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Funny Southern Sayings, Expressions, and Slang

Stephanie shows off her quirky sense of humor by taking a new slant on various current topics.

Whatcha gonna do when the crick runs dry?

Whatcha gonna do when the crick runs dry?

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.

Pitching a hissy fit.

Pitching a hissy fit.

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!
  • Worthless as gum on a boot heel!

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!
Running like a headless chicken.

Running like a headless chicken.

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.
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Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash.

Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash.

Dressed Too Scantily? They Will Say

  • Those pants were so tight I could see her religion.
  • Her pants are so tight that if she farts it'll blow her boots off
  • 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.")

Well, that just DILLS my PICKLE!

Well, that just DILLS my PICKLE!

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.

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!
  • Who licked the red off your candy?
  • 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.
  • I was born at night, but not last night! (I'm not that stupid!)
He is so dumb, he could throw himself on the ground and miss.

He is so dumb, he could throw himself on the ground and miss.

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.
I'm going to jerk a knot in your tail.

I'm going to jerk a knot in your tail.

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.
  • She was so ugly when she was born that her momma used to borrow a baby to take to church on Sunday

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!
If he were an inch taller, he'd be round.

If he were an inch taller, he'd be round.

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.

Wealth

  • 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.

Good Looking Guys and Gals

  • Fine as frog hair split four ways!
  • She's pretty as a pumpkin but half as smart.

Being Hungry

  • 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.

Being Well-Fed or Good Food

  • Full as a tick.
  • Put that on top of your head and your tongue would beat your brains out trying to get to it

Being Suprised

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!

When Something Smells Really Bad

  • He smelled bad enough to gag a maggot.
  • Something smells bad enough to knock a dog off a gut wagon.

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

  • Y'all.
  • 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.
The Southern word for "sushi" is "bait."

The Southern word for "sushi" is "bait."

Southern Slang

WordPart of SpeechTranslationExample

bread basket

noun

stomach

His bread basket is bigger than a bread basket, if you know what I mean.

britches

noun

pants

HIs britches are so tight they make his legs look like hot dogs.

cattywampus

adjective

askew or awry; cockeyed

The storm knocked the clothes on the clothesline all cattywampus!

fetch/fetching

verb/adjective

go get/good looking

I'm gonna fetch me the most fetching filly I can find.

fixin'

verb

getting ready

I'm fixin' to fix the porch door after I finish this sweet tea.

gussied up

adjective

dressed up; fancy

She's so gussied up you'd think it was a beauty contest.

hankerin'

verb or noun

hunger or yearning

I have a hankerin' for biscuits and gravy.

highfalutin'

adjective

fancy, pompous, or pretentious

He's so highfalutin' he thinks his sh*t tastes like sherbert.

lick

noun

a small amount

I can't hear a lick with all this hooplah.

piddlin'

adjective or verb

fiddling, puttering, or pottering around

Quit your piddlin' and get to work!

plumb

adjective

entirely, completely

She's plumb crazy.

ruckus

noun

a disturbance or commotion

He made such a ruckus he woke the possums.

skedaddle

verb

run away; hurry

You better skedaddle before you get caught!

uppity

adjective

haughty, arrogant

He's so uppity he deserves a PhD in snobbery.

whup

verb

whip or beat

I'm gonna whup you where the sun don't shine!

Southern Expression Poll

Did she just fall off the turnip truck?

Did she just fall off the turnip truck?

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 check out More Funny Southern Sayings and Southernisms from Readers.

Yankees just can't pass for Southerners!

Well, we try...

Well, we try...

Questions & Answers

Question: 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?"

Answer: "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?

Question: 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.

Answer: I think that "law" is actually a form of "Lord", possibly calling on the lord tor help or understanding.

Question: Don't you think the "pants so tight you can tell his religion" refers to men and circumcision?

Answer: No, I don't. Generally, I have not heard comments about men's pants at all.

Question: 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?

Answer: "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.

Question: Have you heard anyone say “Oh, my hind foot!”? My mother and aunts used to say this if they thought someone was telling a tall tale. I’ve said it so often to my grand nieces as they were growing up, this expression is now used by the girls. Any idea where this one originated?

Answer: I don't know where this expression originated, but, yes, I have heard it. There is another similar expression that is commonly used, but is a little more vulgar. I think the "oh, my hind foot" expression is just a cleaned up version of, "oh, my a**."

Question: Happy as a lart? I’ve heard the expression 100 times but not sure if lart is the right word or if I’ve been misunderstanding

Answer: I believe that the expression is "Happy as a lark", a bird noted for it's cheerful, happy song.

Question: Would please explain the expression 'speak of the devil,' and verify that it is a Southern saying?

Answer: "Speak of the devil" is part of the expression, "Speak of the devil and he shall appear." The expression is used when one is speaking about a person who is absent and then suddenly shows up. It was also once used to warn against saying the devil's name for fear he would appear.

The expression is old and could have originated as an old English proverb. It is not a particularly a Southern saying.

Question: What is the meaning of the Southern saying "Low in the hole"?

Answer: I have not heard that one before, but I would guess that it means "keep your head down if you want to avoid trouble". Perhaps it's a term carried over from wartime when soldiers hid in foxholes to avoid enemy fire?

Question: Is there a southern way to say Merry Christmas?

Answer: Yes, Merry Christmas.

Question: What does "Wake with the South In My Mouth" mean? Does that mean a Southern accent?

Answer: I haven't heard that expression, but your explanation sounds likely.

Question: What does the phrase "he's dumber than a mud fence" mean?

Answer: Pretty dumb!

Question: What does it mean when someone says "You're sexier than socks on a rooster"?

Answer: I guess you're pretty sexy!

Question: Great collection you have here. I am from the south and have always enjoyed the expression "grinning like a jack-ass eating briars" when someone is overly proud of themselves or just has a silly grin on their face. I also like sarcastically stating something is "as pretty as a spotted poodle with the pink mange." My question though is about the exclamation "Well my lands!" or "Oh my lands!" Do you have any idea of its origin?

Answer: I've heard the expression often. "Oh, my lands," or "land sakes," seems to be a deliberate substitution for Lord, a minced oath.

Question: 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?

Answer: I've never heard the expression "wrong sudadderds", but it's an interesting way of saying "assbackwards!"

Question: What does the southern saying "yuns" mean?

Answer: Yuns is a shortened version of "you ones", similar to "you all".

Question: Is there a saying for that pleasant time around dusk when the temperature cools off in a few minutes, in a pleasant way?

Answer: I just came across a word in a Dean Koontz book that I'm reading that might be what you are looking for: "darkling" or "darkle". It's not a southern expression, but might fit the bill.

Question: Do you think that "bless her/your/his heart" is an insult?

Answer: Well... it all depends on who is saying it and the intention. It can definitely be a softly worded insult, or it can mean something very complimentary.

© 2012 Stephanie Henkel

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