10 Cute Southern Phrases and What They Actually Mean

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…


Previously published, mildly modified. To be fair, I’ve reposted this one far more than any respectable blogger should, but it just makes me happy, especially when I get a gander at Dolly’s World-Domination Coiffure. As always, feel free to add your own colorful Southern expressions in the comments for possible future posts. Equally as always, keep in mind that those future posts may never happen. Us southern folks rarely say what we actually mean. It’s all an intricate dance of misdirection, fake politeness, antiquated expectations concerning social behavior and generous swilling of mint juleps on a heat-baked verandah…


48 replies »

  1. My Mama always threatened to backhand me into LAST week… same principle.

    My all-time favorite is “Bless your/his/her heart”

    On a related note… my ex had a saying that the girls and I never could figure out… “Your ass sucks buttermilk through a thin straw” he used it to express his complete disbelief in what was being said to him. Extra points for creativity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Holy cow, that line from your Ex is stunning and mystifying. So much so that I just created a new file named “Possibilities for Southern Sayings 3” and you are now first on the list. This may or may not be an honor, but rest assured that you have created ripples in the backwater pond…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, amusing as I am a Spaniard that lived a long long time in the US south and remember hearing many things people said that I had no clue as to the meaning, well it actually took me more than a year to even understand them. I learned English in Britain and it is very different from US English. Lovely post my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, sir. I can imagine how confusing the language might have been in the South. When we visit our best friends in England, where they supposedly speak the same language, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what our friends our saying. (And one of them is FROM the States, making her dialogue even more disconcerting…)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I know a couple of these! Hand baskets, hell (as if hell would fit in there! The Tangerine Trumpet will be expanding the space exponentially.) and suddenly finding myself in the middle of next week were a part of my childhood. Make no wonder I had to overcome a faulty sense of geography.
    And, some Canadianisms for you: I’m grabbing my toque and a mickey and given’ her to the bush for the 2-4 weekend. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Shoot, brother Brian I was gonna say bless your little cotton socks for informing me about these Southern idiot- dang, sorry, idioms. Apparently ‘lil cotton socks comes from Great Britain, not Gods gosh darn GOP country.

    Liked by 2 people

      • In the past when Britain had an empire the Bishop of Calcutta, a George Lynch started a school for poor children and asked for socks to be donated from the Old Country for the aforesaid poor barefooted ragged urchins. On the socks safe arrival, he, being a man of God, blessed the so far unholey hosiery. Or so the legend goes.
        This saying was often used by my mother, but she used it with a dollop of condescension, a la ‘oh bless your heart.’

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Some favourites from when we lived in southwestern Virginia.

    1. Was a snake, it’d bitcha. Transliteration: If it was a snake, it would have bitten you. Translation: You can’t possibly miss seeing it—it’s right next to you.

    2. Fixin to whap you upside the head. Translation: Planning to hit you. Just thought you should know.

    3. Yankees. Translation: anyone who talks too fast, has no manners, and dresses funny.

    4. The War Of Northern Aggression: the Civil War.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great addendum to the post! Brian ought to give you some mention… (I got whapped upside my head a few times, only it was ‘slapped’ in Utah-speak. “I’m gonna slap you upside your head!” – usually meant someone was real mad, and finding cover and distance for the foreseeable future was a really good idea.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Barb: I have dutifully added your submissions to my increasingly-immense list of colloquialisms for the next installment. I fear that I may have committed myself to a fearsome task. But we shall overcome. Maybe not me, but somebody will…

      Melanie: Trust that Barb will be duly noted in Part Three. And also trust that in my wee bairn years I was accosted with threats about the many and varied ways in which things could happen “upside my head”. Apparently my noggin was a multi-purpose target…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for the translations. Up north we have similar phrases…. we are road hard and put away wet, and nervous as a whore in church. Same explanations apply.
    I’m hoping Bless Your Heart will be in part 2. It took me years of living down south before I realized this wasn’t as nice as it sounds.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. “I wished I’m a die.” Means I can’t believe it.
    “Madder than a wet hen.” Means stay out of mama’s way. She’s pissed off.
    “On the war-path.” Means mama’s madder than a wet hen.
    “A couple of bricks shy of a load.” Means bless their heart…they’re stupid.
    “That car will flat spit and git it.” Means your car drives fast.
    “Strap me to the side of a hog and roll me in the mud.” Means you got the tar surprised out of you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, these are good. I have added all of them to my “work in progress” for the next post. It doesn’t mean they will all survive the editing, but right now it’s all roses and sunshine and healthy dollops of gin on a hot afternoon…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well…you’d better…or I’ll snatch you bald! BTW…that is not to be said around small children…the kind that run down your spine…and particularly small male children, who go home and tell their parents that mama’s mimi said she was going to “snatch his balls.” Sigh. That Southern accent does tend to get me into a bit of steamy water from time to time.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel: I added these as well. You’re really chatty today, aren’t you? Did Wentworth stop by and get you all giddy?… 😉

      Melanie: There are a lot of “tit” sayings in Oklahoma. Which shouldn’t surprise either one of us…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Too chatty? Okay, I’ll shut up.
        Lord have mercy on my ovaries! If Wentworth had stopped by, I’d be a tad bit busy…and as one of my previous brothers- in-law used to say…”I’d be happier than a dog with two dicks.” I always found that to be a bit coarse and tasteless…but I imagine that dog would be pretty darned happy!
        Actually, I finished a third quilt top, so I was working on that.
        It’s time to put them away for a while. I find that when I’m watching the news or…anything, I’m staring at the men’s ties…thinking…”that would be beautiful in a quilt.”

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is so getting a re-post Koff koff blatant theft koff koff koff of a hilarious theme thought up by your fine self! There’ll be some brass monkey balls in that post, so you may wish to tune in. But only iffen you got some time.. I’m gonna laugh all month now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I LOVE that phrase. I’ve been thinking of using it as a title for one of my short story collections. And, interestingly enough, that phrase appears in the next installment of this series…


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