A Day Filled with Old Southern Sayings Can Ruffle Some Feathers  


I was looking for a document in my computer when I ran across a list of old Southern sayings, aphorisms, and proverbs I heard my family say when I was a child. We don’t often hear them anymore, and that’s a shame. They paint people, situations, and sensations in graphic colors. When Daddy described a neighbor as, “crookeder than a barrel full of snakes,” he did more than make a measly observation. He drew a cartoon worthy of The New Yorker.

I suppose I was bored and in need of some entertainment, so I began to imagine how people would react if I were to respond to their questions and comments with these old sayings. I was feeling feisty. If Mama had been there to see the look on my face, she’d have said, “I see the mischief in your eyes.” I decided I’d do it. Tomorrow would be a day of speaking in old Southern sayings.

I started in the morning.

At breakfast, my husband looked up from the news and said, “I’m worried about Max.” First, I had to do a mental checklist of the Maxs we know to figure out who he was talking about. We had just seen our grandson, Max, and he was fine. I didn’t know why he would worry about the carpenter who had put in the new screen door. Of course! He was referring to his man-crush, Max Scherzer, pitcher for the Washington Nationals.

I had the perfect response. “He’s all stove up again?”

Ron sounded distraught. “He’s out for the opening game of the playoffs.”

“Doesn’t that just get your gooseWhen will they learn that they can even work a good horse to death?”

“Huh?”

“I’ve gotta run. Today’s going to be busier than all get out.”

I drove off feeling full of myself.

At work I didn’t have to wait long for an opportunity to use a wise saying. One of the recruiters said, “I can’t believe people. Our client called me after she found the temp asleep under a desk in an empty office at three o’clock in the afternoon.

I cut in to say, “That cooked his goose!

She stopped a beat, but went on. “Yes. I fired him, and you can’t imagine his attitude. He said he didn’t know why everyone was so upset. He was tired and knew he would do a better job when he was rested.”

I gave her my most empathic look. “Some people don’t have the sense God gave a goose. That boy wasn’t raised right. What did the client say? I’m sure her feathers were ruffled.”

The recruiter looked puzzled, but just said, “No. Actually, she took it better than I did. She didn’t blame us, and I sent Tom to her as a replacement and he’s terrific.”

“Good. It sounds like you poured oil on the waters.”

Another recruiter hung up the phone with a disgusted sigh. She said, “That was Mary Jones calling to complain about the job again. I asked if she wanted me to replace her. She doesn’t.”

I was loving this.

“She is a worry-wart, but her complaints don’t amount to a hill of beans. She just likes to beat her gumsDon’t let her get your dander up.”

I went into the morning meeting happy as a pig in mud.

“It’s just two weeks till Labor Day. Every September the market starts going like a house afire we’re going to be up to our necks in jobs to fill. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but you recruiters are going to be busier than one-armed paper hangersWe need to get going so September doesn’t catch you with your pants down. It will be too late when you’re running around like chickens with your heads cut offSo let’s put our heads together on how to find the candidates we need.”

The staff looked at me, but no one asked the obvious question: What was wrong with me? So I quickly ended the meeting.

“Well, that’s all she wrote for today’s meeting. You all know what you need to do. Let’s knock it out of the park!”

I left the staff looking quizzical, and ran off to my meetings before anyone could comment.

When Ron came home, he asked how was my day, “It started out fair to middling, but went downhill faster than grease through a goose. By the way, you’re getting the short end of the stick tonight. Dinner is going to be catch as catch can. It’s been a day when the tail wagged the dog, and I’m plumb tuckered out.”

He said, “Okay. You’ve had your fun. Now it’s time to stop.”

“Oh. You don’t cotton to old sayings? They seem to make you mad as a hornet?”

“That’s it! Stop it. Let’s have a conversation like normal people.”

“Are you trying to say that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

He screamed, “Stop it!! Stop now!”

“Sure as the dickens, you’ve got a burr under  your saddle. Come on over here and give me some sugar.”

Ron left the room.

I smiled, proud as punch. It was a great day.

Here are more of my favorite sayings – to use the next time I have a day of Southern sayings – and I will!

  • Little pitchers have big ears.        
  • Root, hog, or die!
  • There’s a tree stump in an Alabama swamp with a higher IQ.
  • Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater
  • Put on my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes
  • I’m happy as a pig in mud
  • Dead as a door nail
  • Mad as a wet hen
  • Gooder than snuff
  • Fine as frog’s hair
  • Flat as a fritter
  • Full as a tick
  • Till the cows come home