I arrived in my hometown for the holidays and it took only moments for me to feel completely at home. I went directly to an event and heard a family friend declare, in that precious Appalachian twang, “I swanny.” If you do not know, “I swanny” is a Southern exclamation akin to “I do declare” or “I swear.” My Grandmommy was partial to the term and it always reminds me of her when I hear it. She had a way with words and her favorite sayings have been adopted by my Mommy, Sister, and me. Grandmommy was funny, direct, and very-southern. We buried her 12 years ago tomorrow: December 31, 2000.
In her honor, I give you twenty of my favorite Southern sayings that I hear when I am around home (I’ve included a little context for fun).
Wishing your evil boss would take a hike? Grandmommy might say, “well, old devils never die.”
If you find out that they sent your redneck cousin to finishing school, then you’ll probably hear “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Upon seeing so-and-so’s new toy-sized dog Dad would say it is “ugly as a mud fence.”
At my house if you are a smart aleck you will be told to “hush or I’ll box your jaws.”
I’ve lost some weight and my mother, who was walking behind me through a public parking lot said, “your daddy must be a coal miner, cause you have some slack in your britches.”
The Bible says “you reap what you sow,” but my Mommy says that “the mill stone grinds slow, but it is always grinding.”
When you tell my Mommy about your dad, brother, husband, or boyfriend getting up at 3:00 a.m. to sit in a tree stand for hours in the cold, she might say that “men lose their minds when hunting season starts.”
My father constantly teases my mother about buying him a truck; she now responds without fail or hesitation “I tried to get you to buy a truck.” Who knows if this is true.
Got an ex-boyfriend who won’t work? Grandmommy would say that “he’s about as useful as a tit on a boar hog.”
Beware entering the presence of an older Southern woman when looking tired, unkept, or sick, else you are likely to hear “I swanny, you look rode hard and put away wet.”
My Auntie O was always extremely thin and she used to complain that my Daddy would tell her that she was “so skinny she could use a clothes-line as an umbrella.”
If you threw away Daddy’s plate before he was finished with it he’ll be “as mad as a wet hen.”
My mother buys groceries as though the store will disappear tomorrow; so, when you find a rotten cucumber (the worst) in the back of the fridge it will “gag a maggot off a gut wagon.”
The next two are not particularly kind, but often used regarding someone’s boyfriend, kid, neighbor, or husband. Lord forgive us. “That baby looks like someone beat it with an ugly stick” or “He looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch.”
Remember the aforementioned boyfriend who would not work? Well, it might be because “he’s as dumb as a box of rocks.”
Everybody likes fine things. Not everyone can afford them. Around here that is having “champagne taste on a beer budget.”
In my Southern home laziness was shameful and you never wanted to be accused of sitting “there like a bump on a log.” I had a high school algebra teacher who was missing two fingers on one hand. She used to pound that fist on her book and tell us not to sit there like a “bump on a pickle.” She, too, was not a fan of laziness.
Long engagement? Taking too long to make a decision? If so, then Mommy would say that “it is time to fish or cut bait.”
The most Southern phrase of all: “Bless your heart.” This phrase, or the just as effective variation of “Love your/his/her heart,” can and often precedes a compliment, criticism, or tall tale. Other times it is an exclamation, a thank you, or a sincere prayer.
What phrases or euphemisms remind you of your family?
Bless your hearts for reading and have a happy and safe new year!