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13 Southern Sayings That The Rest Of America Won't Understand

Language discrepancies naturally arise in different geographic regions, like the raging “pop” vs. “soda” debate.

But the South undoubtedly takes the cake.

Conversations south of the Mason-Dixon line will befuddle anyone not born there.

We chose 15 of the most ridiculous Southern sayings — and tried to explain them.

1. “We’re living in high cotton.”
Cotton has long been a key crop to the South’s economy, so every harvest farmers pray for tall bushes loaded with white fluffy balls in their fields. Tall cotton bushes are easier to pick and yield higher returns. If you’re living “in high cotton,” it means you’re feeling particularly successful or wealthy.

2. “She was madder than a wet hen.”
Hens sometimes enter a phase of “broodiness” — they'll stop at nothing to incubate their eggs and get agitated when farmers try to collect them. Farmers used to dunk hens in cold water to “break” their broodiness.

You don’t want to be around a hormonal hen after she’s had an ice bath.

3. “He could eat corn through a picket fence.”
This describes someone with an unfortunate set of buck teeth. They tend to stick up and outward, like a horse’s teeth. Imagine a horse eating a carrot, and you’ll get the picture.

4. “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
A pig’s ear may look soft, pink, and shiny, but you’re not fooling anyone by calling it your new Marc Jacobs bag. A Southerner might say this about her redneck cousin who likes to decorate his house with deer antlers.

5. “You look rode hard and put up wet.”
No, this isn’t Southern sexual innuendo. The phrase refers to a key step in horse grooming — when a horse runs fast, it works up a sweat, especially under the saddle. A good rider knows to walk the horse around so it can dry off before going back to the stable. A horse will look sick and tired if you forget this step, much like a person who misses sleep or drinks too much.

6. “He’s as drunk as Cooter Brown.”
Cooter Brown is an infamous character in Southern lore. Legend tells that he lived on the Mason-Dixon line — the border between the North and South — during the Civil War. To avoid the draft on either side, Cooter decided to stay drunk throughout the entire war, making him ineligible for battle.

Inebriated Southerners have measured their drunkenness by him ever since.

7. “She’s as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.”
When a pig dies, presumably in a sty outside, the sun dries out its skin. This effect pulls the pig’s lips back to reveal a toothy “grin,” making it look happy even though it’s dead. This phrase describes a person who’s blissfully ignorant of reality.

8. “She's got more nerve than Carter's got Liver Pills.”
Carters Products started as a pill-peddling company in the latter part of the 19th century. Specifically, Carters repped its “Little Liver Pills” so hard a Southern saying spawned from the omnipresent advertisements.

Alas, the Federal Trade Commission forced the drug-group to drop the “liver” portion of the ad, claiming it was deceptive. Carter's “Little Liver Pills” became Carter's “Little Pills” in 1951, but the South doesn't really pay attention to history. The phrase stuck.

9. “I'm finer than frog hair split four ways.”
Southerners mostly use this phrase to answer, “How are you?” Even those below the Mason-Dixon know frogs don't have hair, and the irony means to highlight just how dandy you feel.

The phrase reportedly originated in C. Davis’ “Diary of 1865.”

10. “He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.”
On farms (not just in the South) roosters usually crow when the sun rises. Their vociferous habit wakes up the house, signaling time to work.

An extremely cocky rooster might think the sun rises simply because he crows. Similarly, an extremely cocky man might think the same when he speaks — and also that everyone should listen to him.

11. “That's about as useful as tits on a bull.”
Only female dairy cows produce milk. Male cows are called bulls. And even if you could “milk anything with nipples,” bulls tend to be rather ornery. Good luck with that.

12. “That thing is all catawampus.”
Catawampus adj: askew, awry, cater-cornered.

Lexicographers don't really know how it evolved, though. They speculate it's a colloquial perversion of “cater-corner.” Variations include: catawampous, cattywampus, catty wonkus. The South isn't really big on details.

13. “He's got enough money to burn a wet mule.”
In 1929, then-Governor of Louisiana Huey Long, nicknamed “The Kingfish,” tried to enact a five-cent tax on each barrel of refined oil to fund welfare programs. Naturally, Standard Oil threw a hissy fit and tried to impeach him on some fairly erroneous charges (including attending a drunken party with a stripper).

But Long, a good ole' boy, fought back. He reportedly said the company had offered legislators as much as $25,000 for their votes to kick him out of office — what he called “enough money to burn a wet mule.”

We Northerners may not know what that means, but at least we know where it comes from.

Bonus: Bless Your Heart
Almost everyone knows Southern women drop this phrase constantly. But it might not mean what you think it means.

In reality, the phrase has little to do with religion and more to do with a passive-aggressive way to call you an idiot. Depending on your inflection, saying “bless your heart” can sting worse than any insult.


Southern'isms: 50 of the funniest Southern sayings and colloquialisms.

Southerners have a way of expressing ourselves that often mystifies those 'not from 'round here'. While some Southern sayings remain so idiosyncratic and region-specific they might as well be Greek to an outside listener, even other Southerners, there are many that have gained popularity far beyond the South.

Presented here are 50 of the best of these Southern gems for your reading enjoyment. Whether it's describing lazy people, fat people, skinny people, dishonest people, dumb people or just dishing on life in general, Southerners have got an 'ism' for the job. Some of these are so clean you can repeat them around the reverend after Sunday service and others are dirtier than two ticks mud-wrestling in an outhouse. Hopefully, by the time you're finished reading them you'll be tickled pink, or at the very least grinnin' like the cat that got the canary.

He's so dumb he couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel.
She could start an argument in an empty house.
He's about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.
His elevator don't go all the way to the top. He's one fry short of a Happy Meal. Or, as my grandma used to say, “He don't got all what belongs to him.” All taken to mean, “He/She is crazy.”
She's so tall if she fell down she'd be halfway home.
It's hotter than a billy goat's ass in a pepper patch.
I feel like i've been rode hard and hung up dry. (When one feels exhausted or otherwise worn down.) (EDIT: As many in the comments have pointed out to me, the correct saying is, "... been rode hard and hung up TO dry." or "been rode hard and hung up wet.")
That makes about as much sense as tits on a bull. (Note: 'Bull' can be substituted for almost anything, including inanimate objects. 'Tits on a bicycle', etc.)
She was busier than a cat buryin' sh-- on a marble floor.
I bought it for a song and you can sing it yourself. (Used to describe something that is/was extremely cheap.)
She has her nose so high in the air she could drown in a rainstorm. (For people who are very conceited.)
He's as windy as a sack full of farts. (Used for someone who is a blowhard/known liar.)
He could fall into a barrel of sh-- and come out smelling like roses. Me on the other hand, I could fall into a barrel of ti--ies and come out suckin' my thumb. (Used to describe someone's good or bad luck.)
I'm sweatin' like a whore in church. (Variation: I'm sweatin' like a sinner in church.)
He's so bad he whups his own ass twice a week.
He's so useless if he had a third hand he'd need an extra pocket to stick it in.
She's so clumsy she could trip over a cordless phone.
He doesn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. (Used for someone who is dirt poor.)
It's colder than a witch's tit. (Variation: 'It's colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra'.)
He's so full of sh-- his eyes are brown.
He's slicker than pig snot on a radiator. (Variation: 'slicker than snot on a glass door knob.')
She's as dumb as a bag of hammers/rocks.
He don't know his ass from a hole in the ground.
If I tell you a duck can pull a truck, then shut up and hook the sucker up. (Used when you're sure you know what you're talking about, even if someone else believes to the contrary.)
Wadn't nothin' between him and the Lord but a smile. (Describes when someone is absolutely stark, buck nekkid.)
He ain't got the good sense God gave a goose.
He's so rich he buys a new boat when he gets the other one wet.
She was madder than a wet hen. (Ever got a hen wet before? Well, you're sitting here reading this so no, of course you haven't.)
I'm shakin' like a hounddog trying to sh-- a peach pit.
She was so buck-toothed she could eat corn through a picket fence.
He's about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
He didn't know whether to sh-- or go blind so he winked his right eye and farted. (Used for someone who is easily confused, or otherwise dim-witted.)
She was busy as a cat on a hot tin roof. (Yes, this is where Tennessee Williams got the name from.)
That stinks so bad it could knock a buzzard off a gut wagon.
Quit goin' around your ass to get to your elbow. (Meaning to take the long way or do things the hard way.)
Put wishes in one hand and sh-- in the other and see which one fills up first.
She ain't worth the salt in her bread. (Another gem from dear ol' grandma.)
It's cold as a well digger's ass in January.
He doesn't know whether to check his ass or scratch his watch.
I'm so hungry my belly thinks my throat's been cut.
I gotta piss so bad my eyeballs are floatin'.
He's about as useless as a bent d--- dog.
It's hotter than two rabbits screwin' in a wool sack.
He's drunk as Cooter Brown. (Cooter Brown, whomever he was, was famous for being a notorious drunk. So famous in fact that yes, he does indeed have his own Wikipedia entry.)
He couldn't find his own ass with both hands stuck in his back pockets.
I'm busier than a 2-dollar whore on nickel night.
He's crazier than a sh--house rat. (If you ever have the misfortune of meeting a rat who lives in an outhouse, you'll immediately understand this one.)
She's hot as a 2 dollar pistol. (Yes, clearly this is a very old one. Adjusted for inflation, nowadays it'd probably be more like, 'Hotter than a $20 pistol.')
It happened faster than a knife fight in a phone booth.
She was busier than a one-armed monkey with two peckers.

313 Southern Sayings That The Rest Of America Won't Understand Empty Southern words on Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:06 pm





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