I just love all of our Southern country sayings 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 it always lights up with hundreds of contributions. It tickles everyone to talk about them and see what old Southern 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 favorite Southern sayings and learning a few new ones we might want to work into our vocabulary. So grab a sweet tea and settle in, y’all.
Favorite Southern Country Sayings
Butter my biscuit
“Butter my biscuit” is an iconic Southern phrase. Although we generally use it to impart surprise, you can get a lot of mileage out of it for other purposes as well.
When giving directions Southern-style, you’d say “over yonder”, meaning over there… somewhere.
Gone off your rocker
Someone who is crazy can be said to have gone off their rocker or possibly have gone around the bend. There’s no telling what they’re fixin’ to do. You might need to call the law on them if they get too rowdy. Don’t be afraid to give the station boys a ring, even if the miscreant is only knee-high to a grasshopper.
There are plenty of Southern folks who think they’re tough and lots of Northern types that say some mighty hurtful things about their countrymen. The best advice the South has for either one tends to be that if you’re going to be stupid, you’d better be tough as well.
People don’t go broke much in the South, they get skint instead. Most likely someone convinces them to do something for a Yankee dime. That’s also a kiss, just by the by, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. I also like, “He’s tighter than Dick’s hatband” for stingy people.
You can’t very well do a piece about common Southern phrases without mentioning what has become, arguably, the most iconic piece of Bible Belt parlance: y’all. In the same way, many other contractions and accents have become part and parcel of the way the South speaks. If that ain’t true, then grits ain’t groceries and eggs ain’t poultry.
Another popular Southern expression is fixin’ to. If you’re fixin’ to do something, it means you’re getting ready and preparing to do it. Like I’m fixin’ to make some grits, y’all.
Automotive country sayings
Ain’t nothing more Southern than a good old stick-shift pickup, so I think that I’ll give you a few automotive selections before anything else.
- For instance, that thing you push to get the gas going is a foot feed.
- The dimwit that just passed you illegally is riding a hawg or Harley, not a motorcycle.
- If you got behind a slow driver, “That man must be haulin’ eggs.”
You may have seen people doing some foolish things on Southern country roads. That’s fine, they can stick their arm out the car window as long as they don’t cry when it gets knocked off. If they do, then to heck with them and the horse they rode in on.
Agricultural country sayings
It takes someone dumb as the turnip truck they fell off of not to know that Southerners are farmers by breeding, training, and choice. That means that you’re going to see a ton of agricultural terms thrown around in Southern slang. Someone might be stubborn as a mule, working like a horse, or plain old dog-tired after a long day.
If you need to work out a deal, it might be time to squat down on the horse blankets and hammer out all the bits that are finer than a frog’s hair. If you’ve got an idea of how to do something, you’ll probably have a bee in your bonnet about it. A little birdie might tell you something you would otherwise not know. If you’re doing something you’re good at, you’re either holding back or going hog wild.
“That girl is too scared to say boo to a goose.” Meaning she is just a scaredy cat. At least I think that is what it means. From my experiences with geese, they are “meaner than snake piss!” Speaking of geese: “You ain’t got the good sense God gave a goose.” Southern speak for calling someone dumb or stupid, sorry folks!
Another commenter mentioned, “I wouldn’t vote for him for dog catcher”. This meant it didn’t matter which office the candidate was vying for, he wasn’t worthy of being elected. If you got a job done quickly: “I got that job done before a cat could lick his hind end.”
Speaking of farming, you’ll need some soil to plow and real Southern parlance knows just where to come by it. It’s not uncommon to hear that if dumb were dirt, a particularly dull individual would be an acre or two. Feel free to adjust the field size to suit the individual in question. Some people need more than just an acre to really get your point.
I also can’t forget my favorite I use too often on Southern Plate: “Whatever cranks yer tractor.”
Not for nothing is the South called the Bible Belt. Hang out there long enough and you are almost certain to hear a fair amount of religious terminology.
- 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 suffering a loss, you’d hug them and say, “bless your heart” as a show of compassion.
- Another catch-all phrase you are likely to hear before too long in the South is “Lord have mercy” in any of many different enunciations. It’s a hugely versatile term that can mean nearly anything if you give it the right inflection.
- “On God” to indicate commitment.
- “I’ll be there tomorrow if the Good Lord’s willing and the crick (creek) don’t rise” to limit that commitment. Meaning sometimes there weren’t bridges over creeks. If there had been heavy rain, the creek would cover the road and made it impassable.
- “From your mouth to God’s ears” to say you hope you will be able to fulfill that commitment nonetheless.
Angry country phrases
When people get angry, some of them throw a “hissy fit” or will be “madder than a wet hen.” Because y’all, when a hen is wet, it’s mad. Others will simply mutter “fiddlesticks” and move on. If you’ve really offended someone, chances are they’re fit to be tied. If so, just telling them not to get their britches in a wad is probably not going to cut it.
Foodie Southern sayings
Of course, we wouldn’t be doing justice to the American South if we didn’t mention its unique cuisine. The Southern kitchen is so important to its culture that some things have made their way from the kitchen range into normal conversations. If someone is starving to death in the dining room, you might want to brew them up something hot or give them a little something to tide them over.
If it’s hot out, don’t forget to offer them some coke. That’s any fizzy drink, not just the brand-name Coca-Cola. If you’re out in the fridge, remember to check in your cellar before heading off to buy more.
Family country sayings
Family is important in the Deep South too. As they say, Southern blood runs deep. You’ll be hard put to find even a single Southerner who can’t recall their grandparents asking for “some sugar.” That’s a kiss, for you Northern folks. There’s plenty of effort that goes into making sure that kids get brought up right.
What is the most southern saying?
I think we can all agree that the most Southern slang is y’all.
What is a Southern greeting?
An old-fashioned Southern greeting some folks still use today is howdy.
What is Southern slang for tired?
A Southern way of saying I’m exhausted is “plum tuckered.”
That’s just a small selection of all the great Southern expressions that you guys have poured into this page. If y’all think I missed something, feel free to put your favorite country sayings in the comments section. If you see a term there that no one seems to understand, please, share your Southern pride and define it for us. Catch you later, hun. Bye now!
“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
Has anyone ever heard the expression “I swear to my time!” Just curious and if so,what does it mean to you? I say it and when I do, it is usually used in a way that shows exasperation.
Another one of mine I say without thinking is “rigamaroe” which is rigamarole in the dictionary but means going through a lot of trouble to get something done. I say “I swanee” so much my granddaughter brought it to my attention and I picked it up from my mama who was from West Va. I’m “born and raised” in NC. “Nothin’ can be finer than to be in Carolina”, “they ain’t got a pot to pis in”, “sight for sore eyes”, “tote a poke” which means carry a bag, “hard roe to hoe”means hard work or hard times,”tizzy” means to get upset, “nincompoop” means someone acting crazy, “not a hide nor a hair” meaning bare, “standing on solid ground”, “wine glass & woman’s ass and not necessarily in that order”, means both of those will get you in trouble, “O Lord! “Lord how Mercy” meaning Lord have Mercy, “spank your bottom”, “I’m gonna get your shirt tail” means get a spanking. “Fiddle Dee Dee”. “Fit as a fiddle”. We could go on all night. “Night y’all “!
From southeast Kentucky I heard:
“Her lips look like a fox’s rump at pokeberry time.”
“She’s purt near purty.”
“L. I. B.!” (Well I’ll be!)
I say this one all the time
How bout “naked as a jaybird!” or “good lawd or lawdy. Definitely heard “I swunnee!”
My maw maw tore my tail up with a switch when I was 5 years old for something I said. I had STRIPES down the back of my legs! I told her I was gonna tell my momma what she did…. and I did,…and I got the switch AGAIN from MY MOMMA! I learned to keep my mouth SHUT! I’m almost 48 years old and I remember that day like it was yesterday.
I’ve tried to explain what a switch was to my kids. I broke one off one day and whisked it through the air a few times to let them hear it whistle. I think they got the point. I’ve also folded a good leather belt in half and snapped it. Man, there was NOTHING like hearing leather sliding the hoops of my daddy’s pants! Now THAT was fear right there! They’re lucky. Kids today don’t have that discipline… I bet things would be different if they did! I was one that always had to learn the hard way…. HARDHEADED! But you better believe… I LEARNED! Manner’s, respect and morals was BEAT in my tail! I’m grateful for my dad. He’s done a DAMN good job at raising me and my brother… and as a single parent after my momma died when we were young. He’s a FINE man,..honest and well respected by anyone and everyone that has ever met him… especially me and my brother.
Born and bred in South Carolina… God’s county. Nothing finer than South Carolina.
“I’ll be there tomorrow if the Good Lord’s willing and the crick (creek) don’t rise.”
Probably self-explanatory, but in case it’s not: Sometimes there weren’t bridges over creeks. If there had been a heavy rain, the creek, dry creek bed, etc. would cover the road and make it impassable.
“Go put your clothes up in those ‘chester drawers.’”
I was an adult before I discovered the real word was “chest of drawers.”
If you got behind a slow driver, “That man must be haulin’ eggs.”
“You’re not just ‘whistlin’ Dixie!’”
Means that you are emphasizing the truth about what someone said.
Said to someone who is skinny: “You are goin’ to dry up and blow away.”
“Take an iron to it,” meaning not literally taking the iron some place, but actually ironing it.
“Fixin’ to go,” meaning “about to leave.”
“That girl is too scared to say, “boo to a goose.”
Meaning she is just a scaredy cat. At least I think that is what it means. With my experiences with geese, they are “meaner than snake piss!”
Some of my favorite southern sayings that I remember are: “He’s happier than a dead pig in the sunshine”, “I’m fine as the hair on a frog’s back,” “We’re livin’ high off the hog,” “We’ll I’ll swannee!”, “Land of Goshen!,” Oh my gosh!” Anybody with one eyeball, and good sense ought to be able to tell that,” “Put that in your pipe, and smoke it!” “And that’s how the cow eats the cabbage, “Drunker than a cooter bill,” “I’m tryin’ to get 2 birds with one stone,” “You don’t want to have to lick your calf over,” “Trifling, lazy, no good for nothin’, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” “You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” “He’s the last one on the totem pole,” “She’s in another world,” “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” “Everything’s goin’ to hell in a hand basket,” “You dirty cotton picker,” “Looks like it’s comin’ a cloud,” “You’ve sowed the wind, but you are reapin’ the whirl-wind,” “birds of a feather-flock together,” “Don’t be running around with every Tom, Dick, and Harry,” “I don’t want to hear any ifs, ands, or buts about it!” “I’ll knock the living fire out of you,” I’ll knock you into kingdom come!” “I’m fit to be tied,” “She’s throwing a hissie fit,” “She’s having a conniption!” “I’m up a creek without a paddle,” “I’ve been running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off!” “It don’t know whether I’m comin’ or goin’, This place looks like a tornado hit it!” “Stay away from that Floozie.” I remember mom always called the refrigerator and “ice box”, a shopping cart a “buggie”, a bag was called a “sack,” and every kind of soda pop was called a “Coke.”
Actually it was,… “we’re living high on the hog.”