Week 19: May 10, 2014
Part of my Southern heritage is the many sayings that are just part of Growing up Southern. I never gave them a second thought until moving up North; they then became more noticeable to me. The first thing I remember said to me was “talk, say something – I love your accent!”
Southerner’s love to talk and tell stories. My mama always has a story, whether its a story about her life on the farm or telling me a story about her day. But she can tell a story! Often with those stories come a few Southern expressions. The first time I heard “I’ll slap a mud hole on you and walk you dry” left me speechless. I think it means there is going to be a fight!
I guess every generation has their own sayings because some of the ones my mother says or told me that my grandfather said – I’ve never heard of and we all grew up in the South. I’m sure there are many many more than what I’ve written here.
Some of my Grandfather McKinley’s favorites expressions of wit…
“I walked through the front door and out the back.” He would say that about his schooling and how he only went for a short period of time. (He never went past 4th grade.)
“You don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out.” Meaning people never save anything, just live day-to-day.
“Open a window and I’ll walk right in.” If an opportunity comes along – take it.
“A watched pot never boils.” My grandfather always said this to Grandmamma. It’s true, when you stand there waiting for the pot to boil, it takes forever. Walk away and see how quickly it boils over.
“If you don’t have any common sense, you’re just a dam idiot!” Well I guess that one speaks for itself. Mama said her father often said that about people. He didn’t believe you had to be book smart to be smart – he knew how to make money.
“He likes to sleep so much that when he dies I’ll bury him standing up.” Granddaddy often said about my father because while at the farm, Daddy often laid on the bed and took a nap.
A few of my mother’s famous sayings…
“I feel like someone hit me with the ugly stick!” You are not liking yourself at the moment as to how you look or what you’re wearing.
“I’ll slap you with a mud hole and walk you dry.” You can just imagine what that one means!!
“Better take your Christmas tree down before New Years Day, or it will bring bad luck in the New Year.” You never want to start a new year with an old tree still in your house.
“If you sweep your house on New Years day, you’ll sweep family out the door.” Another old family tale – it seems you’re not suppose to do any work on New Years day!
“If a strange man comes to your door on New Years Day, it’s good luck, but if a woman comes, it’s considered bad luck.”
“Don’t sweep the porch off after dark.” If you do, your sweeping a family member away.
“You can’t wash on New Years Day.” Mama did no washing on that day – if you did, you are washing a family member out of your house.”
“Eat greens and peas on New Years Day for good luck.” Down South everyone eats turnip greens and black-eyed peas on New Years day. The Greens bring you “green bills” and the peas are to bring you “coins.”
“If you hang a dead snake on a fence, it won’t stop raining.” I never heard that one until she told me she had killed a snake in the garden and threw him over the fence – then in the next sentence she said she had better go and take him off the fence or it’ll never stop raining.
“Everyone loved to put their feet under my mother’s table.” Whenever Mama talks about her mother’s cooking, she always said that – it meaning that family and friends loved to come and stay for Sunday dinner, and especially eat her Southern biscuits!
“You could have fought the Civil War with them.” This is what Mama said about when she first began making biscuits; I guess you can figure out what that meant!
“Right is right and wrong is wrong.” Her words on that one pretty much speaks for itself!
“Want to see how the horse eats corn?” If anyone says that to you, the best answer is No! The reason being is the person asking will grab your kneecap, with their fingers on each side, and squeeze really tight; it will really hurt and make you jump away. She learned that from her Uncle’s, Lewis and Rolph Askew, when she was small.
“I’m as ill as a hornet and mean as a junkyard dog.” Means you better be leaving her alone if you hear that coming out of her mouth.
“I don’t trust anybody and I walk particular around the dead.” It means pretty much what it says.
“God gave me a mouth, and I’m gonna use it.” When you hear that, you’ve probably asked too many questions and she’s told you things you didn’t want to hear – so back off.
“Sprinkle salt around the house.” It will keep the evil spirits out and give you good luck.
And from my father Clayton Bryan…
“I took a Vanquish pill and vanished.” He often said this when asked where he had been; he meant it was none of your business.
“Better tighten your belt.” Daddy told me this whenever I talked about money issues, and I often tell my children that today, reminding them that it was what my father told me.
Southern talk is “South Mouth” – A Southern-American dialect. It could also be called Y’allbonics from many of the words and phrases often heard only in the South.
We called the front steps “the stoop” – sliced bread was just called “white bread” – I never had Italian or specialty breads like today. Saltine crackers were called “soda crackers” – whole milk was referred to just as “sweet milk” – because in the South many also drink buttermilk. My mother often drank buttermilk and cornbread in the evening for a snack, and today she still argues with me over which is the correct word, ‘milk’ or ‘sweet milk’- she insists it’s sweet milk! When we went somewhere, we said “I’m fixing to go.” Today Mama calls the highways down there the “super-doopers” – and she hates to drive or even ride on them. If we drank a Coke, it was called “cola” – everything Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola was called just plain cola. Sausage gravy, made for the morning breakfast to serve over biscuits was called “sawmill gravy.” Having a barbecue in the South means eating a “barbecue sandwich” of chopped pork meat. A barbecue in the North means “having a barbecue” and cooking chicken or ribs on the grill. “Boiled peanuts” are nothing you’ll find in the North – they’re just green peanuts boiled in salted water for long hours until they are soft and salty; great to eat with cold beer. Many Northerners don’t like them, saying they’re soft and wet – but that’s how they’re suppose to be! Another peanut favorite of a Southerner is “pouring peanuts into a bottle of Coke” and eating them at the same time you drink. Electric stove tops are called “eyes” on the stove – a glass of tea in the South means “sweet tea”; sweet tea is an icon of the Deep South. Unsweetened tea with sugar doesn’t even compare to real sweet tea – turning off a light when leaving the room is referred to as “cutting the light off” – A “tater hill” is a mound of dirt covering sweet potatoes – “mess of corn” is what Granddaddy Bryan always said when he went to pick corn in the field – Granddaddy McKinley liked coffee so strong and black that Mama said, “it could walk by itself off the table” – and service stations are called “filling station.”
More Southern expressions – that you might not hear in the North, unless you know a Southerner!!!
Pitching a fit – fixing to go – madder than a wet hen – ya’ll come in and sit a spell – he’s three sheets to the wind – don’t ruffle her feathers – in a coon’s age – don’t count your chickens till they’re hatched – mind your beeswax – bit off more than you can chew – caught with your pants down – barking up the wrong tree – well shut my mouth – two peas in a pod – higher than a Georgia pine – I’m fixing to go – just down the road a piece – by hook or crook – won’t hit a lick at a snake – don’t have a hissy fit – we’ll be there in a little bit – juke joints (bars) – running around like a chicken with his head cut off – if you aren’t skinny, then you’re referred to as having some meat on your bones – give it a lick and a promise – cut the lights off – women referred to as a “heifer” (cow) in a nice way – go cut me a switch – I’ve got the heebie-jeebies – arguing with a fence post – I declare – he won’t ‘mount to a hill of beans – If I take a notion – I reckon – fiddlesticks – don’t have a conniption fit – gimme some sugar – well bless your heart – pickn’ me a mess of corn – I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck – honeychile’ – it’s over yonder – tell your Mama I said hey – eenie, meenie, miney mo – Oly-Oly Oxen Free – filling station (gas station) – shore ‘nuff – I’ll slap you silly – and ‘mights’ grow on chickens!