The Colorfulness of Southern Expressions

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI love southernisms. I always have.

Our language is as colorful as we are, not just the way we sound but the things we say. I try to refrain from pouring it on too thickly when I’m around someone who doesn’t appreciate it. I mean, just because you drive a truck doesn’t mean it has to stay dirty all the time to prove a point.

I try to speak correctly in front of other people. My family gets to hear me when I let my guard down. I guess everyone is like that to a certain extent.

We learn the language orally long before we see it written. That’s why we talk like our parents or whomever had an influence in our speech development.

Both my parents were educated, and they spoke correctly.

That didn’t mean, however, I was spared from hearing the southernisms they undoubtedly learned as children.

Some of daddy’s expressions had to do with being busy. I can’t write them verbatim because they had to do with body parts and this family newspaper you’re holding wouldn’t print them. 

One began, “I’m busier than a cat in a wheat bin… .”

The other expressed being busy from the point of view of a one-legged paper hanger participating in a contest which I don’t think exists in real life.

Body parts are a big staple in southernisms. So are tools — especially when it comes to talking about someone’s intelligence.

“He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

“He’s dumber than a sack of hammers.”

And, “He’s as dull as a froe,” all come to mind.

Daddy’s go-to in that situation was, “He couldn’t pour (water) out of a boot with directions on the heel.”

Mama had a couple she used from time to time. “If you put his brain in a hummingbird it would fly backwards.” And, “His brain isn’t big enough to fill a hollow tooth.”

She could also poke fun at herself. Anytime she was out of her element, she would call herself, “a lost ball in tall weeds.”

My grandmother used to say “bless pat” when she was exasperated. Other women in my family said (and say) “whoever heard?” to express disbelief. A similar one was “I swanny.”

I never did know where either of them came from.

Here are some more good ones I’ve heard from various people over the years:

Ice was “slicker than owl grease.”

A tantrum was “a hissy fit.”

Someone going about something hurriedly was “running around like a chicken with his head cut off.”

A miser was “tighter than dick’s hatband.”

A new tractor “ran like a scalded dog.”

An annoying person “could make a preacher cuss.”

A loudmouth “could talk the ears off of a donkey.”

An aesthetically-challenged person was either “hit with an ugly stick” or he “had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him.”

After a big meal, my uncle would say he was, “fuller than a seed tick.”

When daddy would get disgusted with me for spending too much time watching cartoons he would ask me if I was going to do anything or just “sit in the corner and stack BBs all day.”

I tried it once. BBs went everywhere.

Corn cobs are also good subjects for southernisms, and again, we won’t be going into detail here about any corn cob sayings.

I guess I’ll draw this one to a close. I’m beginning to feel like I was rode hard and put up wet.

I know I didn’t even dust the surface with these, and I’m sure you’ve heard most of them.

I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, you know.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him:

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