie at 7:47 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


“a minute” — probably more like a few hours
“around the bend” — at least 10 miles
“directly” — when I get around to it
“(feeling) poorly” — hung over
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


“kindly” — like / kind of / sort of
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 7:51 AM on May 8, 2008


“watch for deer” — watch for deer (when driving)
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 7:52 AM on May 8, 2008


Nervous as a whore in a churchhouse
(I feel like I've) been rode hard and put up wet
Look like 10 miles of bad road
Doesn't know shit from shinola (shinola's a shoe polish)
Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining

...but be sort of judicious in using these. People who "ain't from around here" often can't pull these off, and worst case sound sort of mocking.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:53 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I lived in New Orleans, I often heard people refer to "makin' groceries" when they meant going shopping for food; also gordie's "carry me to ..." for transportation.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 7:53 AM on May 8, 2008


“pert’near” — close proximity
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 7:54 AM on May 8, 2008


Not sure if this saying is unique to my family but my Papa used to say, "You been drinkin' muddy water" if we were between him and the TV.
posted by deepscene at 7:54 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


'That boy is useless as tits on a boar hog.'
'Well fuck me nekkid runnin backwards.'
posted by dawson at 7:55 AM on May 8, 2008


"Plannin' on" for planning to
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:55 AM on May 8, 2008


Oh, and I always like "colder than the flip side of a pillow on the dark side of a hill".

You should keep in mind that In Raleigh, North Carolina going too far with any of this will make you look like a raving hillbilly. Possibly drunk. Drunk as Cooter Brown, in fact.
posted by gordie at 7:55 AM on May 8, 2008


One of my high school teachers told us she’d never heard “fixin’to” used to mean “about to” as in, “I’m fixin’to whoop yo ass.”
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2008


A: "What fer?"
B: "Cat fur to make kitten britches."
posted by Evangeline at 8:02 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


From a neighbor originally from Tennessee, describing a child in dire need of orthodontia:

"Why, that boy could eat corn through a picket fence."
posted by jamaro at 8:03 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


A favorite preface for explaining things: "Alls ya gotta do is..."
posted by Osrinith at 8:10 AM on May 8, 2008


Heh, JMOZ, I didn't think of it as particularly southern, but I grew up hearing "slicker than shit" in similar circumstances. Owl snot is simultaneously less uncouth and more colorful.
In the category of phrases that are talked about more than they're used (in my world, at least): "he couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel".
I always heard it as "you couldn't stir 'em with a stick" to describe a crowded room -- my mother uses that one pretty frequently.
posted by katemonster at 8:16 AM on May 8, 2008


"I feel like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin chairs."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm fixin' to. (Getting ready to.)

Oh man. When I moved to Nor Cal from Southwest Louisiana, that was one of the phrases I brought with me. Nothing would make my Nor Cal friends laugh more than hearing me say "I'm fixin' to [do whatever]!"

It's been over 5 years now and I still can't stop myself from saying it.

I don't know if this one is strictly a southern thing, but my mom's favorite threat to us was: "I brought you into this world, I can take you out!"
posted by Zarya at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2008


"Well, I'll be dipped in shit." instead of "I'll be damned."

(that can backfire, tho....I once had a boss who responded to that with, "YOu know, that can be arranged.")
posted by notsnot at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2008


Busier than a one-legged man in a kick'n contest.

Ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya.

Ssshhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitbouy (longest word in the Texan language)
posted by michswiss at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2008


When I lived in west Texas, my then boss, a good ol' boy native Texan, had a bunch of these phrases that I had never in my life heard (being a native Yankee). To wit:

"That'll make your socks roll up & down"--something is surprising, exciting
"Well if that don't beat a goose-a-peckin'"--also surprise, amazement
"He's a tall glass of water"--said when somebody who was tall & thin had left the room
"Tighter than a bull's ass at fly time"--um yeah, use your imagination on this one

Also, I've heard, in both SC and in Memphis, the verb "mash" used when I would normally say either "press" or "turn on/off" as in, "mash the light (switch)," "mash the enter key," etc.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:40 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shinola's a shoe polish? Wow. That expression makes a lot more sense now.
posted by 8dot3 at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Use "Right quick" instead of "quickly".
i.e. "Y'all need to get here right quick"
posted by horsemuth at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2008


By the way, if you learn nothing else about speaking like a Southerner, be sure you call a soda by its correct name: Coke. You can go to the Circle K to "pick up some cokes" and return with a Diet Pepsi, a Sprite, and a Dr. Pepper.

"Soda" is acceptable, but never say "pop." Ever. I've lived in the Midwest for ten years and "pop" still offends my sensibilities without fail.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Are you just learning these for fun? I wouldn't use many of them among the locals without expecting some looks. Especially since many "southern" expressions are regional.
posted by fructose at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2008


I like to use the word mayhap in place of maybe. "Mayhap I will, mayhap I won't. No tellin'."

My grandparents are from Kentucky and they use "I reckon" and "out yonder" a lot.

I'm from Texas and soda is never said. Neither is pop, of course. Everything is coke.
Typical Texas restaurant exchange:
What would you like to drink, honey?
A coke.
What kind?
Diet pepsi.
posted by KoobieKitten at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


oops, see Metroid Baby already addressed the coke issue.

Oh, and fixin' to is important to Texas and Louisiana...
As in, "I'm fixin' to go to the store, ya'll want anything?"
Used when you are actually going to the store - immediate future only.
"You gonna paint the house?"
"I'm fixin' to."
Though you should probably pronounce to as tah.
posted by KoobieKitten at 9:05 AM on May 8, 2008


My brother in law was born and bred in Davidson County NC and when he and my sister moved back to his family home they made us Yankees a dictionary. Some things I remember:
"I tell you what" This can be used at the beginning or ending of a sentence.
"Here in a little while" Often used in conjunction with "I'm fixin' ta" like "Here'n a little while I'm fixin' ta go get us some Cheerwine, I tell you what."
Another useful term is "woolybooger" which describes any big, black, hairy dog.
Apparently they also refer to overalls as galluses and winter hats as toboggans.
posted by Biblio at 9:07 AM on May 8, 2008


Shit howdy.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:10 AM on May 8, 2008


Southern understatement can be hilarious. Tommy Lee Jones as the sherriff at the scene of a drug-deal massacre in the desert:

Deputy: Well, this is just a deal gone wrong, innit?
Sherriff: Yup. Appears to have been a glitch in it, too.

Deputy: Well, it's a mess ain't it Sherriff.
Sherriff: If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:17 AM on May 8, 2008


Thirding the coke issue. It really is a big thing with us. Hearing "pop" just makes my skin crawl!! Read the book, "Cold Sassy Tree". Can't remember the author but it is a sweet story about a Southern scandal! A good read.

Did any of you from the south grow up calling white milk "sweet milk"? I did and one of my friends, also from Ga, had never head of that. Thought it was a hoot!
posted by pearlybob at 9:17 AM on May 8, 2008


I knew I was Southern for life when I started saying "might could" without a trace of irony: "Yeah, we might could do that."

Also, ink pen.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:37 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of good ones here, but some of them I heard growing up in rural PA, so they are more country than southern.

Something that confounds me in NC is the cheerful tone of voice they use when they are about to disappoint you:

Me: "Do you have a room?"
Hotel clerk, brightly: "We sure do not!"

No fake sympathy, no change in facial expression, no hint in the tone of voice that they're about to sentence you to sleeping in your car. It sounds just like "We sure do!" and the "not" always comes as a shock.
posted by sevenstars at 9:39 AM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Drunk as Cooter Brown, in fact.

I always heard "Drunker'n a cootie brown" myself.
posted by josher71 at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2008


Also, in the "slick" vein...

"Slicker'n a minner's dick"
posted by josher71 at 9:43 AM on May 8, 2008


"I don't much mind the Yankee that moved next door, but his wife's cornbread would gag a maggot."

"Never you mind about what's going on with the reverend and his son. Those are family matters." (There are times/places where the construction is "Them are...", for emphasis, I think.)

"When I stood outside the recruiter's office to protest the military and all of their killing, I got called everything but a white man" (Or "got called every name in the book" )

"That brother in law of his is about as useless as tits on a bull"

"He didn't have a pot to piss in" (to describe being poor)
"Didn't have two dimes to rub together" (ditto)

(While looking out into the yard at the delighted kid playing on his tricycle): "That boy of yours is happier than a pig in shit"

n-thing the "don't intentionally change your accent" advice. Your authentic one will develop over time, all by itself.

And cornhole is not a beanbag tossing game.

"ink pen", "straight pin"
"Tea", "Sweet Tea", "Hot Tea", "Sun Tea"

(Me: Urbanite, grew up in DC, with parents/family from rednec rural Virginia and Western North Carolina. I can still say "Vah'jin-yah" correctly, and will unthinkingly slip back into that sort of drawl when I'm drinking with others who share it.)
posted by toxic at 9:48 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not from the South myself, but I've always been partial to "Dumb as a bag of hammers."

(My favorite is "sharp as a bag full of wet mice," but I don't think anyone actually says that other than Foghorn Leghorn.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:56 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


To continue on the "bless X heart" trope, I've always heard that you can politely say ANYTHING about someone if you preface it with "bless his/her heart." As in, "Bless his heart, he's dumber'n a sack of hammers!"

And it seems like there was a thread about goat-roping here a couple of weeks ago. That's a good one, too.
posted by Shohn at 10:00 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, every carbonated drink is called coke. Soda is a yankee word and is horrifying to hear.

Some we use:

Saying goodbye: "Y'all take care."
Expressing thanks: "'preciate it."
Deterring rudeness, especially in children: "don't be ugly."
Ridiculous behavior: actin' a fool or cuttin' a fool. "Bobby was actin' a fool in class today."

We always said "he doesn't know shit from Shinola". My father always used hog snot instead of owl's snot. Hog snot sounds good together. It kinda rhymes. My father tells my kids that he is going to "rap a knot on their heads." (jokingly of course) "don't go too far or I'll rap a knot on your head (or noggin)."
posted by LoriFLA at 10:01 AM on May 8, 2008


My Okie family is partial to saying, "Well, shit fire and save the matches!" in place of "Wow, that's neat!"
posted by Kloryne at 10:06 AM on May 8, 2008


Donna Brazile: "Don't start with me, baby." (She's from New Orleans.)
posted by Carol Anne at 10:11 AM on May 8, 2008


Another is goober. A goober is a doofus. It's a term of endearment. Goober can also be used as an adjective.

Said this past weekend to my sister:
"Why are you wearing those goober shoes (flip-flops) hiking? Everybody knows you have to wear your tennis shoes hiking."
posted by LoriFLA at 10:18 AM on May 8, 2008


I'm with sevenstar, as I've heard many of these fine phrases in rural PA country--where you'd sound like a Southerner, but every Southerner would call you a Yankee.

My absolute favorite is so hick-ish that it'd probably make a Southerner think you sound dim: "heyna?" translated as "isn't that right?" An old neighbor of mine used to end every sentence with it. He also never thought it was weird that every sentence of his ended up being a question.

Also once knew a guy who would use a variant: "h'aint?" As in, "Looks like it's fixin' to rain, h'aint?"
posted by BenzeneChile at 10:18 AM on May 8, 2008


So many good ones!

Keep yer eyes peeled.

Well, that's a self-eatin' watermelon!

Some people say "sucker" for lollipop and "crown" for crayon, but pretty much everybody says "spicket" for "spigot."

For standing in front of the TV, my partner always says, "Yer daddy wasn't a glassmaker" or "You make a better door than a window."

Them's good eatin'!

Now, since we've given you all these suggestions, how 'bout you go on down to the store and get us a coke? I'll take a Dr Pepper.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2008


My grandma is a fine specimen of Mississippi by way of rural Ohio, and uses Y'ins, not Y'all and "bought a pig in a poke" to describe any foolish blunder.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:26 AM on May 8, 2008


(And don't tell me you got a hitch in your get-up OR your git-along.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2008


What about soft drink? That was said in place of "pop" or "soda" in middle Tennessee.
posted by josher71 at 10:28 AM on May 8, 2008


One evening I made some suggestions to my SO while he was cooking supper, and he said, "I'm skinnin' this possum".
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh and don't get "too big for yer britches!"
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2008


"If it was a snake, it woulda bit him."
Variants:
"If it was a snake, he'd be dead"
"Thank god it weren't a snake"

The one that I use with some regularity is "Punch it, Diddy!" meaning "Please accelerate the conveyance, Father."
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2008


If you can get your hands on some Andy Griffith Show reruns, that'll give you a good idea of what to expect. It's roughly based on Mt. Airy, NC, around the bend from Raleigh (or about 140 miles).
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:42 AM on May 8, 2008


The above list pretty much encompasses everything that reminds me of my (relatively) southern upbringing. I would definitely add a word of caution here, though. As someone from a relatively rural area (western OK), using these in place of your normal speech patterns has the potential to come off very poorly.

As an example, my current workplace uses "We're callin' calfrope on that one" meaning things were all tied up with nothing you can do about it. When a new manager relocated here from the west coast, he tried to adopt this phrase as a way to fit in. The result was more along the lines of a running joke for the locals with him completely in the dark to the whole thing. Just something to watch out for...
posted by conradjones at 10:49 AM on May 8, 2008


There's more than one way to skin a cat.
posted by likesuchasand at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2008


Bookhouse's old-school southern grandpa used to say "luckier than a two peckered preacher". You might want to check out his previous post here on dirty Ozark folk tales.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2008


"Mighty white of ya." Generous, polite, good of you.
"Durn." "Gol durned." "Shoot." "Dag nab it." Expressions of dismay, or disapproval.
"Ah could jess cusssssss." I'm too mad to speak civilly, so I'm just gonna drawl until I'm not.
"Sweet on ya." Love you, or at least like you a lot.
"Beat with the ugly stick." Homely, not fair featured, perhaps even revolting.
"Pie-Eyed." Drunk.

Southerners are drawn to archaic words, too, and particularly nearly obsolete verbs. They still hanker. They cipher. They noodle. They conjure. They fuss. They dawdle, and dandle babies doing it, while proffering the babes foolers. They jaw at you. They heard you the fust time. And they ain't, at one time or another, nearly everything.

The Recent Unpleasantness was concluded by Sherman marching across Georgia. If you carry someone summers, you are transporting him "somewheres" (that's a little bigger territory than is covered by the singular "somewhere"). If you just carry him, you're lending him money short term, and he might give you a shinplaster (an IOU) to remind him later.

And a goober is a peanut. Preferably green, and boiled, and still warm in the salty water. An RC is not a Coke or a radio controlled anything, it's a Royal Crown cola, and it's noticeably sweeter and less fizzy than a Coke, and perfect for putting a handful of salty roasted goobers in, right before you drink it.
posted by paulsc at 11:23 AM on May 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


"He's as lost as last year's Easter eggs."

If you can drop this without blinking an eye, you'll pass in my family.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:38 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"What it was, was football"--classic NC comedy, by Andy Griffith.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:42 AM on May 8, 2008


If I had my 'druthers ...
i.e. "If I had my 'druthers, I'd be fishin' instead of fixin' to mend this fence." Basically, if I had a choice, or could follow my preference. I know I've heard it on several occasions, but the only reference I can come up with is reading it in To Kill a Mockingbird.
As I recall, "'druther" is a bastardised contraction of "I would rather", making it semi-logical.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 12:07 PM on May 8, 2008


"That boy's slicker than eel snot."
"I'm so mad I could spit quarters."
"If a frog had wings he wouldn't bump his butt on the ground." (Southern version of "If wishes were horses beggars would ride.")
posted by konolia at 12:30 PM on May 8, 2008


Oh, and when someone is proven right about something formerly in dispute:

"When I tell you the blueberries are ripe, BRING THE BUCKET."
posted by konolia at 12:31 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Tighter than Dick's hatband." Referring to a cheap person.
"I don't know him from Adam's housecat." About someone you don't know.
"Hotter than a billygoat's a$$ in a pepper patch." Temperature.
"Colder that a well-digger's a$$." Temerature
"Colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra." Temperature
"Raining like pi$$ out of a boot." Weather.
"I have to pee like a rushin' racehorse." Obvious
posted by tadellin at 12:39 PM on May 8, 2008


Oh, and "If a frog had pockets, he'd carry a handgun."
posted by tadellin at 12:41 PM on May 8, 2008


This week I heard, "Shittin' in tall cotton," for the state when everything's going right.
posted by lauranesson at 12:49 PM on May 8, 2008


Dumb as a brick, or dumb as a post.
posted by MythMaker at 12:50 PM on May 8, 2008


I'm with sevenstars, most of these are general rural/country more than southern-specific. Either that or the South annexed upstate New York and didn't tell anyone.
posted by Skorgu at 1:31 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had a southern friend say "I tell you what" whenever he was agreeing with me and it threw me off. In the north, it's a preamble to actually disclosing information.

North: "I only have $1 left." "I tell you what: Give me that $5 and I'll give you two candy bars instead of one."

South: "It's freezing out tonight!" "I tell you what." (silence) ... "Well... what?!"
posted by yeti at 1:37 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


A lot of locals (Raleigh) say "Do what?" instead of just "what?" Took me a while to pick up on that one.

Also, there are the useless adjectives / adverbs like ink pen and digging shovel.
posted by premortem at 2:35 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Heard just today in a dry, flat response to "How are you?":

"If I were doing any better I wouldn't know what to do with myself."
posted by Smallpox at 3:25 PM on May 8, 2008


"Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split'ya!"

Also, my favorite, "all y'all's" -- "You better'un git all y'all's butts off this ere porch and git back to work."
posted by amanda at 4:08 PM on May 8, 2008


useless adjectives / adverbs like ink pen

Um... in not insignificant parts of the south east, the words pen and pin sound almost identical (except for a slightly longer duration of the vowel sound in pen among some speakers - sort of a "pehen" vs "pehn"). The adjective may be useless when written, but in the absence of context, it can be quite helpful in spoken English.
posted by toxic at 4:53 PM on May 8, 2008


Tump, as in, "Quit foolin' with that, you're gonna tump it over!" (Maybe a combo of turn/dump?)
Colder than a frog gigger's butt.
"He's so stupid, he couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel."
"I"ll be dipped in shit" and "Shit fire and save the matches!" are 2 that brought back some memories as I read them...heck, almost all of these answers remind me of my dear Southern grandparents, raised "in the hills" in Arkansas.
posted by Teh Bean at 5:02 PM on May 8, 2008


"She was eat up with it." (not too smart a person. My very un-PC father likes to add 'with the dumbass' on the end of that.)

It sure is comin down out there! (rain) "Well, it sure would look funny goin up!"

The word pop literally makes my skin crawl. It's all coke, doesn't matter what kind it is.

"Colder'na well-digger's ass"

"Happier than a puppy with two peters"
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:07 PM on May 8, 2008


Here's a little collection called "Texas Crude" from The Whole Earth Review a few years back. Once in a while I get to throw one of these out at work, where they're both geographically and socially inappropriate (=fun).
posted by sneebler at 6:00 PM on May 8, 2008


fair to middlin for "feeling so-so.
posted by passtehbrainz at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2008


From my dad:

"She got eyes bluer than a cross eyed carpenters thumb."
posted by tkchrist at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Delicious food should be referred to as "slap-your-momma good," as in "so good you'd slap your own mother away from the table to get the last piece."

My favorite aphorism, not widely used, but this comes from a board-certified hillbilly and is the best advice I ever heard when facing one or more unpleasant situations: "If you have to eat a frog, it's best not to look at him too long. If you have to eat two frogs, eat the big one first."
posted by middleclasstool at 7:52 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I grew up in southern Ohio so take that for what it's worth.
1) it's pop, not soda, not coke etc. It IS pop. (I've also heard it called "soda water" and they weren't talking about carbonated water)
Favorites from my dad,
"Raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock." (that one has a great visual if you've spent much time around cows)
And "Hotter than a half fucked fox in a forest fire."
I've also heard, "dummer then a box of dirt" yes it's "then" not "than" I don't know why.
A: So?
B: Sew buttons!

A: Well..
B: That's a deep subject

A: Huh?
B Huh hell, pull a pigs tail it'll say uh-huh

A: Guess what!
B: Chicken butt.

Oh and one more from my dad, "Givem books, sendem to school and what do they do? Stand in a corner and stick beans in their ear" (your guess is as good as mine)
posted by Kioki-Silver at 9:59 PM on May 8, 2008


That boy is about as sharp as a loaf of bread.

That'll learn ya. (After pissing on an electric fence.)

Also, know that the word "Dinner" means the afternoon meal.
posted by bigmusic at 12:06 AM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


When someone is shocked or surprised by something, they will explain what the shock or surprise almost caused them to do:

"I like to have [insert activity]." Examples:

“I like to have died,” usually shortened to “I like to died.”

“I like to have fell out,” usually shortened to “I like to fell out.”

Example usage: "That time Mildred brought a cooler of beer to the Baptist picnic, I like to fell out."

"Fell out" means drop to the floor in a faint.
posted by jayder at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2008


One of my dad's favorite sayings is, "So lazy he wouldn't hit a lick at a snake."

In the south, a "lick" is a hit. For example, back when corporal punishment was accepted at school, if you were going to get paddled you would say, "I had to go to the principal's office for ten licks."

So to say that someone is so lazy they wouldn't hit a lick at a snake, means they're so lazy they can't even bothered to hit a snake that is about to bite them.
posted by jayder at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2008


My Yankee friends thought it was hilarious when I said I had "a hankering to wrastle with some pups" when I meant I had the desire to play around with some (not necessarily puppy-age) dogs.

In Texas you'll also hear:
-"alright" as a placeholder denoting general agreement or indication of following along with a story rather than in response to a specific question. Akin, to "uh-huh" I guess.

-"Shoot" in a "I agree", "wow, what a story", or "I (very obviously) agree with your statement, why did you even ask?"

- "went to a show" would mean movies, not concerts or anything. More so with older folk.

- If you order "tea" in a restaurant you mean sweetened iced tea. Period.

- Asking if someone is "touched" or "a bit touched" means you're asking if they have actual mental problems/are slow.

- of course "y'all." I'm pretty unapologetic about this one, I mean really, it just makes more sense than any two-word replacement. We're more linguistically efficient is all.

- "mosey" for walk slow.

- Not in Texas, but definitely in Little Rock and thereabouts, you'll hear "The War" used in place of "The Civil War"

Verifying:
"toboggan" for knit-wool winter hat. Endlessly confusing to the locals during my first winter here in Boston

"coke" for any soda-type drink and "pop" being like fingers on a chalkboard.

"fixin' to" for getting ready/about to do something. I actually didn't know this was just a Southern thing until I moved up north.

(Geez. On review I guess it's not just the drawl that makes people instantly able to identify me as a Texan)

And as a tangent, maybe some Yankees can explain the whole replacing "-er" for "-a" at the ends of words (tuner for tuna for example) and/or pronouncing "sure" as "shore".
posted by doppleradar at 8:23 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


1) it's pop, not soda, not coke etc. It IS pop.

Fail. Plenty of places in the South and the Ozarks refer to it as "Coke." In fact, I've lived nearly all my life in Arkansas, Tennessee, and the Missouri side of the Ozarks, and in all three I've heard soda referred to generically as "Coke."
posted by middleclasstool at 8:25 PM on May 9, 2008


Yeah, as Metroid Baby and middleclasstool said, pop is not typically southern. It makes my ears bleed -- and I'm not a Coke diehard. I'm fine with soda or soft drink, but pop? No way. Among other things, some southern parents (though not mine) refer to corporal punishment of any variety less than a whipping as "a pop" -- so hearing a parent ask a child, "You want a pop?" sounds like the child is acting up in the grocery store and is being threatened with a smack on the leg or the mouth if they don't straighten up.
posted by katemonster at 6:26 AM on May 10, 2008


My absolute favorite: "He didn't have time to piss and shake it twice." It means something happened suddenly, or someone did something very quickly.

As in: "And next thing you knew, his boss fired him. Poor thing didn't have time to piss and shake it twice."

I always thought this was just something my mom said until I actually heard another Southern person of no relation say it. It returns no Google results, but rather than let this deter me from sharing it, I see it as my mission to spread this phrase. It certainly sounds Southern enough, and it's hilarious.

For what it's worth, my mom grew up in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. I suspect it's from some part of the Texas-Louisiana border.
posted by Nattie at 7:02 AM on May 10, 2008


On the "pop" thing, I grew up in Texas and everyone I know cringes when we hear someone call it "pop." I mean it's beyond simply "we don't say that," the word "pop" itself sounds like anathema to us. It's soda or coke, even when we're not referring to brand-name Coca-cola, similar to how people will ask someone to "xerox" something even if they don't have Xerox brand copier.
posted by Nattie at 7:06 AM on May 10, 2008


Another thing I just thought of: down South, a lot of times we'll say, "I'm trying to get sick." I never even gave this phrase much thought until it confused non-Southerners. All it means is that a person is in the early stages of a cold, not that they're literally making an effort to get sick because they want to. It's kind of short-hand for, "A virus/bacteria is trying to infect me," or "My body is trying to get sick although I don't want it to." It sounds pretty nonsensical, but there you have it.

Example conversation:

Person A coughs.
Person B says, "What's wrong?"
Person A says, "Oh, nothin'. I'm just tryna get sick. I've been fightin' off this cough for a week now, I can't afford to miss any work."
posted by Nattie at 7:10 AM on May 10, 2008


"If you can't run with the big dogs, you better stay on the porch with the pups."
posted by jayder at 11:37 AM on May 10, 2008


Another thing I just thought of: down South, a lot of times we'll say, "I'm trying to get sick."

This reminds me of another use of "trying" that I find interesting. I'm a lawyer, and sometimes when I am representing a client in a criminal case who has been offered a plea agreement involving jail time, the client will say, "I ain't tryin' to go to jail." It means, "I really do not want to go to jail."
posted by jayder at 11:40 AM on May 10, 2008


I was thinking "partial to" itself might be a southernism, but you have that one in your actual question. I don't seem to hear it that much around New York, though.

For the stupidity phrases, I'm partial to "dumb as a stump" for the internal rhyme.

My dad likes the full formal version of thanking: "I thank you" instead of just "Thank you."

I have a freind near Atlanta whose mother always threatened to "jerk a knot" in her when she was misbehaving (if you don't quit that screeching, I will jerk a knot in you!") It does sound threatening to a child, even if you're not exactly sure what it means.
posted by timepiece at 1:18 PM on May 17, 2008


I haven't seen this one mentioned yet : home is Western North Carolina and my Dad says "arsh (Irish) potatoes" to distinguish regular white potatoes from sweet potatoes.
posted by Theresa at 9:28 AM on May 21, 2008


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