Your Favorite Southern Sayings

I just love all of our SouthernSayings and talking about them never seems to get old. A few times now I’ve asked people to tell me their favorites on our Facebook page and that page lights up with hundreds of contributions, everyone tickled to get to talk about them and see what quirky sayings others have to contribute as we all walk down memory lane. So today I want to start that conversation on this post as a fun way of celebrating our silly Southern sayings and learning a few new ones we might want to work into our vocabulary.

Katy Rose’s shirt in that photo is from Sweet Tea T Shirts and demonstrates wearing one of their shirts, that demonstrates the Southern pronunciation of “Cat”. Isn’t it precious? ~giggles~

They’ve got a whole passel of t shirts with different sayings such as “Ah’m bout to burn up!” or another one of my favorites “Who’s pluckin’ this chicken, you or me?”.

So I’m gonna step aside here and let y’all have at it. Leave your favorite Southern Saying below and if’n ya see one that don’t make no sense feel fre to ask what it means by replying to it. This hyar is gonna end up being a Southernisms 101 of sorts and we’re all gonna have fun with it! I can’t wait to see what you have to offer!

I want to start by saying YES, Bless your heart CAN be a good thing. In fact, I’ve heard it used more often than not in situations where it really is a good thing. If someone is going through a rough time or suffers a loss, you’d hug them and say “Bless your heart” as a show of compassion.


“You think I don’t have culture just because I’m from down in Georgia. Believe me, we’ve got culture there. We’ve always had sushi. We just called it bait.”

~Ben “Cooter” Jones

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Comments

  1. lou says

    when i was growing up my daddy is from southern Illinois & my ma was from Michigan, I remember every summer we went to my Grama Mills my daddies mom to the farm. My aunt mandy is a very special & unique soul. My grama would be cooking from sunrise to sunset she had 4 boys but always wantd a girl so my dad was named Francis Meredith,my uncles, Lenore, Leslie & she finally gave up & named my last uncle Fred. To get to the point my first day at my new school in Michigan, I walked into the lunchroom & asked “would ya’all please move down?” I’m 59 & i still havent lived that day down but i dont regret it either i was just being ME

  2. Libby says

    My husband and I are both from southern Ohio and his favorite saying is whenever anybody ask how he is he says “finer than frog hair!” Meaning have you ever seen frog hair, it is pretty fine!!

  3. sara says

    Western NC
    If we were being helpful as children we were often told we were as “handy as a pocket on a shirt”.
    When it was cold and we would cozy up in a warm place we were “as snug as a bug’s hunting shirt”.

  4. Sheri Johnson says

    My Momma and Mawmaw were both from Chattanooga, Tennessee, thru lots of ups and downs in their lives we ended up in south Texas but that didn’t stop the Tennessee talk. I can remember as a child whenever I told them something I thought was really amazing, they always answered with “well, if that don’t just beat hens a pecken”. They also used the phrase, “well, I’ll swan”. Just want to say thanks for helping me remember the memories.

    • cheri joslin says

      My Arkansas friend had several, one if my favorites is “If you burn your butt, you gotta sit in the blister.” That means if you did something wrong, you gotta take the punishment! Another one, I know you all know, is, “He’ll have to get glad in the same britches he got mad in.”

  5. cheri joslin says

    My Arkansas friend had several, one if my favorites is “If you burn your butt, you gotta sit on the blister.” That means if you did something wrong, you gotta take the punishment! Another one, I know you all know, is, “He’ll have to get glad in the same britches he got mad in.”

    • says

      I always had a wood heating stove growing up! My grandparents also. I loved to stand up next to the stove in my flannel nightgown to get warm. My grandma and mom would both say, “If you burn your butt, you’re gonna sit in the blister”! Oh, the memories!

    • Beverly Price says

      I am from Arkansas and I remember my grandma used to say ” He’s got the same clothes to get glad in that he had to get mad in”. She loved to say that about my grandpa. They were married for 63 years and loved each other dearly.

  6. Lydia says

    “All get Out” As this house is dirtier that “all get out” I’m tireder than “all get out”

    Also I’m “All In” I’ve worked so hard today I’m just “all in” or “all give out”

  7. Sherry Myrick says

    My grandmother used to say “I swan!” too…or sometimes”well I swannie” I was never certain exactly where that saying came from, but we always knew we had her full attention when she said it! Thanks for the memories!! I sure do miss her!!

  8. Judith M says

    My grandmother and great-grandmother used to say “The devil’s beating his wife” when it was sunny yet raining at the same time outside. I have no idea why, and neither does Grandma, it’s just what you’re supposed to say!

  9. Carolyn says

    One of my favorite sayings my mawmaw Duncan used was: “The truth will stand when the worlds on fire”. Some more I grew up with are: “he’s so lazy, he wouldn’t work at a pie factory tasting”, He’s got enough money to burn a wet mule”, “I’m gonna whoop you till your tail won’t hold shucks”, and “I didn’t just fall off of the turnip truck”. I know many, many more, but these are some of the ones I use all the time!

    • Shirley Osborne says

      I still say “over yonder” or “down yonder” to this day. My favorite one is “bless your little heart” as a sympathy greeting for whatever – my grandaughter, Jessica, doesn’t like me to say “bless your heart” for some reason (she won’t tell us) so I changed it to “bless your little pea pickin toes” for her only.
      I remember so many of these sayings from my Mom and Grandmom.

  10. Peggy Rice says

    I have always grew up with southern words. I can remember my mama say alot of times, I bet that woman is madder than an old wet hen. When someone leaves my dad would say “Stick around a while longer, we will open a keg of nails”. I have heard other words like you can’t take blood out of a turnip, don’t go outside without a coat or you’re going to catch a barrel of cold.
    Shut the door, you watten (wasn’t) born in a barn.
    Put up yo britches’
    My mawmaw used to say I will be over dreckly. My most favorite one is they are dummer than a box of rocks.

    • Shirley Osborne says

      I remember “madder than an old wet hen” and “you can’t get blood from a turnip” ( I still use that one). Also “shut the door , you weren’t born in a barn” and “I didn’t fall off an turnip truck” and “I’ll be on you like “white on rice” and “too big for his britches” , and “up the holler” and “up the creek without a paddle” and etc. I love it!

    • Debby Mora says

      Thanks for the memory Peggy. My Granddaddy always said he’d get to it dreckly. As an adult I realize he was probably saying directly though to me it always meant in a little while.

  11. Sara says

    Oh love this! My Southern roots run deep. My Dad would always say, when it was a bit chilly outside, “It’s a mite airish out today.” We have a really ugly, large, black and yellow grasshopper here. My Grandmother always called them The Devil’s Horsemen. A type of Dragonfly that is also here, has a really thin body, those she called Flying Darning Needles. If there was something in the news that was bad, she’d also say “Well the world’s going to hell in a handbasket.” Another one of hers is ” well, bullets got no eyes.” Both she and my Mom were fond of saying, “you better sit up straight and act like a lady.” Or “uh huh, your chickens will come home to roost.”
    There is a really great documentary on the Documentary Channel called “Mountain Speak”. It is all about the dialect in the mountains of North Carolina and southern Appalachia. There is another, the name escapes me now, about the language of the islands off the coast of NC. They are very interesting to watch.

    • Sara says

      Thought of a couple more from my Mom and Grandmother. Upon seeing someone wearing inappropriate or outlandish clothing, they would say “I wouldn’t wear that to a cat fight.” If talking about someone who was very poor, they could say ” He’s so poor, he hasn’t a pot to piss in, nor the window to throw it out of.”

    • Nita says

      I’m from a very old southern family also. Heard all of what you said and also swannie. My sisters went a little further when mom wasn’t around and said :sani-flush. My family was originally from the CArolinas & Arkansas and apparently brought Mountain speak with them when they moved into Northern Florida. Mama called ‘”yankees” who moved to Florida. “Yam Dankees” because they came, stayed and took employment from natives rather than the yankees who came and spent money. Sigh, I went and married one of those and never heard the last of it. lol

  12. Lolli says

    My great-aunt used to ask us to do something for her by saying “if you’ll do (whatever she needed at the moment) I’ll dance at your wedding.” She passed on the day of my first wedding shower. My cousin told me she had been telling them I was too young to get married . . . I was 30! Also, if any of us kids complained that our tea wasn’t sweet enough, she would say “here, let me stick my finger in it, that’ll sweeten it right up.” She was an amazing cook – home-style food, not gourmet – and all from scratch. She made biscuits every morning. And when we called to say we were coming for a visit, she’d say “we don’t have much, just beans and cornbread.” But when we arrived, the table legs were groaning under the weight of all the delectable foods waiting to be consumed. And there were always multiple desserts waiting on the side table!

  13. MARSHA G says

    On Saturdays when my daddy would head to the barber shop (yep the one with the striped pole outside turning around) to get his haircut “usen chillins would tag along hoping to get a piece of penny candy. After daddy got his haircut he say, “Welp don’t cha think I sure look purdy after I got my ears lowered?” He was right though in our eyes our daddy was so very handsome to all seven of us kids. he was one fine daddy that would put a belt to our hiney if we needed it. funny thing is now days when we talk about it we all agree we should have probably deserved more spankings that we actually got. because we were raised in the church to love God, family and respect others none of us ever got in trouble with the law and the oldest of us is now 88 and the youngest 58. We were far from perfect but had a good momma and daddy.

  14. Pam Williams Angerhofer says

    No one is gonna b’lieve this, but I read all 2600+ posts and left a few of my own. YA GOTTA READ THE OLDEST ONES – sumuv’em are UNIQUE and re-ally ol’ timey! You will not be sorry. I was reminded of wagon rides from the 1940′s in south Alabama. Priceless!

    Now that I know what has been covered and what ain’t, I can ask what about “bob wahr”? As opposed to “chicken wahr” and ‘lectric (or “hot”) wahr or balin’ wahr.

    One of my “favert” expressions is “dinner on the ground,” which I always took (correctly) to mean a picnic. But the whole phrase is “…on the groundS” ;_i.e., on the church property. ‘Least it was al’ays church fer us. And if you’ve read those early posts, we put our chairs back on the wagon when we were fixin’ to leave. They ‘uz mostly bark-bottom chairs, by the way, maybe with a few hide-bottoms in the lot.

    Which brings up the mule lot! Didn’t you love the smell of those big, tall, sleek horse mules in the lot in front of the crib?

    Mindja head, mindja step, mindja manners.

    Love how school, church, prayer meetin’ al’ays “lets out”!

    Who does that chile favor?

    Now I don’t wont y’all plunderin’ in ‘at chifferobe!

    My Nannie Faust (pronounced “Foste”) would “build” her cakes (the same pound cake recipe as Christy’s aunt).

    Asked how he was, Grandaddy Faust said, “Bout one in a hill, and barely that!” (One sprouted plant in a hill of 3 or more seeds)

    Them gals gnawed her name like a bone. The cat worried th’ yarn to a frazzle.

    He ‘uz all tore up fer a wholl after she quit ‘im.

    “Ah’m goin’ QUIT you! Smokin’ ‘em ole LONG cigarettes…!” Nannie to Grandaddy after more than sixty years of marriage (ultimately, 68 total) while he grinned at her like a mule eatin’ briars. Also, “Dearl Faust, Ah would KE-EL you if Ah could blow breath back in you! Spoken to more indulgent, o’nry grins. When she died after those sixty-eight years, he said, “I said goodnight to her ever’ night for sixty-eight years – I jes’ have a big hole in my heart,” and he was dead in 3 months.

    On a lighter note: you wouldn’t wont to “get up own the wrong side of the bed” an’ step in the pot!

  15. says

    There are so many I don’t know where to start! First, basic grammar rules:
    Y’all is singular. All y’all is plural. All y’all’s… is plural possessive.

    “Y’all need to get in here”: Get in the house.
    “All y’all best get to table”: Everybody come to supper.
    All y’all’s trailers lost: Everyone lost their mobile home in a tornado.
    Sayings:
    My favorite: “I’d like to buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth”: Usually referring to Barack Obama (since 2008 in Arkansas).
    “That was so good I could rub it in my hair”: Really delicious food.
    Meals:
    Dinner = Lunch Supper = Dinner Sunday Dinner: Served at 2 pm after church.
    Love and Affection:
    Sugar = Kiss Love = Hug Fixin’ to = about to do something
    Travel:
    Yonder / A piece = measure of distance 1-2 miles long
    Way over yonder = 5 to 500 miles, depending.
    Oldies:
    Uppity = Rude, unruly.
    Fancy Woman = A stripper or woman of poor morals
    Fester Out = Let something abscess until a splinter/whatever is expelled.
    Descriptions:
    “She could hunt geese with a rake”= A very tall woman
    Skin and bones: anyone of normal weight
    Chubby: 50 pounds overweight
    Pleasantly Plump: 100 pounds overweight
    You’d have to butter him to get him out of the house = Morbidly obese

    The list is endless and as a 5th generation Floridian living in Illinois, my expressions are an endless source of amusement to the Yankee folk.

    Yankee folk = Anyone unfortunate enough to be born or live north of the Mason-Dixon line.
    From a Good Family: Anyone whose family has been in the south since 1850 or earlier, preferably before 1776.
    Carpetbagger: Anyone who isn’t a 3rd generation native southerner.

  16. Jann Bianco says

    These are just a few of my brother’s …” I’ll hit ya so hard an’ so fast you’ll think you’re surrounded”. “he’s dumber’n a sledload of mud” “I’m fixin to knock you forty miles west of yonder”….and regarding whatever you complain about he says “well then you must not be drinkin’ enough!” Just a few of mine-”it’s colder’n a witch’s titty out there!” “Oh, for cryin’ in the milk!” “I’m fixin’ to blow this pop stand”-(meaning I’m leaving right now). when someone is puttin’ on airs, “they’re gettin all twirly”….and if you really make me mad “I best be a leavin ‘for Tawanda comes out”

  17. Judy says

    If it was really cold, my grandmother would say, “it’s colder than a well digger’s butt”. And, if thirsty, “I got cotton mouth”. If you misbehaved, she would threaten to “knock you into next week”. Such memories.

  18. Marilyn says

    “It’s coming up a cloud” when it was going to rain.
    “Put that there boiler on that eye over there”
    “Stop that cryin or I”ll giv you sumpum to cry about”
    Everyone in the family had a pet name: My Mother was Peet, Grandmother was Teet, I was Snookie, Aunt was Bubba, etc.
    Any dark soft drink was Coke, any clear was 7up. My favorite was Grapico (?). I was 30 years old before I realized it was Coke-ah-Cola, not Cocola.
    We always had Yellar Label Syrup on the table.
    Any relative older than me was Aunt so in so, or Uncle so n so .
    There was Ain’t Flossie, Ain’t Ader (Ada) Uncle Bootie, my Grandmothers were Beulah & Jemimah.
    Thanks for the memories of my real home – Alabama.

  19. Pam Williams Angerhofer says

    An earlier discussion involved “all in but my toenails,” and the speculation was that it referred to a “Serdy” bath. This is incorrect. “All in” means the same as “give out,” (worn out, exhausted) so if you’re all in but your toenails, you have just a little strength left.

  20. says

    “Stumbled across”(found) this site by accident BUT have enjoyed it immensely (pronounced.E-mens-lee). I didn’t think I had anything to add because the subject has been “purdy” well (“throughly)” covered (“like gravy on rice”). However, while on a trip to the supermarket (“to make groceries”) this PM I used or heard a few that may have been overlooked. More than one person was describing their available money for food as a “red beans and rice budget”. Which means they were “poorer than a church mouse”. Their checking account balances were “loo nough” to get a call from the bank (and our hometown bank DOES still call before”‘bouncing”(returning) a check. “Ya gotta luv it” –.we may not use proper English but I wouldn’t trade my Southern family or friends for all the “tea in China”. Y’all have a good night–ya hear.

  21. Barbara Lynn says

    Also when asked a question and we said HUH?, my dad “HUH!! Pigs say huh, you pull their tail and they say unt-uh.” We were not allowed to say fart – it was “ewe, Beverly let out”. it was never pee or poop, it was number 1 and number 2. We had finer than frog hair. Grinning like a mule eating grass over a barbed wire fence.

  22. Beverly Price says

    Most of these are so endearing. I can almost hear my grandparents saying a lot of them. One I heard all the time was, “well, it’s six one , half a dozen the other” meaning it was the same either way, so take your pick. If someone was seen rubbing their nose, grandma would say, “your nose is itching, someone’s coming with a hole in their britches”. How I miss those times.

  23. L-O-R-I says

    Being born and raised in TN, I have lots of southernisms. The one that comes to mind most comes from my father. If he didn’t like a candidate in an election he would say “I wouldn’t vote for him for dog catcher”. Translation: didn’t matter which office the candidate was vying for he wasn’t worthy of being elected.

    Another favorite comes from my father-in-law. “I got that job done before a cat could lick his hind-end.” Translation: I finished the job quickly.

    My mother who hails from East Tennessee has always said “they law” when she is is surprised by something. It was often interchanged with “I swan”.

    SO proud of my Southern heritage!!

  24. Kathy Poston says

    Back in the 60′s, my mother wore her hair in the latest beehive-do’s. She would get exasperated if it real humid that day because her hair wouldn’t be as ‘high’ as she normally liked. One of my favorite expressions she used was, “Well, my Lord, my hair today is flat as a fritter!!”

    Still makes me chuckle!!

  25. Traci says

    I was born a northerner, but Nana was a Good Southern Girl and I didn’t have much of a choice but grow up with Southern ways (and are proud of ‘em today) — and true southern cooking! She had what we called an “antebellum drawl” – for example, remember would be remembah….very flowing and old-school Southern sounding — I loved it and what I wouldn’t give to hear her today….anyway, she was always “the lady”…until you pushed her too far and being kids, that did happen from time to time and WATCH OUT! We learned “right quick” that when the “Don’t pay it no nevah mind” followed by “I sweah, you gon’ drive me to distraction” came about, you best run! Hahahaha! :)

  26. Lina Beavers says

    I have enjoyed reading so many familar sayings..some are so often used..it surprised me that everyone-everywhere does not speak..LOL
    I have memories of several my Daddy used to say. When listening to the young ones: “You talk like you stumped your head on the floor”..When correcting:..
    “I’ll get all over you like a coat of paint”…this Louisiana Cajun, On RICE:..Eat your rice..you can’t be called a cajun if you don’t eat rice…Navy term:..”Keep everything on even keel”..don’t rock the boat”.ON Fish Fries: “Fish so fresh, they slept in the lake last night”
    Another: ” dumb as dirt”….”that kid could tear up a bowling ball”.
    Pet names for the kids:..Podnuh…Puddin…Sweetums…Sugah…Grunchet…Punkin…

    Raised in a home where Parents were revered..No harsh or crude word spoken..no drinking or smoking..Firm Faith filled foundation..Respect..Dependablity..”Your word is your bond..”
    “Life is too short to lay in bed. Up early and don’t waste your day”
    Blessed to be raised in the South..in the 50′s..Loved it!

  27. David says

    I’ve heard several but two of the funniest I have heard was my late Mother in law saying “I’ve got a cricket in my neck” or her saying “That pecker wood is driving me crazy!” referring to a woodpecker pecking on a light pole. She used to really tickle me sometimes.

  28. RUBY PIEROLA says

    One of my sayings when my 3 yr old great granddaughter is leaving my house is, SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR to which she replies, AFTER WHILE CROCODILE. Of course it is very cute when she replies. I also say quite often, LORDY BE. Enjoyed you on the TALK show.

  29. Linda Sperlich says

    I love your site. My family roots are from NW Kansas and yet, many of these southern sayings were ones I grew up hearing. I wonder who in the family initiated the southern charm of these gems?

  30. MP says

    my girlfriend is from north carolina and one of the sayings she always says that i think is so hilarious is, “…hot as fish grease!” Meaning someone was really ticked off or mad! One other one is so-and-so’s “lips were rolled back like two pieces of smoked sausage fried hard!” Meaning that her kids lips were poked out because they were upset by something she said/did/told them they couldn’t do.

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  1. [...] 4. A post that had a great discussion. My post on Southern Sayings is by far one of the most fun to read the comments on. I go back to it at least once a week to catch up as folks are always adding new things. Some of the sayings are things I have not heard since my childhood and some others are completely new to me, but  I have integrated them into my conversation now! Your Favorite Southern Sayings [...]

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