10 More Cute Southern Phrases and What They Actually Mean

Note: This is a companion piece to yesterday’s post, which you can peruse here. Some of you will be at least mildly pleased to see that the suggestions you made on the previous post have magically appeared in this installment, even though this was actually written many years ago. That’s just one of the mystical surprises to be found here at Bonnywood. Enjoy.

1. “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”

Translation: “I am completely stunned by this unexpected turn in our conversation. And since I didn’t have an adequate response I decided to just say something about food.” This is a phrase one might utter after having just been told that your new beau, Thrash, is actually your long-lost half-brother, the secret result of a randy hayride during Homecoming thirty years ago.

2. “Bless your heart!”

Translation: “I am so glad that the horrible thing going on in your life right now is happening to you and not me. Maybe if you’d stayed out of the honky-tonks and made it to church every once in a while this wouldn’t happen.” This is a phrase that Pearline would croon to Jezebella after hearing about the whoopsie with her half-brother. Then Pearline would hang up and call Lurlene to make sure that the rest of the town knew all about Jezebella’s poor decision-making and the dangers of Homecoming traditions.

3. “Like a duck on a Junebug.”

Translation: “Accomplishing a mission with great precision and speed, similar to a quacking bird using its beak to swallow up a tasty tidbit of gossip beetle.” This is the manner in which Lurlene would behave upon hearing the news about Jezebella, racing to spread the fresh gospel truth by calling all of her chatty girlfriends, thankful that her little town still had party lines and she wouldn’t have as many numbers to dial.

4. “I am just ILL!”

Translation: “Being in a state of extreme anger and frustration.” This is how Jezebella would feel when, after having barely hung up from Pearline, she steps out on the verandah to discover sorority sister Betty Dean standing there and holding out a hand-knit hankie. Betty Dean has already heard the shocking details of Jezebella’s jack-up from her cousin Betty Bean who heard it from her daughter Butter Bean who just happened to work for the local paper and they were already printing the story, two minutes after Pearline first got on the horn.

5. “Pay no never mind.”

Translation: “Disregard the previous transaction.” These are the soothing words that Betty Dean would offer Jezebella, indicating that Jezebella should ignore the evil transgressions of that horrid Pearline woman. You just keep your head high and go on about your life. Now, can I get you a cold drink?

6. “I have a hankerin’.”

Translation: “An intense desire for something which you currently do not have.” When Jezebella sighs and admits that she does, indeed, have a hankerin’ for a Coke right now, the ladies go inside and start banging around in the icebox, trying to decide which kind of Coke they want, because all properly-trained Southerners know that a “Coke” does not mean a “brand”, it just means “carbonated beverage of some kind”, preferably served with peanuts that you can plunk in the bottle as you drink. (And when you say the word, the emphasis is on the “o” and not the “c”. cOke. Mmm hmm.)

7. “Figure out what’s what.”

Translation: “Analyze the relevant details of your current life crisis and review your possible options, legal and otherwise.”  This is what Betty Dean advises Jezebella that they are going to do as they get settled on the sofa / divan / davenport / couch (select appropriate furniture term which means “long thing that several people can sit on” in your particular Southern state). Once seated, Jezebella snatches up Granny Mae’s crocheted afghan from its home on the back of the seating device and wraps it around her shoulders, finding comfort in it even though it has that odd rosewater baby powder smell that never really goes away.

8. “Slicker than a greased pig at the County Fair.”

Translation: “That person is completely untrustworthy, devoid of moral values, and possibly a sociopath.” This phrase would be used by Betty Dean to summarize Pearline’s personal attributes. We might also hear some mess along the lines of “don’t trust her more than I can throw her” and “up to no good” and “too mean to live”.

9. “I reckon you oughta.”

Translation: “I strongly suggest that you take the following steps to achieve victory and redemption in the near future concerning this matter.” This would be an introductory phrase used by Betty Dean as she outlined a careful plan for Jezebella to destroy the miserable wretch with the loose lips.

Speaking of lips being loose, Betty Dean might also pause during the discussion to retrieve Jezebella’s Daddy’s bottle of bourbon from his antique secretary, where Daddy sits and does lots of things except any actual paperwork, probably because of the bourbon. The ladies might actually proceed to make mint juleps, but not necessarily, because the weather is often so hot in the South that it’s too humid to grind mint, change the TV channel, or wear panties. It’s okay to drink straight from the bottle, just be sure and wipe the lipstick off when you’re done.

10. “Don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya.”

Translation: “Despite the visual imagery and the reference to Old Testament celestial violence, this term is simply a notification to unsavory acquaintances that they should leave your dwelling, avoid the backswing of potentially dangerous portals, and never return.” Betty Dean, her words beginning to slur from the bourbon, will encourage Jezebella to get back on the horn and give Pearline and Lurlene and whoever the hell else a big piece of her mind.

Jezebella, staggering slightly under the weight of the now itchy-scratchy afghan as well as the Daddy bourbon, will pick up the phone, only to discover that all circuits are busy because the town hasn’t had this juicy of a dish to discuss since that time Ordell found a human foot in his septic tank.

“Well,” says Betty Dean, “let’s go in the kitchen and fix us somethin’ to eat. I could use me some biscuits and gravy.”

So off they go, clattering into the most important room in a Southern home.

And as Betty Dean poured another scootch of milk into the crackling cast-iron skillet, she smiled secretly to herself, for two reasons. One, ain’t nothin’ better than grease-based gravy on anything. And two, that mighty fine hunk of man named Thrash was apparently back on the market…


To be continued?


Previously published. Slight changes made.

Possibly unnecessary confession and something I have babbled about previously so you might be over it: Despite years of trying, I cannot make a mean batch of sausage gravy. I desperately yearn for this skill, as I have an unhealthy obsession (in more ways than one) with such, but I apparently did not inherit an integral piece of DNA. So, if you find yourself at a loss as to the subject of the comment you may or may not be making on this post, rest assured that gravy-making tips would be greatly appreciated. As would an update on that there foot Ordell done found. Never did hear where it come from, sure didn’t…


37 replies »

  1. You gotta start out with the heat real low and just sprinkle in the flour. You wanna make sure you dont use too much flour, there oughta be some grease still in the cast iron your Gramma gave you.
    Here’s the hard part, the stirring. I use a fork, not some fancy whisk. The same fork I turned the sausage or bacon with. Pour the milk in slow, stirring til your arm nearly falls off. When the pan is about half full, turn the heat up, keep stirring cuz this is when the magic happens… the milk heats and the flour thickens and KEEP STIRRING, I said! If it gets too thick, add more milk… if it seems too thin, keep heating and stirring, it’ll thicken up.

    I use bisquick for my biscuits, but my gravy makes you not care if it’s plain white bread.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I was going to refer you to awesome gravy maker supreme – Ms. Angie who is King Ben’s Gramma. But she got there first. I might even be able to make decent gravy (if there were more than just myself and Ziggy-dog in the house. Who needs gravy in them circumstances? My mother was gravy (and honestly cooking) challenged and my own comes from a jar. Which ain’t REAL gravy as any self-respecting gravy master knows.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Angie: I’m going to try your technique that next time I take the leap. It’s interesting that you mention the fork, because as soon as I read that, I flashed back to watching my Granny make gravy long ago, and I think she was using a fork (and a cast-iron skillet, natch). I truly did not remember that until now. Memory is a funny thing…

      Melanie: Even though it might offend the experts, I also use a particular brand of turkey gravy in a jar, in a pinch. It’s not the real thing, of course, but it’s not bad, and I always have jar or two of it in the pantry…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Me too. I’ve gotten compliments on that turkey gravy and I just smile graciously and keep my yap shut. If anyone asks me, I’m giving them Angie’s recipe. Besides, when Thanksgiving rolls around and people are starving (in their opinion because they’ve been smelling roasting turkey all day and would eat the wallpaper at some point), ‘quick’ gravy ain’t nothing shameful. (sorry Grannies everywhere who are now rolling in their graves).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, I’ll weigh in on the gravy (or sauce). My background is French Canadian and I grew up learning how to make the mother sauces from my tantine (auntie). You have to start with a roux (butter and flour) and also have to ensure that the flour cooks through but doesn’t burn. Then you whisk in the liquid.

    If you’re making sausage gravy, save the fond (the brown bits left in the pan after cooking the meat or sausages or whatever veggies might be there) and deglaze with wine, stock, beer or whatever liquid you want. The deglazing liquid is what you want to whisk into to your roux. You can adjust it for thickness by adding more liquid and can concentrate the flavour by reducing it.
    I hope this helps. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hurray! Now I have two different methods to try. I must admit that your angle sounds a little bit more complicated than Angie’s (above comment) but it’s very intriguing. I used to really enjoy tinkering around in the kitchen, spending hours creating whatever, but in the last few years I’ve mostly aimed for the simple route when prepping meals. In fact, my disinterest in the kitchen started around the time I retired. Apparently I assumed I was retiring from EVERYTHING. Maybe I need to get back to where I once belonged… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  3. That’s odd. I always thought Bless Your Heart meant f*ck you.
    Guess we lived in different parts of the south.
    As for biscuits and gravy? Nectar of the Gods I stuff myself full of whenever we dip below the Mason Dixon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, it CAN mean that in certain circumstances, but not always. Bottom line, most of the time, it’s an insincere expression, at best.

      I once wrote an entire blog post about the best biscuits and gravy I ever had, at a diner in Charleston, South Carolina. I still have visions about that place. I reckon I oughta dig that piece out sometime…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Butter my butt and call me a biscuit?!” Who thinks of these?

    I also don’t know how to make biscuit gravy, but the difference is I don’t want to. Sorry, can’t (won’t) help you. Your arteries will thank me. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I commented somewhere on one of these posts that the “butter my butt” phrase is a front-runner title for one of my future story collections. It’s in competition with “sugar my foot”, another mystical phrase heard quite often in my wee bairn days…

      My arteries gave up on any hope of redemption long ago. My doctor? He’s still a buzzing gnat in my ear….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Southerners do have a way with words don’t they.

    Love Dolly’s hair in that photo, hard to even recognize her.
    I wonder how girls fared with hairstyle like that after a “roll in the hay”?
    Must have taken hours to restyle.

    Liked by 3 people

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