, Southern Speech and Expressions, Colloquialisms
Home... Index... Articles... Links... From the Press... Snippets... Message Board... Editor's Bio... Bulletin Board... Submissions... Free Update... Writers... E-mail


Southern Speech and Expressions
There's no language more musical!

~~Contributed by USADEEPSOUTH readers~~

Here are some great examples of South Mouth from Sherry A. who wrote: "We lived in Florida, the Delta, and Alabama. These are a few expressions I remember."

~~If you don't stop that crying, I'll give you something to cry about! (Usually resulted in a spanking, making us cry more)
~~If a bullfrog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass when he jumped. (resulted from our saying IF too much)
~~Close that NEWmonia hole. (close the window)
~~Your ass is grass and I'm the lawnmower! (usually followed by: "Go get me a switch.")
~~Don't you make eyes at me, boy! (if we rolled our eyes)
~~On opinions: "Opinions are like assholes, some are just louder and smellier than others."


From Susan M.: "My all time favorite is flatter than a gander's arch, meaning REAL FLAT. For A LOT, my mother always said forty 'leven." [Editor's note -- Example would be: "That woman had forty 'leven kids!"]


Elaine of Fayetteville, NC writes to USADEEPSOUTH:
"I have lived in the South for 45 years now, but was born and raised in the North. It was interesting to see how many of the 'Southern' expressions were familiar to me from my childhood. My family (and neighbors) were Irish by way of England, so maybe that is where a lot of these originated.

"Anyway, the one I use just about every day is: 'I had to go around my elbow to get to my thumb' --- (when forced to do something that is simple, the hard way)."


Barrie Blake sends these good 'uns:
He's so clumsy he'd trip over a cordless phone.
He's about as handy as a back pocket on a shirt.
That's about as useful as a trap door on a canoe.
He couldn't carry a tune if he had a bucket with a lid on it.
She was so tall she could hunt geese with a rake.
She was so tall if she fell down she would be halfway home.
He was so fat it was easier to go over top of him than around him.
It happened faster than a knife fight in a phone booth.
NO!! I AM NOT FALLING ASLEEP!! I was just checking for holes in my eyelids.
Barrie Blake


How we do love compliments here at USADS. This note came from Susan G:
"I love your site, and most of those phrases are used in my family often!
One of my favorites is 'Bill's busier than a one-legged man at a butt kickin contest!'
thanks so much, susan g"


Andrea K. writes:
I love reading these colloquialisms. I'm from Corpus Christi, Texas, and can relate to most of these. Here are some of my favorites.

1) faster than a bell clapper in a goose's ass (very fast; I never understood this one, but it was my aunt's favorite.)
2) Gad night a livin' (good grief!)
3) higher than a Georgia pine (drunk)
4) I'm fixin' to go down the road a piece (I'm going down the road for a short distance.)
5) Well, I'll just swaney! (Well, I'll be darned.)
6) Don't go off with your pistol half cocked. (Don't get mad unless you have all the facts.)
7) We better git on the stick! (We better get started.)
8) Somebody beat him with the ugly stick. (He's not very good looking.)
9) I'll knock you so hard you'll see tomorrow today. (You're gonna get it!)
10) Dumb as a bucket of rocks. (Pretty dumb)
Hope you enjoy. I've certainly enjoyed reading the others.
Andrea K.


Frank L. (originally from Kingsport, Tennessee) sends these Southern Expressions for our "SouthMouth pages." Thanks, Frank!

Angry - "I'll jerk a knot in your tail!"
Crooked - (catawampus) - "That wall is all catawampus."
A lot - "She's got more nerve than Carter's got Liver Pills."


jackiebee writes,
Here are some more Southern sayings. I think you'll like them.
You know you're a Southerner when you understand the following:
TUMP--the cross between the words turn over and dump. "I'm gonna tump that wheel barrow over and get the dirt out."
POT LIQUOR--this is non-alcoholic and found in the pot after peas have been prepared. (It's the juice.) *See notes below.
OLDER THAN DIRT--what my grandmother use to say about someone older and not her favorite person.
MEANER THAN CHICKEN S___!-- I never understood what was so mean about chicken poop, so I asked my grandmother to explain this phrase to me. She simply asked, "Have you ever smelled chicken ----? I rest my case." She used this term to refer to those whom she disliked.
GIVE ME SOME SUGAR. -- wasn't a request for sweetener, but a kiss.
KNEE BABY-- "She's the knee-baby of the family" meant that she was next to the youngest child in the family.

Correction: Pot Liquor = the juice left behind in the pot after boiling ribs for cooking. It is used to cook the peas or collards (or other greens); it is not juice from the peas themselves, but rather the fat and flavor from the ribs. Just clarifying. -- Ben B.

P.S. The version on your web site is not correct, but I did enjoy the many quotations, but we must stay true to the meanings. Hope this helps...


But then Ben gets rebuttals from LSP and RR, as follows:

Hmmm...I've never heard meat juices referred to as pot liquor. In fact, I've never heard any 'juice' other than from greens called pot liquor. My info goes back several generations in my family, too. I prefer to take Mamaw's word for it, myself, because she told me that's what her grandmother called it. :) LSP


I don't wish to belabor the "pot liquor" issue, but I have to comment that my forebears described "pot liquor" precisely as the juice remaining in the serving bowl or stewer once most of the peas, butter beans, or greens were largely removed.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines liquor, in part, as "A rich broth resulting from the prolonged cooking of meat or vegetables, especially greens. Also called pot liquor."

Whatever it is called, I still enjoy spooning some of it on a small chunk of cornbread when consuming the vegetable that provided the juice. And, for me, the juice will always be pot liquor. -- RR


Susan of Baton Rouge sends these good 'uns:

*I feel like the last pea at pea-time. (sad or lonely)
*He wouldn't pay a dime to see a pissant pull a freight train. (miserly)
*He'd have to stand up twice to cast a shadow. (very thin)
*She'd complain if Jesus Christ came down and handed her a $5 bill. (said of the person who is never happy or satisfied)
*It's drier than happy hour at the Betty Ford clinic. (very dry)


Here are some funny, funny expressions sent by JH--

* My uncle Zane use to say: "I'm happier than a dog with two peters."
* My Grand use to threaten us with: "I'll knock you in the head and tell God you died."

And more:
* She always looks like she stepped out of a band box.
* Act like you got some raising.
* You're the spitting image of your mother/father.
* She's madder than a wet hen in a tote sack.

But wait, there's more!
* Sunday go-to-meetin' clothes (best dress)
* Fish or cut bait. (Do it or hush about it.)
* Egg-sucking dawg (person not well thought of)
* Juke joints (bars)
* Drunker than Cooter Brown (I never knew Cooter.)
* Well he/she's just down rite sorry. (person not well thought of or respected)
* Plumb fell off (lost weight)
* You sure are poor. (means skinny)
* Well, if that don't put pepper in the gumbo!
* He could tear up a railroad track with a rubber hammer.
* You must of spit that baby.
* This one was used when someone said something (God forbid) rude or annoying:
"Well, thank you, Billy Sunday."

* Whenever I'd start 'wishing my life away,' my grandmother would always say:
"If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride."

* And here's the one a kid really hates to hear:


Linda Cochran of Ocala, Florida [E-mail] writes with this question:
Have you ever hear the phrase "I'd rather be buried in a croaker sack"?
I would love to find its source in literature and felt like it was a southern phrase.
Ye Editor answers:
We always pronounced it "croaker sack" also, but I'm going to give you these
results from WHISTLIN 'DIXIE:

CROCUS SACK: A gunny sack, a sack made of coarse material like burlap;
so named because crocus, or saffron, was first shipped in sacks made of
this material; also called a CROKER SACK, TOW SACK and GRASS SACK
in the South.

" 'What you got in that there crocus sack, Lov?' Jeeter said."
[Erskine Caldwell, TOBACCO ROAD, 1932]
Here's my take on your sentence, Linda: "I'd rather be buried in a croaker sack."
This must be a good ol' southern remark made by women whispering
behind the back of some good soul at church. The "good soul" probably
showed up for services in something chiffon with huge pink and purple flowers
--not a lovely vision.

The gossipers are saying her ensemble is so ugly they wouldn't be
caught dead in it--they'd rather don a croker sack, even if nobody in this
world ever saw them again in public.


Jeanette W. Davis remembers these southern expressions that have been used often in her family:
For a disobedient child: "You better straighten up and fly right or I'll knock your teeth down your throat and you'll spit 'em out in single file."

For someone confused: "I don't know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt."

Furniture: I can still remember when a sofa was called a divan, then a couch, and now a sofa. Many times I have heard people pronounce "chair" as "cheer."


Thurston H. of Florida sends us the word "charfin," which means mild embarassment. Probably a corruption of "chagrin," he says. Example: "Well, I told her she had mis-pronounced the guest's name, and she was real charfinned." Then Thurston adds: "The word came from my paternal grandfather's family, if memory serves. They were a north Georgia group (Rossville). It was later used as 'shame'-- as in 'charfin on you!' And it would be used alone--as a comment on someone's lame attempt at humor or cleverness: 'Well, charfin!' The word seems to have been picked up by my maternal grandmother's family. They were from farther down the state--Fitzgerald and Rome." Ye Editor must ask: "Is Thurston pulling my dainty leg? Anybody else heard of this word?"
Click here for more of Thurston's southern expressions.


Another Floridian, Mona sends these wonderful expressions:
I grew up with "knee high to a grasshopper," meaning very young. ("I knowed him since he wuz knee high to a grasshopper.")

Another expression in my family was "It's colder than Digger O'Dell, the friendly undertaker."

And another: "soppin' mad" -- which meant REALLY, REALLY mad.

My Gran put us to bed with:
"To bed, to bed," said Sleepy Head;
"Oh, no no no," said Slow;
"Put on the pot," said Greasy Gut,
"We'll eat before we go."

My Aunt Ruthie woke us up with: "Wake up, Jacob, day's abreakin' -- yonder comes a hare with his tail ashakin'.'"

My Gran taught us that "refined young ladies" did not pronounce the "R" harshly -- only Yankees pronounced it harshly -- that we should speak it softly as "ah"....i.e. Bah B Que, Boahbahn (Bourbon)....we were also taught never to say "Shut Up"...only Yankees said "Shut Up'....we were taught to say either "Hush," "Hush your mouth," or "SHHHHHHH."

I am born and raised Southern and very proud of it. I wouldn't trade "my country" of origin for the world.


Sebastian from over 'cross the big Atlantic writes: "I like the southern expression that goes: 'I'm feeling as low as a toad in a dry well.' "


Judith L. of Jackson, Mississippi, writes that her husband loves this quotation from Lewis Grizzard: "Baptists never make love standing up. They're afraid someone might see them and think they're dancing!"


Michael Thompson of Tennessee sends this one: "When someone asks me how I'm doing, I say I'm 'finer than frog hair!' "


Margaret G. of Lilburn, Georgia, writes to us to ask if anybody calls a chifforobe a chifforobe any longer? Heck, Ye Editor is not even sure we spelled the word right. As I recall, a chifforobe is the same thing as a "wardrobe"--a tall piece of furniture with drawers on one side and a space for hanging clothes on the other. I've got one, as a matter of fact, but no, I don't call it a chifforobe--although I guess that's exactly what it is. Thanks!


Ben G. sends his favorite expression: "My mother always used to scold us when we lost our tempers, saying, 'Now, you just go sit in your room till you get over that duck fit.' "


We received an E-mail chock full of good ones from Emmala Henry [bethhenry@blomand.net] who most certainly knows her South Mouth. Here are her contributions to our list:

--If a man is a flirt (or cute): "Well, ain't he just the tom-cat's kitten?"
--If you get strangled: "I swalla'd down my Sun'de (Sunday) throat."
--If a skirt is riding up or too short: "Law, pull that down--we kin see plumb to the Promised Land!"
--Or in the same line: "Wash down as far as Possible, wash up as far as Possible, then wash Possible." (referring to a sponge bath)
--When you are clumsy: "I swaney, Mama shoulda named me Grace"
--If someone is havin' a temper tantrum (hissy fit) unjustly : "Well, he's got the same britches to get glad in!"
--If someone was in a bad mood and Mama was tired of it: "Get your butt off your shoulders!"
--In conversation: "It's no skin off my nose if he wants to do that." (Meaning it does not matter to me or is none of our business.)
--If a particularly difficult or distasteful person is being discussed: "God love 'im ( or 'er) . . . somebody's gotta."


Then Emmala ups and sends more. She writes:
My husband Bryan visited your site and thought you might enjoy these expressions:

His Granny used to say, "Would you raise that winder down!
I'm freezin' my tail off!"

His Mama would say, "I'm fixin ta jerk a knot in your tail!"
And he would say, "How ya gonna jerk a knot in my tail?"
Mama smiled and replied, "Just come here and I'll show ya!"

On a cold day, we'd say, "Sheeew, its cold enough to hang meat in here!"

When we had not seen someone in a while, we'd say, "I aint seen you in a month of Sundays!"

On parting, you'd likely hear this: "I'll see you then, Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise."

When something is a doosey, we'd say, "Well, if that don't beat the band!"

And finally, when you're dizzy, say, "I'm dizzier (or drunker) than a bessy bug."
[Note from Ye Editor: We said this too, but instead of bessy bug we said "Betsy bug."]


Hey, this page is plum full. But wait. We have more.
Click here for more great Southern expressions!

And more: Even More South Mouth

Or check out these great expressions submitted by Shane Hill.
He's got a list a mile long from his Arkansas childhood!

Send your favorites to Ye Editor.

Back to USADEEPSOUTH - I index page

Back to USADEEPSOUTH - II index page