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Southern phrases explained


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I have heard that a lot of southern phrases are incomprehensible to foreigners like yankees and left coasters.

In this thread I will try to fix that.

 

Cuter than a basket full of puppies.

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If you were to say: that boy Rusty is cuter than a basket full of puppies, then Rusty would be pretty cute.

Get it?

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, jamessavik said:

I have heard that a lot of southern phrases are incomprehensible to foreigners like yankees and left coasters.

In this thread I will try to fix that.

 

Cuter than a basket full of puppies.

cute-as-a-basket-of-puppies.png

 

If you were to say: that boy Rusty is cuter than a basket full of puppies, then Rusty would be pretty cute.

Get it?

 

 

 

Mmmm yeah.  Maybe i'd have trouble if i didn't speak English.  Makes perfect sense.

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That dog won't hunt.

 

wont-hunt.jpg

 

This means (1)an idea or (2)a person that is mostly useless.

Examples:

1) Have you tried going back to a typewriter? I hear that's good for a lot of authors with writers block.

Hell Phil, that dog won't hunt. I don't even know how to use a typewriter.

 

2) Your cousin still need a job? There some construction work opening up.

That dog won't hunt. Phil is just too lazy to work that hard.

 

 

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  • 3 months later...

Saying the War of Northern Aggression when referring to the Civil War.  Hell, it was South Carolina that fired the first shot, so how was the North (Yankees) being agressive?  

Edited by Bill W
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  • 2 weeks later...

A metaphor I've always enjoyed is:  "Like a pea in a #2 washtub."  This phrase is usually allowed after someone says something really stupid implying the speaker's brain is like a pea in a large wash tub.  Tubs come in sizes, but most rural southern families had a large tub for washing clothes, children and smaller animals. 

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"Snowin' down south."  This was a warning phrase between women during the first half of the 1900s.  It meant the edge of your crinoline was revealing itself from beneath your skirt.  A fashion faux pas at least and if done consistently and brazenly, a scandalous statement.

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Sippy sack:  Small brown paper bag containing a can of beer.  Sold/packaged at convenience stores beginning when beer came in cans and continues in some areas today, though more sophisticated materials are used to hide labels of alcoholic beverages from law enforcement.  "Sippy Sack." 

Liquor laws were rigid, and often strange for many reasons.  Drinkers found ways to get to their alcohol despite laws.  This custom continues in many areas.

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Red headed step child:  Calling a person this implies his mother stepped outside her marriage to have intimate relations with a person of another faith.  (I'll let you figure that out.)  This has often come to mean a person who is neglected, abused and mistreated.  It is used to describe discourtesy or poor customer service by a commercial enterprise; "That woman talked to me like I was her red headed stepchild."  In my experience, through the years, this has fallen from use for the most part through economic downturns.  People in the south will take in relatives' children and raise them along with their own as a matter of family preservation and generosity.  I do believe the advent of easily available henna has contributed to the disuse of this phrase as well.

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Some I've heard often:   "Ain't that sumptin'?"  or, "Aren't you special today?"  These phrases carry the opposite meaning.  Example:  "Ain't that sumptin'?  You only spilled half your coffee on your shirt this morning.  You're so special today."   This is southern sarcasm at its cattiest.

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Phrase is used for people drawing attention to something they did that they were actually expected to do.  (Keep coffee in either cup or mouth.)  Can be used in the superlative by adding the word "Mercy!" before or after the insult.

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"Pretty little heifer."  For farming people, a cow giving birth to a female was a fortuitous event.  Females make more calves and give milk.  Males are treated differently and didn't enjoy a long lifespan.  A heifer was a thing of beauty in the minds and lives of many rural southerners.  This is not an insult, but a compliment, though many girls/women didn't like being compared to livestock.  I never used the phrase.

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This is a very politically incorrect phrase, and I'll allow it as its used to make a statement not about disability, but about a person stepping away from convention:  The phrase is:  "Every family got their idiot child."  This may allude to inter-familial relations, and I've heard it used meaning, "That child/person isn't following tradition."  This is usually derogatory, but not always.  It may mean the person isn't using common sense or may simply be an exclamation about a new situation.  A liberal politician introducing a new idea may get this comment in a conservative area.  Because I've worked with so many people with disabilities, I find it a crude but honest recognizing differences in groups; farming life is hard, often dangerous and medical services are not always available. 

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During the 1950s there was a male performer from Louisiana, from off the bayous.  He made this phrase popular:  "If I'm lyin', I'm dyin.'"  (For some reason I associate the phrase with Zydeco music.)  This phrase underscores your truthfulness.  "Yes, the check is in the mail.  If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'."  See how much stronger that statement is?

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I was raised in Indiana (I know, not technically in the southern area of the US, but everyone around the area acts like they came from an episode of the Andy Griffith Show), but I grew up hearing these phrases, and I use some of these very frequently (i.e.:  sippy sack and red-headed step child). 

My mother has a tendency to call people who are unambitious in their work or occupation as useless like "t's on a boar hog." This phrase still makes me giggle. 

Edited by Myr
Had to remove Google doom word.
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"Run over a plate for Mrs. Jones."

This has nothing to do with a ritual procedure or minor car accident sacrificing china, but sharing your prepared meal with a neighbor/friend, either by walking it over or driving it to them.

"That's like ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack." 

Meaning, something is (detrimentally) overstuffed.

Used in a sentence:  "Did you see the cellulite on that butt? Looked like ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack.  Spandex should be off limits for that one!"

A great source of "Southernisms" is a small book, "The Southern Belle Primer".  I giggled all the way through it--simply because it was so thoroughly accurate.

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The most common ones I've been around and caught people using are:

"You have the sense God gave a goat," - You're stubborn and stupid.

"She/He is built like a brick shithouse," - If you're a girl you're attractive. If you're a guy, you're broad and muscled. I guess since the buildings were so small and prone to tipping over back in the day, a brick one was like going potty in a five star hotel.

"Bless your heart," - You've either said or done something stupid. It isn't a compliment.

"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" - Talking either about a loose woman that you don't have to marry to have 'relations' with, or a scantily dressed woman that is showing what she has "for sell," instead of covering herself.

"I don't sweat, I simply glisten," - High Society woman that never had to work for anything. Kind of a snooty insult when talking to someone she think inferior for having to work. I had an older aunt that was like this. She didn't Sweat, she glistened. She didn't fart, she simply tooted. It was always.. "simply," something. 

"Honey, you're like drinking sweet iced tea," - You're being nice/helpful. A compliment. Or a pick-up line, since sweet iced tea is cold and refreshing. Man talking to a woman usually. 

"You're as fidgety as a frog leg in a frying pan," - I guess you're nervous and when you cook a frog leg, as the tendons in the legs begin to get hot and cook it causes the frog leg to move. 

"You're a mouse fart in a windstorm/thunderstorm," - An insult for someone that thinks they're important. 

"You're as slick as water off a duck's back," - Smooth talker/clever. 

"I'm about to take you out behind the wood shed," - I'm about to kick your ass. (If you're talking to an adult), to a child, it means you're about to spank them. 

Edited by Krista
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9 hours ago, Robert Rex said:

"Run over a plate for Mrs. Jones."

This has nothing to do with a ritual procedure or minor car accident sacrificing china, but sharing your prepared meal with a neighbor/friend, either by walking it over or driving it to them.

"That's like ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack." 

Meaning, something is (detrimentally) overstuffed.

Used in a sentence:  "Did you see the cellulite on that butt? Looked like ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack.  Spandex should be off limits for that one!"

A great source of "Southernisms" is a small book, "The Southern Belle Primer".  I giggled all the way through it--simply because it was so thoroughly accurate.

Great to see you back on site, Rex! You've been missed. :hug: 

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4 hours ago, Krista said:

"Bless your heart," - You've either said or done something stupid. It isn't a compliment.

Bless your heart has a whole lot more meaning than that! I have to say though it is easier to say BYH than "f*ck youre stupid!"

It can also be used as a substitute for a simple "f*ck you"

It most definetley isn't a complement.

Unless someone died. It could be like " ever since Mabel died Clifford has been all alone in big old house, bless his heart" so it could range anywhere from derision to pity.

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9 hours ago, Headstall said:

Great to see you back on site, Rex! You've been missed. :hug: 

Thanks, Headstall!  I took an early retirement to take care of mom, who lost her 4 year battle with Alzheimer's last December.  That kept me occupied enough I wasn't able to be here, or to write--but (terrifyingly enough) I'm back....<grin>  You'll be seeing more of me around here/!  And trust me, I've missed the place and friends like you here- a LOT.

 

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30 minutes ago, Robert Rex said:

Thanks, Headstall!  I took an early retirement to take care of mom, who lost her 4 year battle with Alzheimer's last December.  That kept me occupied enough I wasn't able to be here, or to write--but (terrifyingly enough) I'm back....<grin>  You'll be seeing more of me around here/!  And trust me, I've missed the place and friends like you here- a LOT.

 

Sorry about your mom, Rex. :hug:  Good to hear we'll be seeing more of you... Gary....

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