Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Southern expressions - uglier than armpits?

I’m a fan of those joke-a-day desk calendars. A recent entry on my new 2008 calendar, focusing on humorous insults, contained this supposedly “Southern expression”: “She’s uglier than a lard bucket full of armpits.”

This made me chortle a bit, but rest assured that as a near-native of this area with family roots going way back in the South, I have never heard anyone say this.

I have, however, heard newcomers repeatedly comment on Southern expressions they find either charming or somewhat perplexing, such as the ever-present “Bless your heart” – is it cloaked insult or true empathy?

A personal favorite of mine is “tickled pink.” How could you not smile if someone told you they felt that way? And I've heard the insult that someone is "dumber than a sack of hammers." I also enjoy stories that involve hollerin’ or skeedaddling somewhere.

A friend mentioned he hears about “Adam’s housecat” down here sometimes – as in, “I wouldn’t know that guy from Adam’s housecat.”

What about you? What are some favorite Southern expressions you’ve heard – or need translation for? Post 'em here.

84 Comments:

Anonymous Southern Belle said...

One of my favorites is "coming up a cloud" meaning it's going to rain. And how about when we say "mash the button" oh and how about when we say "that went through me like Sherman went through Georgia!"

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Danimal said...

How about "I'm fixin' to...", "right quick", and my pesonal favorite, "Who pi**ed in your Corn Flacks this morning?"

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make that 'flakes'.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous BD said...

I've used "dumber than a box of rocks", and "dumb as a doorknob". I am also ashamed to admit I've used "He wouldn't know his a$$ from a hole in the ground".

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One my mother heard in the medical profession after installing a guy's new hearing aid - "WOW - I can hear a rat pi**ing on cotton"

One of my favorites - "Oh I'll do that at the drop of a hat"

Growing up in the country you would hear a ton of great ones - "I'll kill him dead" or the ever popular variation - "Just shot him dead"

"Beating a dead horse"


OOO one along the lines of "Bless Their Heart" .... God Rest Their Soul. As in - "I don't mean to talk bad about the dead, but God rest her soul, she did get around town."

2:09 PM  
Anonymous confirmedbachelor said...

How about the southern phrases of identifying a gay person?

Light in the Loafers
He Had on a dirty shirt
Sugar in the tank

or the ever popular and making a comeback, we saw it in Steel Magnolias, "He's a confirmed bachelor"


NO getting pissed off about the blog - its meant in fun - as I'm a Confirmed Bachelor myself.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Buddy Row said...

Who the heck is "Buddy Row"? As in, "I'm telling you, Buddy Row."

2:21 PM  
Blogger Clamboi said...

I grew up on the coast of North Carolina, and two of my favorites are 'happy as a clam in mud' and 'dumb as a conch'.

Along the 'happy' lines, I've also heard 'happy as a pig in mud' more than once in my life.

One of my dad's favorites, to keep from using words like %$*$ or @!*$&, he'd say 'Great Granny's Alive!!"

Finally, the venerable quote at the end of of a meal, 'I think my eyes were bigger than my stomach'.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Bless_His_Heart said...

"Bless his heart, he couldn't punch his way out of a wet paper bag"

"Bless his heart, he couldn't find his a$$ with a flashlight and a compass"

"Bless her heart, she can't carry a tune in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid"

"Bless her heart, she has gotton big as a house"

"Bless his heart, he couldn't hit he broad side of a barn"

2:36 PM  
Anonymous southern belle said...

for confirmed bachelor another phrase I've heard is a person has "sugar in their shoes"
oh and how about "I've got to carry him to the store" and let's fix a "mess" of greens.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's two more "happy" ones from the Lowcountry:
"Grinning like a mule eating briars", and "grinning like a dead pig in the sunshine".
And as a bonus, one more from I heard from a friend from Winston: "Grinning like a possum eating sh** on a wire brush."

3:00 PM  
Anonymous homeboy said...

My mother (81 years old) said this one the other day expressing determination. "He woulda done it if it hadda hare lipped the whole nation!"
I'm also partial to someont getting "beaten like a rented mule", or being treated like a 'red headed stepchild".

3:01 PM  
Anonymous 99 said...

danimal is near 'bout the stupidest sumbeach I've ever known.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cold as a witches tiddy in brass bra....

My mom is big on using "it was just like the Katzenjammer Kids to describe situations of complete bedlam. Thanks to the internet, it turns out it was a comic strip: "Inspired in part by Max Und Moritz, the famous German children's stories of the 1860s, The Katzenjammer Kids featured the adventures of Hans and Fritz, twins and fellow warriors in the battle against any form of authority."

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweatin like a wh*re in church

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being from South Carolina, I've always known these as "expressions." Not "southern expressions." I enjoy non-natives that feel obligated to point these things out that we natives often take for granted and don't recognize as unique.

I learned from a yankee roommate in college that its incorrect to "cut the light out." Apparently up north you "turn the light off."

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy as a pig eating slop

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, other anonymous, you'da heard em as "sayins", not "expressions" if you were from the part of South Carolina I'm from. It's just something "the old people used to say". "old people" refers to anyone born before the turn of the century and was a term used by my father to indicate the highest respect for the subject.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Beamer from Hell said...

"I'm as full as a tick"

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't forget "nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs"

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember years ago sitting in a quiet restaurant in Charleston; at a nearby table, when the waiter asked if they would like anything else, like dessert, the elegant woman said, "Oh goodness no, I've had my gracious plenty." Isn't that a genteel way to reply?

I've also heard it said that "I'd sooner eat a handful of green snakes!"

Another one comes to mind, but I don't want to be too crude, so I won't say it........oh well why not: In "The Right Stuff", one of the astronauts (a Southerner) exclaims "I'm so hungry I could eat the a-- end out of an alligator!"

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my personal favorites is what my yankee mother has started saying. I don't knwo who she picked it up from but I love it. "It's raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock."

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one I keep hearing is "I'll be on you like white on rice." I don't really get it... maybe it's because I eat brown rice. Oh, and a woman I know gets "as angry as a Georgia thunderstorm." And the one that annoys me to the point that I have to overanaliyze it is when someone has a headache, and someone else says, "if I had a head like that, it'd hurt too." I have no clue what it means!! What about my head makes it hurt on others??

5:19 PM  
Anonymous kim said...

WHAT!? No one has mentioned "Don't know them from Adam's housecat"

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

-High as a Georgia pine (drunk)
-Grinnin' like a mule eatin' briars (happy and a bit smug about it)
-Bless your heart (runs the gamut from bless your heart to !@#$% you
-I'm a fixin' to (preparing to)
-Confirmed bachelor (gay, and I am too)
-Three sheets to the wind (drunk)
-Right...whatever. Right smart, right dumb, right here, whatever. (right meaning especially or even significantly.)
-I declare, I swan (a mild oath, and I swan is likely a corruption of I swear)
-Buddy row (dude)
-I'll do it if it hare-lips every cow in Texas (I will undoubtedly do it, no matter the consequences)
-crack (open slightly) a window
-every little pig path (every place and town, no matter how small or insignificant)
-went all over hell and half of Georgia (meaning covered a lot of ground needlessly)
-land office business (from the opening of Oklahoma to homesteaders, meaning very busy and taking in lots of money)

8:17 PM  
Anonymous catherine said...

Bless your heart is not always negative it can be just a mere statement that you feel for the person...so for example...some states "I had to wait in line for 45 mins" and the response very well may be "Bless your heart"...like "Wow, sounds horrible I am so sorry for you"...so prior to getting offended...consider the source...is it is someone who is a "Zinger"...false and often times nasty while smiling very sweetly...the beware....

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a couple of others
"cannot swing a dead cat without hitting one" referencing lawyers...

or

why "pee up a rope" ...meaning it is useless why try?

8:40 PM  
Anonymous yo yo knucklehead said...

shoot i can not believe shoot has'nt been mentioned or "tighter than a mouses ear" "jackleg" which has 2 different meanings or "i would'nt know him from a can of paint" or "its supper time" meaning it is lunch time or dinner time just not breakfast time."graba$$ing" which means not working playing my boss has a slew of them ain't is my favorite it

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People in hell want ice water an they aint gettin it. Or shut your PECAN PIE HOLE. How about empty drum makes the most sound .

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about she s so flat she d make a wall jealous;

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok..how about - it's just a fur piece down the road... (HUH??) I guess that is the same as - it's over yonder...

Being from the north (Indiana) I guess it means - hey! it's over there! or Down that way!!

ha ha...I love the southern expressions!!!

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my old lady's daddy says "wish in one and and sh*t in the other, and see which one gets full first."

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

correction to the above comment... "wish in one hand, and sh*t in the other, and see which one gets full first." another one... "I wouldn't p**s in his a$s if his guts were on fire." thems sayins are straight outta Northbrook. :)

9:55 PM  
Anonymous sip said...

i have the same calendar, and i'm from the south and thought the same thing - never heard that stupid phrase!

i can hear scarlett o'hara now...

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Bless my Buddy Row Heart said...

9:50 PM - I heard it a little different, although as a reference to the power of prayer:

"1,000 pray in one hand and one person [#2] in the other and see which one fills up first."

About "cut on [something]" -- I have heard that before. The first time I heard the expression I thought to myself that it makes sense to cut something off but have you ever tried to cut something back on? Try it with a piece of string.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I "mispent my youth" in Alabama only a Yankee would say expressions, they were "Sayans". But the hog reference was a bit more graphic as in: "Happier than a Dead Hog in the sun." Also I've seen several references to the "Wouldn't know his..." I always heard it was a shotgun not a hole in the ground.

6:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer quotes instead of expressions.

Can you name the author...

"I think we Southerners have talked a fair amount of malarkey about the mystique of being Southern."

8:40 AM  
Anonymous confirmedbachelor said...

my grandmother, god rest her soul, used to say in response to someone saying "if"..."if a frog had wings he wouldnt thump his a-- when he jumped"

as in..well if I could do something, well if a frog had wings.......

Another big one amoung the older crowd is how they know its going to rain...

Ya'll my knee is all kinda tight today, must going to be one heck of a rainstorm

How about a gullywasher? Meaning a hard rain.

Or "getting gussied up". Meaning to get cleaned and dressed up nice.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous confirmedbachelor said...

OH and the response to anonymous about who said the quote...Reynolds Price

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't seen these two, so I'll add them.

1) What in the Sam Hill are you doing?

2) I'm going to bless them out.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When going to get into an argument with someone..

"I'm going to have a word of prayer with that boy"

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Dean is God said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A new one to me since moving here from NY is, "Well, I'll be dogged." (An expression of surprise.)

6:27 PM  
Blogger Mockingbird said...

"Cattywampus" for "crooked." As in, "Sugar, fix that, won't you? That tablecloth's gone all cattywampus."

8:05 AM  
Anonymous confirmedbachelor said...

Surely we can improve on that and use some of our more southern expressions...

"Honey, oh bless your heart, would you mind fixin' that tablecloth. Its done gone all cattawompus. OH thank you sugar"

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever notice in the south - no matter HOW hot it is, if the airconditioner isn't working right - it always "needs freon". Nevermind its 150 degrees in the shade on a good day.

Sissy, your airconditioner isn't working at all. I know, it probably needs freon

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this one: I'm going to have a come to Jesus meeting with him.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"queer as a steer" or "Queer as a three dollar bill" in Texas you wear a cowboy hat "your either a steer or a queer"

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Jimbo said...

I agree that, "Bless THEIR heart" is the pre-cursor for a back handed complement but I have also used, "Bless YOUR heart" to truly complement someone.
The saying I absolutely cannot stand is, "Cut it ON". As noted in an earlier reply its origins are obviously in turning or switching something OFF, but by definition the former is a oxymoron.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been busier than a 1 legged man in a butt kicking contest

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

he/she is as ill as a soretail cat

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about...

"slow as molasses"

I use that all the time.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous TXgirl said...

I think folks farther north call their grandchildren "grandkids". My Nanny called me her "grandbaby" until the day she died, and I was well into my 30's.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mammanem -- Mama and the whole rest of the family, as in "how's your mammanem?" (I've heard of "pappanem" too, but it was rarely used.)

Meemaw/Pawpaw -- grandmother/grandfather

7:50 AM  
Anonymous NorthernGirl said...

How bout: "Friday, a week" instead of: "a week from Friday".

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always use "dumb as a coal bucket" and it always cracks up my boyfriend.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

When I was a sheriff's deputy in south Florida, my sergeant would always say, "he looks scared'r than a long-tail cat in a room full of rockin' chairs."

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a few to add to the list...

"Don't make me ill."

"I'll knock you so far into next week you'll see Sunday on both ends."

"Don't get smart with me now missy."

"He ain't got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of."

12:11 PM  
Anonymous grits said...

My sister still says this - "Gah lay" as an expression of surprise
How about:
"Like a calf staring at a new gate" – confusion
"If it hare lipped the Pope"
"Getting beaten like a Hebrew slave"
"Stuffed as a tick"
"Don’t piss in the wind"
"Busier than a one-armed ditch digger"
"Handier than a shirt pocket"
"I’m so broke I can’t even pay attention"
"Three days older than dirt"

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stick a fork in 'em, they're done" meaning, e.g., the Panthers in the 3rd quarter.

"Close only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades."

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Southerner, but I over heard one of the older relatives at a get together say "Oh he was slicker than a snot rag on a door knob" and I about lost it.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tighter than Dick's hat band (drunk)
Full as a tick.
Faster than a spotted ape.
My soles are so thin, when I step on on quarter I can tell you which end is up.
Unglier than the south end of a north bound mule.
Colder than a well diggers a$$.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Born in Charlotte said...

How about a "nice nasty" to describe a fake or underhanded compliment and one my dad always used to describe bad dental work, "she could eat an ear of corn through a picket fence."

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Fargofan said...

Here is one from the NC Mtns.
My grandmother used to say,
"he's going after it like a chicken on a june bug"

and they would call a paper bag,
a poke.
oh, and don't forget,
"It's going to rain, I feel it in my bones"

1:51 PM  
Blogger Larry S said...

"She's so ugly that she could scare a starving buzzard off a bucket of warm guts."

3:02 PM  
Anonymous JRBUNC said...

Growing up in western N.C, my Grandmother would say after work every Friday, "I'm done and I ain't gonna strike a lick at a snake 'till Monday!"
JRBUNC

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Describing someone ugly.... "Ugly as home made sin"

and

Describing how bad someone looked, "standing there looking like who done it and run" which means, disheaveled, frazzled

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Ernie said...

one of my Mom's favorites was "right now in a minute", meaning soon.

Q: "When will the cookies be ready?"
A: "Right now in a minute"

1:27 AM  
Blogger Martha said...

Ya'll, as the offspring of an Alexander County native (my daddy was born in a cabin on Sugarloaf Mountain, then later moved to Kannapolis), I'm LOVING this stroll down mem'ry lane.

Please call into my radio show, "A Way with Words" about some of these sometime (http://waywordradio.org), or email us: words@waywordradio.org

We'd love to talk with ya'll about some of this stuff!

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ugly as sin


She’s so poor she ain’t got two nickels to rub together


You can’t get blood from a turnip

It looks like he got beat with the ugly stick

He'd lose his head if it wasn't attached to him



"playing opossum"

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm makin some corn pone. "Yon't some?"

10:30 AM  
Blogger Gideon Mitchell said...

"Tickled pink" is an old English saying too. My mother might have said that; she's in her eighties.

Another good one I heard from an American trainer is, "dumb as a burnt stump".

11:23 AM  
Blogger Payperbiz said...

Never understood what "that makes the cheese more binding" meant but heard it many times before.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From South Cackylackly -
the two i've always used are
"Dumber than a sacka bricks," and "Dumber than a sacka taters."

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We used to say, "she/he is uglier than cairn (we pronounced it cyarn).
Anybody know the derivation or the correct spelling?

10:37 PM  
Blogger GAdawg said...

Carrion-rotting carcass. Also pronounced "charm" in south GA.
Another one if someone says they "might" do something is - Mites grow on a chicken's a$$

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course you have all hit the high notes... But I had to add some of my favorites. My grand-daddy used to say somebody was "born at the top of the ugly tree and hit every limb face first on the way down". And one I use all the time is "Good Heavens!". My husband likes to say "If I tell you a piss ant can pull a train, you better hook him up". Love these sites about "Southern speak". Thank you!

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late...but to Italian Grandmas count? Mine (who was a casual housekeeper) had a saying when one of the family was getting fussy about cleaning, like...behind chairs, etc. She would say in her accented English: "Whoever lost a cow is not going to look there for it." My favorite and I use that expression with pride (I'm 78).

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How are you: FINER than frog hair split three ways... or Better than a three legged mule...OR Fair-to-middlin.

Going to bed often was described - goin to sniff some patchin' - referring to a patchwork quilt most of our grannies had on their beds...

1:32 PM  
Blogger Ed Mullis said...

Talking about a situation or certin action, "That'll go over like a fart in church"

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite growing up in the south "busier than a one legged man in an a@# kick'in contest".

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buddy Roe, I'm your huckleberry. If brains were dynamite you wouldn't have enough to blow your nose.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad always said: "that boy couldn't pour piss out of a boot, with the directions on the heel". Mom always said: "cut the water" i.e. turn off the spigot. These were typical Virginia expressions.

8:00 PM  

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