10 Reasons Why

10 Cute Southern Phrases and What They Actually Mean


Editor’s Note: Another one from the archives…

1. “Well, sugar my foot!”

Translation: “I am thoroughly astonished that what you just said is actually true. Even if it’s really not.” This is a response often heard during whispered gossip sessions at the local Baptist church.

2. “That thing just flopped back yonder.”

Translation: “The item which you seek has bounced to a location that is no longer near us and may be inaccessible at this point.” This often happens with beer bottle caps and contraceptive devices.

3. “Oh, I really like what you’ve done with your hair.”

Translation: “I am so stunned by that mess on your head that I couldn’t look away and you caught me staring, so I had to say something.” This phrase gets the most usage during Prom Season, when young women often confuse height and bulk with actual style.

4. “I would never tell a soul.”

Translation: “The very second you disappear around the corner I am going to bust my ass telling your secret to everybody in a 5-mile radius.” If the person making this statement also adds “cross my heart”, the radius instantly increases to 10 miles.

5. “I’m gonna lay into you like a ton of bricks!”

Translation: “I am so miffed at a perceived transgression of yours that I am going to beat you senseless just as soon as I finish my beer.” The origination of this phrase probably had something to do with stupid people doing stupid things near abandoned houses with crumbling chimneys, and somebody took notes after they hauled Bubba away in that 9-1-1 contraption.

6. “I’ll knock you into the middle of next week!”

Translation: “If you don’t stop doing that thing which I find incredibly annoying, I will use my fists and short-term time travel to resolve the situation.” No word on how such a science-based concept made its way into rural, flat-earth-believing populations, but it did.

7. “Rode hard and put up wet.”

Translation: “A person’s appearance is less than flattering and/or the person has not aged with any particular grace.” This term originally had something to do with sweaty horses and saddles back in the day. It’s not clear what an actual human would have to do to achieve the same aura, but apparently some folks have mastered the skill. The misuse of alcohol, drugs, cosmetics or sexual opportunities may be contributing factors.

8. “Bobby Joe is ate up with the dumb-ass.”

Translation: “The level of that person’s stupidity is mind-boggling.” Presumably this is a quite different condition than being a smart-ass, although one must wonder how intelligence is considered to be somehow rectum-based.

9. “He’s going to hell in a hand basket.”

Translation: “He has done something so astoundingly un-recommended that his after-life travel plans may include destinations that were not on his preferred itinerary.” However, the inclusion of the foo-foo basket accessory reference may indicate that this fool is actually going to Martha Stewart’s Vineyard, which might actually be worse than fire and brimstone. Would you want to make table centerpieces for all eternity?

10. “She was sweatin’ like a whore in church.”

Translation: “The woman felt quite uncomfortable to be in a place that may not fully support her chosen way of making a living and/or entertainment options she had pursued in her past.” Then again, the poor thing might actually be sweating because she wasn’t used to seeing so many of her clients in one room. And that was just the choir…


To be continued…

(Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 05/17/12 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 01/28/14. No changes have been made, although I did manage to find an even bigger image of Dolly’s hair…)


45 replies »

  1. I met someone who thought “rode hard” was a good thing. He looked exactly the way you described in your explanation. Apparently, while stationed in Milan, he’d met all the “courtesans” to do an embedded interview series for a secret, unpublished, untitled report. Oh yeah (large international defence contractor) funded the shenanigans with an American Express black card – in their defence they had no idea. Two years later, he got a promotion and a bigger discretionary expense account. And we wonder why the US economy is going to $#¥€ right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always thought number ten was one of those analogy or wordy euphemisms we grew up with to denote sweating as such a person might in that given situation. The direct equivalent was also “sweating like $2 whore” or a “French whore on Saturday night.” All of them were probably replacements for the sweating like “a sharecropper.” However, in the land of our shared youth I was informed by a female member of the Country Club Class that “Cows sweat, men perspire and women glow.” Which I never agreed with, having seen women sweat. And the entire concept of a whore glowing in church or for $2 was a little surreal for a child of the H-Bomb generation. I mean, what sort of B movie could be made with a glowing hooker? In a church? What could you catch from a radioactive lady of the evening in church? Or for $2. Forget that last question….Sorry….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My all-time favorite, as a hillbilly is; “He’s so smart he’s stupid!” This one is often used when someone’s doctor diagnoses that “sore that won’t heal” as melanoma and then everyone heads over to Krispy Kreme for a celebration. 👍👍

    Liked by 2 people

      • I was probably a little too hasty in my definition. Where I live we do have a lot of respect for people who make doctor as well as other professions. “He’s so smart that he’s stupid!” Is an acid remark usually directed at someone who is actually smarter than we are but not quite as diplomatic by keeping their smarts on the down low especially when MeMaw or PePaw is talking. 👍

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I work with a woman who moved here from Alabama. She has said many of these phrases, so I appreciate the cheat sheet.
    I’ve considered following her around with a notebook, but then I’d be lost what to make of them. Seems like most of her phrases have to do with feet: “She’s got one foot in a ___ and the other in a ___” and wherever they’re located is no where you’d ever put your feet. Also, pigs are often involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, your mention of trailing someone, notebook in hand, reminds me of an incident in West Texas. The overall circumstances were quite sad (we were there for the funeral of my partner’s mother), but that sadness was briefly dispersed by the appearance of a woman who dropped by the house to pay her respects. She was one of the many ex-wives of one of my partner’s brothers, her name was Yvonne (pronounced “why-von”) and she was a total hoot. The local-color phrases that came flying out of her mouth were golden, to the point that I looked at my best friend (who had dutifully accompanied us on this heavy excursion) and muttered something like “we have GOT to capture some of this”. Best friend whipped out a notepad and began scribbling. Yvonne was fully aware of what we were doing and was not offended in the least. “Honey, everybody wants to be remembered, so remember away…”

      Liked by 2 people

  5. LOL – even though I’m not from the south, many of my family members are…so I’m familiar with all of these!

    I know that you only have the “Top 10,” but I think my favourites are:

    “Well, bless your heart!”

    “That guy / gal is a real piece of work!”


    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really love what Dolly has done with her hair. That is one impressive bouffant. I think my favorite phrase is and although I am a Yankee I have used this before, “I’ll knock you into the middle of next week.” Neil deGrasse Tyson tells me this isn’t possible but a string theorist might say otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

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