If you aren’t “from around here,” you have more than likely noticed that Southern folk tend to use unusual and colorful phrases in their everyday conversations. For your own health and safety, I strongly recommend that you not laugh when you hear a phrase that you aren’t familiar with. I can assure you that we wouldn’t be so common as to laugh when we hear something curious while visiting your neck of the woods.
Down here in the South, we’ve got more sayings than you could shake a stick at (phrase intended). The best phrases tend to come from our older residents and it can be thoroughly entertaining to sit a spell (yep, there I go again) and talk to our more mature Southerners. I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that the various expressions my family employs are more colorful than a rainbow.
I don’t actually know what some of the phrases mean, but they are just so darned fun to say that I employ them regardless. One of my great-grandmothers was particularly outstanding with expressing herself. To say the very least, she would call a spade a spade (I can’t help myself). One of my favorites was when she said that someone “was like a fart in a skillet.” Yeah, I don’t know what in the hell that means, but don’t you just want to go outside right now and say it? I think it refers to folks who flit around all the time and don’t stay in one place for too long, but don’t quote me on that.
That same great-grandma was also ready and willing to tell young ladies that they were “running around like a strumpet” when the need arose. Furthermore, when it came to bad ideas, she would say that said idea “went over like a fart in church.” A lot of “farts,” but there you have it.
My Grandma Willie has some real zingers herself. I suppose that the first and most popular phrase is “fixin’ to get ready to.” In the South, “fixin’” means that something is to start imminently. Accordingly, “fixin’ to get ready to” is technically a double phrase, but I’m not telling her that—you go right ahead if you’re feeling brave. On the rare occasion, something can even be “fixin’ to get ready to start to” happen. I guess you could say that is super-duper imminent.
I love it.
Grandma Willie has gobs of outstanding sayings. When describing a cheapskate, said person would “squeeze a nickel ‘til it hollered.” She’s also not afraid to tell someone that they are acting “above their raising” and I will only admit that it is possible she’s told me that once or twice in my life.
My fantastically wonderful Great-Aunt Louise (who deserves a whole blog entry all to herself and it is coming) had a very simple little phrase that I will forevermore associate with her. If something wasn’t to her liking and—believe me—she was more than willing to tell you about it, she would say “It t’weren’t good.” That one is probably one that you can’t appreciate until you actually hear it—she rolled it all together so masterfully—but Scott and I say it to each other all the time and I am warmly reminded of her every time I hear it.
As you might expect, my Dad has one or two colorful little nuggets packed away in the memory banks. You’ve already heard about not being able to make chicken salad out of chicken shit, but there are plenty more where that came from. Actually, it’s hard to pick just one or two. Hmm...well, one of my favorites occurs when Dad is talking about how enamored someone is of him or herself: “I could buy they for what they’re worth and sell them for what they think they’re worth and retire a billionaire.”
Another phrase of Dad’s could easily cover any number of clients or litigants that we’ve dealt with over the years: “He would rather climb a tree and tell a lie instead of stand on the ground and tell the truth.” Oh Lord have mercy—I can’t even begin to count the number of people that have gone to absurd lengths to tell the stupidest stories when the truth really wasn’t that big of a deal. Mercy, mercy, mercy. I can hardly move on.
Of course, there are some phrases that I don’t want to know where they come from, but they are pretty accurate. Some things are “as slick as pig shit.” Something can taste so good that it would “make a puppy pull a freight train.” Additionally, something can smell so bad that it could “knock a buzzard off a gut wagon.”
As I am sure you can imagine, there are plenty more where those came from. Southerners certainly aren’t shy about telling folks what they think or how they feel and we do it with flare. God forbid someone comes for a visit and doesn’t know what in the world we are talking about.