Funny Southern Sayings, Expressions, and Slang
Translating Southern Sayings
As a transplanted Yankee living in the South, I am often surprised and amazed by the colorful Southern expressions I hear. Of course, there are the good old standbys we all know and love, like "y'all" and "down yonder." But the richness of Southern speech goes far beyond one or two-word expressions. There's a Southern expression for every occasion.
While their images and colloquialisms tickle the funny bone, Southern expressions usually convey exactly what the speaker intended. No one can mistake the intent and meaning of "I'm going to jerk a knot in your tail!" On the other hand, there are some Southernisms that it might take a Yankee like me years to figure out without a translator.
For example, here is an expression I've never ever heard above the Mason-Dixon line: "That possum's on the stump!" (Translation: That's as good as it gets!)
Or this one: "His heart is a thumpin' gizzard." (Translation: He's cold-hearted and cruel.)
Whether you are from another part of the country or from another country altogether, I hope you enjoy this collection of Southern sayings.
When a Southerner Gets Angry:
- He's got a burr in his saddle.
- His knickers are in a knot.
- She's pitching a hissy fit.
- She's pitching a hissy fit with a tail on it. (When she’s more pissed off.)
- He has a duck fit. (One step above a hissy fit.)
- She has a dying duck fit. (Translation: Run and hide!)
Southern Sayings About Bad Character:
- You're lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut.
- He's slicker'n owl sh*t.
- She’s meaner than a wet panther.
- He's a snake in the grass.
- Why, that egg-suckin' dawg!
When Southerners Are Busy:
- I been running all over hell's half acre.
- She's busier than a cat covering crap on a marble floor.
- I'm as busy as a one-legged cat in a sandbox.
- Busier than a moth in a mitten!
Southern Sayings About Conceit and Vanity:
- She's so stuck up, she'd drown in a rainstorm.
- She’s stuck up higher than a light-pole.
- She has her nose so high in the air she could drown in a rainstorm.
- He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.
(Most of these comments are made about women. Apparently, Southern men are not stuck up.)
Southern Expressions About Being Cheap:
- He squeezes a quarter so tight the eagle screams.
- He's tighter than a bull’s ass at fly time.
- Tighter than a flea’s ass over a rain barrel.
- He’s so cheap he wouldn’t give a nickel to see Jesus ridin’ a bicycle.
Southern Phrases About Being Broke or Poor:
- Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash.
- I'm as poor as a church mouse.
- I'm so poor I can't afford to pay attention.
- He was so poor, he had a tumbleweed as a pet.
- I couldn’t buy a hummingbird on a string for a nickel.
- I’m so poor I couldn’t jump over a nickel to save a dime.
- He doesn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.
Dressed Too Scantily? They Will Say:
- Those pants were so tight I could see her religion.
- You're gonna have old and new-monia dressed like that!
- Lawd, people will be able to see to Christmas!
- Law, pull that down! We kin see clear to the promised land!
Southerners Experiencing a Drought Might Say:
- It's so dry the trees are bribing the dogs.
- I swan, you all musta pissed God off somehow. It’s drier than a popcorn fart ‘round these parts. (Translation: Ya got me... I don't know what a popcorn fart is!)
Confused? In the South, They Might Say:
- He doesn't know whether to check his ass or scratch his watch.
- He couldn't find his ass with both hands in his back pockets.
- He's about as confused as a fart in a fan factory.
- She's lost as last year's Easter egg.
(As we Yankees say, "These people don't know which way is up.")
Southerners Know Happiness When They See It:
- He's as happy as if he had good sense.
- Happier than ol' Blue layin' on the porch chewin' on a big ol' catfish head.
- Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. (Translation: Apparently pretty happy.)
- Grinnin' like a possum eatin' a sweet tater.
- Well that just dills my pickle.
Expressions About Laziness:
- Won't hit a lick at a snake. (Translation: So lazy he wouldn’t chase a snake away.)
- He's about as useful as a steering wheel on a mule.
Colloquialisms for Unmentionables:
"Over-the-shoulder boulder holders." (Translation: A very large bra.)
Irritation Brings Out Some Creative Southern Expressions:
- She gets my goose.
- He just makes my ass itch!
- Yankees are like hemorrhoids: Pain in the butt when they come down and always a relief when they go back up.
- That would make a bishop mad enough to kick in stained glass windows.
- She could make a preacher cuss!
- She could piss off the pope.
- If you don't stop that crying, I'll give you something to cry about!
- She could start an argument in an empty house.
- He's about as useless as a screen door on a submarine/a trapdoor on a canoe.
- That makes about as much sense as tits on a bull.
- Quit goin' around your ass to get to your elbow.
Colorful Southern Expressions About Liars:
- Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's rainin'!
- Don't pee down my back and tell me it's raining.
- That dog won't hunt.
- You're lyin' like a no-legged dog!
- If his lips's movin', he's lyin'.
- You’d call an alligator a lizard.
- That man is talking with his tongue out of his shoe.
- He's as windy as a sack full of farts.
(The most creative expression about liars I've heard in the North is "Lying like a rug." Southerners have much more colorful ways of accusing a liar.)
Southernisms About Stupidity:
- If that boy had an idea, it would die of loneliness.
- The porch light's on, but no one's home.
- He's only got one oar in the water.
- If brains were leather, he wouldn't have enough to saddle a junebug.
- He's so dumb, he could throw himself on the ground and miss.
- He hasn't got the sense God gave a goose.
- When the Lord was handin' out brains, that fool thought God said trains, and he passed 'cause he don't like to travel.
- His brain rattles around like a BB in a boxcar.
- There's a tree stump in a Louisiana swamp with a higher IQ.
- So dumb he couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel.
- He don't know s**t from shinola. (Now this one I've heard in New Jersey....)
- If his brains were dynamite, he couldn’t blow his nose.
Surprised Southerners Might Come Out With This:
These are probably some of my very favorites!
- Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
- Well, slap my head and call me silly!
- You little cotton-picker!
When Something Smells Really Bad, a Southerner Says:
- He smelled bad enough to gag a maggot.
- Something smells bad enough to knock a dog off a gut wagon.
If You Hear These Southern Expressions, You Better Watch Out:
Either somebody's in real trouble, or there's a fight brewing if you hear...
- I'm gonna cut your tail!
- I’m gonna jerk her bald!
- Keep it up and I'll cancel your birth certificate.
- I am going to jerk a knot in your tail.
- You don’t know dip sh** from apple butter!
- Me-n-you are gonna mix.
- You don't watch out, I'm gonna cream yo' corn.
- You better give your heart to Jesus, 'cause your butt is mine.
- I'll slap you to sleep, then slap you for sleeping.
- I’m gonna tan your hide.
- I'll knock you into the middle of next week looking both ways for Sunday!
- I'll knock you so hard you'll see tomorrow today.
Southern Expressions for Speed (Fast or Slow):
- Faster than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition.
- Faster than green grass through a goose.
- Faster than a hot knife through butter.
- Slower than a Sunday afternoon.
- You took as long as a month of Sundays.
- We're off like a herd of turtles.
- He ran like a scalded haint. (I don't know what a "haint" is, but apparently a scalded one can run really fast!)
- It happened faster than a knife fight in a phone booth.
Ugly or Looking Bad?
Now these are really unkind, but funny as heck!
- He's so ugly, he didn't get hit with the ugly stick, he got whopped with the whole forest!
- He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.
- So ugly she’d make a freight train take a dirt road.
- So ugly he’d scare a buzzard off a gut pile.
- She's so ugly I'd hire her to haunt a house!
- If I had a dog as ugly as you, I'd shave his butt and make him walk backwards.
- She is so ugly, her face would turn sweet milk to clabber.
When the ugliness is just temporary:
- I feel like I've been chewed up and spit out.
- I feel like I been 'et by a wolf and sh** over a cliff.
- He looks like ten miles of bad road.
- You look like you've been rode hard and put up wet!
When Southerners Are Well Fed, They Are:
- Fat as a tick.
Southern Observations About Weight:
- He's so skinny, if he stood sideways and stuck out his tongue, he'd look like a zipper.
- She's so skinny, you can't even see her shadow.
- She's spread out like a cold supper.
- If he were an inch taller, he'd be round.
Of the Wealthy:
- Sh**tin’ in high cotton.
- He's richer'n Croesus.
- He's so rich he buys a new boat when he gets the other one wet.
A Hungry Southerner Says:
- I'm so hungry my belly thinks my throat's been cut.
- I could eat the north end of a south-bound polecat.
- I'm so hungry I could eat the north end of a south-bound goat.
Colorful Expressions About the Weather:
Like some of the other Southern phrases, a few of these might not be appropriate in mixed company.
- Colder than a well digger's butt in January.
- It was colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra.
- That rain was a real frogwash.
- It rained like a cow pissin' on a flat rock.
- Hotter than blue blazes.
- It's colder than a penguin's balls.
- It’s hotter than two rabbits screwin’ in a wool sock!
- It's cold enough to freeze the balls off a pool table.
- Colder than a banker's heart on foreclosure day at the widows' and orphans' home.
- It's been hotter'n a goat's butt in a pepper patch.
- It's cold enough to freeze the tit off a frog.
- It is hotter than a jalapeño's coochie.
All-Purpose Southern Expressions We Couldn't Do Without:
- All y'all.
- Down yonder.
- Bless your pea-pickin' little heart!
Kiss my go-to-hell.
- I wouldn't walk across the street to piss on him if he was on fire.
- If you can't run with the big dogs, stay under the porch.
- Why so sad? Did Chevrolet stop makin’ trucks?
- Deep in the South where sushi is still called bait.
- He's about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
- That sticks in your throat like a hair in a biscuit.
- You’re so fulla s**t your eyes are brown.
- He was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.
- He couldn't carry a tune if he had a bucket with a lid on it.
Part of Speech
His bread basket is bigger than a bread basket, if you know what I mean.
HIs britches are so tight they make his legs look like hot dogs.
askew or awry; cockeyed
The storm knocked the clothes on the clothesline all cattywampus!
go get/good looking
I'm gonna fetch me the most fetching filly I can find.
I'm fixin' to fix the porch door after I finish this sweet tea.
dressed up; fancy
She's so gussied up you'd think it was a beauty contest.
verb or noun
hunger or yearning
I have a hankerin' for biscuits and gravy.
fancy, pompous, or pretentious
He's so highfalutin' he thinks his sh*t tastes like sherbert.
a small amount
I can't hear a lick with all this hooplah.
adjective or verb
fiddling, puttering, or pottering around
Quit your piddlin' and get to work!
She's plumb crazy.
a disturbance or commotion
He made such a ruckus he woke the possums.
run away; hurry
You better skedaddle before you get caught!
He's so uppity he deserves a PhD in snobbery.
whip or beat
I'm gonna whup you where the sun don't shine!
Southern Expression Poll
How many of these southern sayings have you heard?
That's All She Wrote...
Well, that's all she wrote, y'all. I've looked all over hell and half of Georgia to find the best and funniest Southern sayings for all y'all, and I sure hope they tickled you as much as they tickled me.
And if y'all have any more fine Southern sayings, well, bless yer pea pickin' hearts, just let 'er rip, tater chip, and jot them down in the comments section below. I'm just happier than a dead pig in sunshine to have all y'all visiting me here today and taking the time to sit awhile and share your thoughts.
If you enjoyed this, be sure to visit "More Funny Southern Sayings and Southernisms from Readers."
Copyright ©2015 Stephanie Henkel
Yankees just can't pass for Southerners!
Questions & Answers
I didn't grow up in the south, but I did grow up a country boy in Iowa. Almost all of these sayings were part of my growing up. The one saying which I truly don't understand is "Well, bless your heart". Some people say it's a derogatory statement, others have told me it's a good thing. What gives?
"Bless your heart" is sort of an all-purpose expression. It can be used to mean anything from, "you sweet thing" to "you're an idiot".
For example, "She takes such good care of her elderly momma and daddy, bless her heart." or
"He doesn't have the sense to come in out of the rain, bless his heart."
It is just one of those sayings that you have to hear in context to understand what meaning is intended.Helpful 21
What does it mean when people start a sentence with “law?” I’ve enjoyed reading these. I lived in Alabama in the early fifties after living my first few years in Brazil, Ginny, I assumed everyone the US spoke like this back then.
I think that "law" is actually a form of "Lord", possibly calling on the lord tor help or understanding.Helpful 42
Do you have any insight on where the expression "I'm going to the house" comes from? Also, do you have any good comebacks when someone asks you, "What do you know?"
"I'm going to the house" is such a common expression, I'm not sure it originated in any specific region.
"What do you know?" It's always been a rhetorical question, but I imagine someone with a quick wit could come up with a funny, sarcastic answer. I haven't heard any particular witty comebacks lately, though, have you?Helpful 41
Don't you think the "pants so tight you can tell his religion" refers to men and circumcision?
No, I don't. Generally, I have not heard comments about men's pants at all.Helpful 34
I'm from Northern Alabama. Here in Appalachia, we've heard all of these and many more. One expression that I've never been able to find was one used in my family. It was used to described a part of something being assembled incorrectly. Example: "That's not going to work, son. You've got that part on there Wrong Sudadderds." (Spelling a phonetic guess). Any idea?Helpful 3
© 2012 Stephanie Henkel