Sunday, August 14, 2011


These are some Southernisms I've collected. Which ones are just American sayings and not necessarily exclusive to the South? I wouldn't know. I know I've heard them here, but the only thing I remember about living up North is the snow being deeper than I was tall.
My personal favorites are, either fish or cut bait and that dog don't hunt because I love the way my husband says them. I remember my grandma telling my sister and me not to "meddle" in her things. Which ones are your favorite? Do you know of any that aren't listed here?
(The sayings with an asterisk are the ones that my Yankee friend informs me aren't exclusive to the South.)

aim to (plan to do)

as easy as sliding off a greasy log backward (very easy)

*barking up the wrong tree (on a path that will lead to wrong conclusions)

be like the old lady who fell out of the wagon (you aren't involved, so stay out of it)
busy as a stump-tailed cow in fly time (very busy)

carry on (to carry on foolishness)

caught with his pants down (surprised and unprepared)
chugged full or chalked full (full and over-flowing)
chunk (throw, toss)
clodhopper (heavy work shoes or large shoes)
'coon (raccoon)
couldn't swing a dead cat without hittin' one of 'em (in reference to a large group)

crazy as Cooter Brown (perhaps involving drunkenness)

directly (in a little while, or a couple of weeks)

Dixie (Southern States of the U.S.A)
Do go on! (you must be joking)
*do-hicky (substitute name - like the terms whatcha-ma-call-it or thinga-ma-jig)
*don't bite off more than you can chew (don't attempt more than you can accomplish)
*don't count your chickens before they hatch (first know the results)
don't let the tail wag the dog (the chief is in charge, not the Indians)

either fish or cut bait (work or make way for those who will)

even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then (everyone is sometimes lucky or right)

falling out (disagreement)

fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down (really super ugly)
feisty (being frisky)
fixing to (about to)
*fly off the handle (angry and lashing out)

*got the short end of the stick (treated wrong; unlucky)

go hog wild (have a good time)
don't go off half-cocked (having only half the facts)
go to bed with the chickens (in bed early)
go whole hog (go for it all)
got your feathers ruffled (upset and pouting)

*have an axe to grind (have a strong opinion)

He can get glad the same way he got mad, or else he's going to die unhappy. (self-explanatory)
hey (hello)
*hold onto your horses (be patient)
*honey (affectionate term)

I do declare! (usually meaning 'my goodness' or some such expression)

I feel like I've been chewed up and spit out or *I feel like I've been run over by a Mack truck (feeling poorly)

I may've been born at night, but it wasn't last night. (I know what's going on here.)
in high cotton (rising up in society)
in a coon's age (a long time)

*laid up (ill, hurt, unable to work)

*like a bump on a log (lazy and doing nothing)
*like two peas in a pod (act and think alike)
mend fences (settle differences)
mess (one who carries on, "He's a mess.")
meddling (getting into things, "Don't meddle in my business!")
much obliged (thank you; hope to return the favor)

my dogs are barking (my feet hurt)

not much going on upstairs (mentally vacant)

*opening up a can of worms (bringing up something unpleasant)

piddle (waste time; doing nothing)

playing opossum (playing dead or pretending to sleep)

reckon (think or suppose so)

She could ruin a two-car funeral. (she ruins everything)
shindig (dance or celebration)
scarce as hen's teeth (so scarce, probably nonexistent)
*sight for sore eyes (Nice to see you!)
sorry (inferior quality, worthless, lazy)
*spring chicken (young thing)
stomping grounds (familiar territory)
sweet talking thing (has a good line)

*tacky (something the Emily Post of the South would not approve of, it could be anything from a snub to wearing white shoes in November)

tacky tacky (the frozen limit of tacky)
tall drink of water (tall and thin)
that dog don't hunt (story doesn't add up)
that takes the cake (surprised)
*tight (stingy with money)
*too big for one's britches (someone's full of themselves)
*two shakes of a lamb's tail (done quickly)

wait on (serve or assist)

Well, shut my mouth (shocked and speechless)
What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? (You are getting off the subject.)
white lightning (moonshine whiskey)
worry-wort (one who worries all the time)

yonder (employed when giving directions-  a ways off)

some sources:



Jeanette said...

many of them I have heard up north,some only here,and there are actually a few I have never heard of!

Esther said...

So which ones are which?:)

Tom L. said...

How about, "crazy as Cooter Brown"? Used to hear that often, but don't hear that one much any more. Ole Cooter must have lived 100 years ago, since only old timers invoke his name.

Jeanette said...

Ok, are you ready?
Sayings that I think are North and South (or at least Mid-west and Southern).
Barking up the wrong tree,instead of chunk it we say chuck it up North, cowlick,do-hicky but more of watcha-ma-call-it and thinga-ma-jig up N,biting off more then you can chew,counting you chickens before they hatchw(with don't put your eggs in one basket).Also fly off the handle,short end of the stick.Having an axe to grind is also exchanged for having a bone to pick.Of course the ever popular "Hey!" with the added "you guys!".Hold on to your horses,honey,being run over by a truck,and instead of being born at night we say "I wasn't born yesterday".Laid up,like a bump on a log,two peas in a pod,and instead of "nothing is upstairs" we say the "lights aren't on" while tapping the forhead or my favorite "the lights maybe on but nobody's home".A can of worms is always a sight for sore eyes and nobody feels like a spring chicken.Being tight is also very tacky and people who are too big for there britches usally can't get anywhere in two shakes of a lamb's tail!
The rest are pure southern goodness:)

Esther said...

Dad, I love that one and am adding it to the list! Reminds me of a Wodehouse book I just finished where one character was calling another character, "mad as a coot!".

Wow, Jeanette! Impressive. I may mark those somehow to show they aren't exclusive to the South.

Lydia said...

Cowlick is a technical term learned in beauty school. :) And can you really go "hog wild" anywhere but Arkansas!?

Esther said...

Okay, so I'll remove cowlick. You may be right about AR...