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Southern Expressions List/Notes


thecalimack

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So the Southern dialect interested me so I figured I'd try to compile them. Feel free to add and/or correct any entries or expound on any.

I'm making this so that people who are looking to write 'Southern' characters could gain some insights.

DICLAIMER: I'm no Southerner. I just try to research.

 

 

 


“All hat no cattle” 
Imagine the would-be ranching magnate, flush with cash earned elsewhere, who blows into town with a ten-gallon lid, a fresh pair of boots — and a much too loud mouth. 

 “Fine as frog’s hair split four ways” 
What’s that? You’ve never seen hair on a frog? Exactly. Split it four ways and it becomes awfully fine indeed.
 
“Drunker than Cooter Brown”
As legend has it, Cooter Brown was a man who did not see fit to take up with either side during the Civil War, and so remained so staggeringly drunk throughout the entire conflict that he avoided conscription. 

“Grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato” 
For a scavenger accustomed to a diet of bugs, slugs, and roadkill, having a fat, juicy sweet potato to gorge on is like winning the lottery. 

“Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine” 
Deceptively complex, this one contains a built-in lesson in postmortem porcine physiology. As a dead pig’s body lies out in the sunshine, see, its lips begin to pull back from its teeth, creating the illusion of a wide grin. The expression describes a similarly oblivious (though quite alive) person who smiles away when in reality things aren’t going so hot. 

“Knee-high to a grasshopper” 
Most of ten used to denote growth, as in: “I haven’t seen you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper!” 

“Slower than molasses running uphill in the winter” 
Things don’t get much slower than molasses. Uphill in winter? You get the picture. 

“Ran like a scalded haint” 
The opposite meaning of the previous phrase. A haint, in old Southern terminology, is a ghost, and according to tradition, scalding one will send it running right quick. 

“Like a cat on a hot tin roof” 
Cats are jumpy enough in a comfortable living room. The expression describes someone in an extreme state of upset and anxiety, and, of course, it was used by Tennessee Williams as the title of his Pulitzer-winning 1955 play. 

“Enough money to burn a wet mule” 
Why a person might choose to burn a soak-ing wet thousand-pound mule is anybody’s guess, but the expression was made famous (in some circles) when legendary Louisiana governor Huey Long used it in reference to deep-pocketed nemesis Standard Oil. 

"fly off the handle"
~Batshit crazy

"Sometimes the juice ain't worth the squeeze"
Effort is not always reciprocal to results

 

EDIT:

 

"Bless your heart"

Synonymous to 'You're a fracking idiot'.

 

"It ain’t worth a hill of beans."

It basically means worth nothing.

 

"Never you mind."

Means mind your own business.

 

"Looks like Tobacco Road"

It means a place which looks slovenly and unkempt.

It comes from the novel (and movie based on) by Erskine Caldwell about a poor family of Georgia sharecroppers. The patriarch was notoriously lazy. He planned on doing any task on a tomorrow which never came. Today was for sitting on the porch.

 

Edited by thecalimack
Updating the 'MasterList'
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You missed one, I use a lot:

 

"Bless Your Heart."

Usually said with our custom Southern Charm, which most take as we're being polite. In reality, what we are saying is: "You're a Fracking Idiot."

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On 2/14/2018 at 11:15 PM, BHopper2 said:

You missed one, I use a lot:

 

"Bless Your Heart."

Usually said with our custom Southern Charm, which most take as we're being polite. In reality, what we are saying is: "You're a Fracking Idiot."

I must be very blessed, then.

But seriously, I thought it could be one of either.

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"Looks like Tobacco Road"

 

One of my mother's favorite sayings. It means a place which looks slovenly and unkempt.

It comes from the novel (and movie based on) by Erskine Caldwell about a poor family of Georgia sharecroppers. The patriarch was notoriously lazy. He planned on doing any task on a tomorrow which never came. Today was for sitting on the porch.

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  • 6 months later...

"That old dog won't hunt."

 

Usually refers to a plan or idea or something that won't work out at planned or intended.

 

I had to look up the meaning.  First time I heard it was Ann Richard's keynote address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Pure D kyarn"

 

This means something especially rotten and stinky. Kyarn is a southern adaptation of the word carrion - a rotting dead corpse or animal. "That stinks worse than pure D kyarn."  

 

It can also be used is the sense of feeling worse than.  "I feel worse than pure D kyarn."

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On 2/17/2018 at 4:28 AM, thecalimack said:

I must be very blessed, then.

But seriously, I thought it could be one of either.

It can be.  It depends on how you say it.  If the tone of voice is syrupy sweet, it means you're an idiot.  

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ALL Y'ALL 

Should only be used a pejorative

 

Shugah

is a perfectly acceptable word to address anyone at any time for anything particularly pleasant or desiring to be so even when they ain't particularly.

 

It is what it is

pure Southern fatalism at its most sublime

Edited by MrM
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