Southern sayings may baffle some people, but they’re becoming more commonplace around the country. However, you may still hear some sassy southern sayings that you might not understand.
Of course, you need to know the meanings of these sayings before you use them. Otherwise, you’ll get some mighty funny looks from the folks around you.
It’s important to realize that if you say something southern out of context, you might get a snicker or two. Or maybe even a “bless her heart” in a not so nice way. Immersing yourself in the southern culture involves much more than words.
It’s about a feeling and an attitude that can’t be described in a blog post. That’s why it helps to visit the Deep South and get to know some folks.
Listen to them talk first-hand. Try to keep an open mind when you hear something you’re not familiar with.
And remember this very important fact: Not everyone in the South is a redneck.
Southern Sayings in Action
How’s your mama ‘n them? – When you ask this question, you’re asking how the family is. In the South, mama is such an important part of the family—the one who looks after the young’uns, cooks up most of the meals, and makes sure no one leaves the house without cleanin’ behind their ears.
She’s throwin’ a hissy fit – A hissy fit is anger on display—a temper tantrum at its finest. She might be screaming and hollering, or she might be having a crying jag. A southerner knows how to throw the best hissy fit you’ll ever see.
You can also say, “She’s pitchin’ a hissy fit.” It means the same thing.
He’s not playin’ with a full deck – He’s not in his right mind, or he’s not all “there.”
He’s dumber ‘n dirt, bless his heart – This is self-explanatory—unless you know something about dirt I don’t know. Adding “bless his heart” softens it up a little and shows empathy.
He’s blind in one eye and can’t see outta the other – He has no idea about whatever the topic is.
Looky what the cat drug in – It’s been a while since you’ve seen the person who just arrived.
She’s runnin’ around like a chicken with its head cut off – She’s frantically busy and maybe even acting like a crazy person.
More Southern Sayings
He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow – He’s extremely conceited and vain.
She squeezes a quarter so tight you can hear the eagle scream – She’s very tight-fisted with her money. Some folks might say she’s cheap, but that can take on a whole ‘nother meaning.
We’re so poor we can’t afford to pay attention – We’re flat broke. This can be ongoing or temporary, but it makes the point that you can’t afford much.
That boy can make the preacher cuss – This boy is so irritating, he’s obviously getting on someone’s last nerve.
His porch light is on, but no one is home – He’s not very smart.
Watch out, or Daddy will jerk a knot in your tail – Whatever you’re doing is going to make Daddy mad.
I feel like I done been bit, chewed up, and spit out – I don’t look my best today. This can apply to having a bad hair day, clothes that aren’t flattering, or a face that broke out this morning.
They’re livin’ in high cotton – They’ve come into some money, so they are able to buy nice things. This started back in the days when the higher the cotton was in the fields the more money the farmer would make.
In Case You Didn’t Get Enough
It’s colder’n a well digger’s wallet – It’s really cold.
Hotter’n the blue blazes – It’s really hot.
Y’all – This is a contraction for you all. It applies to the people you’re talking to.
All y’all – Add “all” to the contraction for you all, and it encompasses even more people—like maybe the other folks in the room or the family back home.
She can’t carry a tune in a bucket, bless her heart – She’s not a good singer, but we don’t blame her for that.
My shirt is all cattywampus – My shirt isn’t hanging right. The word cattywampus refers to something that is uneven or out of order.
Why are you all gussied up? – Why are you dressed up?
My, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? – It sure is nice to see you. Someone might say this after not seeing the person in a very long time.
I go to bed with the chickens – A morning person who goes to bed early might say this.
It’s time to mend your fences – You need to work things out and settle your differences.
Don’t go flyin’ off the handle – Don’t lash out at folks around you. Someone typically says this to someone who pitches hissy fits (see above) for no apparent reason.
Do go on – You’re kidding, right? No, seriously, this means “You’re kidding.”
Southern Sayings I Know but Have Never Used
I do declare – This has absolutely no meaning, and it’s often uttered when you have nothing else to say.
Just makes you wanna smack your granny – Say this to emphasize a point. If something tastes really good, you might say it’s so delicious it just makes you wanna smack your granny.
Now that I’m a “Nana,” or granny, I’m not all that fond of this saying. I mean, who wants a smacking, right?
Used to could – Someone who was once able to do something might say this. For example, “I used to could run fast, but now I’m slow as molasses.”
More to Come
Since I haven’t even scratched the surface with these southern sayings, I’ll post more in the future. However, if you use a few of these, folks might ask you what part of the South you’re from.
I just tell them I went to Southern Miss, and that pretty much says it all. Can’t get more southern than that.
Grits and Other Southern Food
Whenever you think of grits, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the South. And there’s a good reason for that. We certainly love that corn mush, which is why we enjoy shrimp and grits.
My mother was raised in a community between Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and New Orleans. For that reason, she had a delightful combination of Cajun and “Old South” mannerisms. She grew up on chicken creole.
Sunday 15th of December 2019
I’ve heard and said most of these things at one point or another & some I say daily. I was born in Alabama, we lived in Mississippi for a while then my parents divorced and mom went back home to Bama & eventually I went to stay at my dads after I got out of school (pronounced more like sk long u ell ) my dad moved to Texas. I now live in Oklahoma. I’m trying to think of ones your kidsed but for me these saying. Are so natural I don’t even notice. I’m bad about “ain’t got none”
He’d bitch if he was hung with a new rope -they constantly complain about everything or nothing makes them happy Slicker than owl shit- slicker than shit in a home handle or slicker than snot on a doorknob -can be used on all kinds do things-Nice shoes to con man Put on your big girl /boy panties ( the persons sex doesn’t matter) which means deal with it, take charge, fix it & such Her skirt is so short you can see all the way to the holy land and back Her pants are so tight you can see her religion- Hotter than a 2 dollar pistol - smoking hot could be weather or a nice looking person Tougher than a 2 dollar steak-pretty darn tough You look like a deer in the headlights-frozen with fear, scared, caught, busted As nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers-nervous person You’re gonna make me lose my religion- I’m about to lose my mind Could start an argument w/an empty house Ain’t got the sense the god have a goose -an idiot Hoot with the owls or soar with the eagles- either stay up all night/sleep all day or go to bed early Grinning like a possum Barking up the wrong tree It’s so hot the trees are begging the dogs to piss on them We refer to my step son as “a bull in the China cabinet “ because he’s so big and clumsy he’s always bumping into something or breaking something Off like a herd of turtles- running behind and not moving too fast Sweating like a whore in church Couldn’t find his ass with both hands in his back pockets Madder than a wet hen & I’ll rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump-You better back off and leave her alone she’s at her wits end Floating eyeballs means you have to pee right now All hat and no cattle- they talk a lot but are full of 💩 Aren’t you precious- same as bless your heart unless your talking to a baby Full as a tick- can’t eat no more By get your feathers ruffled - don’t get all upset now Lost as last years Easter egg or as confused as a fart in a fan factory -she’s in left field- she’s clueless And the other day I saw a mouse in the house -I hate mice yet snakes & spiders don’t worry me but my husband said I looked like a cat trying to fight it’s way out of a paper sack- I guess I must have been jumping & hollering ( yelling / screaming) Hush your mouth- you shouldn’t talk like that or hush here she comes A few definitions- I Reckon- I guess , I agree I believe I approve knee baby is a young toddler Coke is any non alcoholic beverage besides tea & lemonade Britches-pants Buggy’s are shopping carts -( shopping carts sounds odd to me) I know there are millions more but it’s past my bedtime & I’m worn slap out and 1 for the Yankees- Yankees are like hemorrhoids: Pain in the butt when they come down and always a relief when they go back up.
Sunday 15th of December 2019
Hi Suzanne. Thanks for sharing! I remember my mother saying, "buggies," at the grocery store. That was normal in Mississippi, but my dad was in the U.S. Air Force, and we moved all over the place. When she said it at the commissary in Japan, people gave her the funniest look. So she stopped saying it.
Mother of 3
Monday 25th of February 2019
I did know most of these and funny enough my grandparents used these saying often; even though they are all New England Swamp Yankees as my grandmother liked to say.
Monday 25th of February 2019
Hi Joanne! How funny! I've never heard this phrase, so you just taught me something new. My mother used a lot of expressions that I always thought were Cajun, yet I've discovered that people in New England use them too. Perhaps New Englanders and Southerners have more in common than we realized. I'll be posting more southern expressions and things we do in the South. I hope you check out future posts and let me know if you're familiar them.