Get To Know The Real Meaning Behind These Southern Phrases

Published on 12/30/2020
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The South has a lot of fascinating cultural aspects, as far as the United States goes, that you won’t find anywhere else. The love of soccer, homestyle cuisine, and quirky slang will make you think it’s a completely different country! You may find yourself confused by all the local phrases used in places such as Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi if you ever go there. But because you’ve come to the right place, there’s no need to worry! Just trust us… You will be fluent in their languages by the time you finish reading this article. When we say that this makes it a fun way to spice up your vocabulary, we are not joking.

Aren’t You Precious

Another thing that characterizes people from the South is hospitality! The reality is that locals like to be respectful and often use compliments to conceal insults. You might want to take it with a grain of salt when someone tells you, “Are you not precious?” It’s possible they’re being sarcastic! When they feel offended, this phrase is often used. I’m sorry, but it’s not used in any other way often, so you should be careful.

Aren't You Precious

Aren’t You Precious

Reckon

We think it’s high time for you to find out what this word is. This is exactly what you are doing, if you ever want to share your opinions and thoughts. It is quite common in the South to hear someone use this word instead of “think,” “suppose,” “imagine,” or “believe.” We’ve listed all the synonyms we can think of, so we’re sure you’ve figured it out by now! It’s a really cool word, in fact.

Reckon

Reckon

Over Yonder

Over where? Nope, this is not a mistake in terms of grammar. You may hear someone say this if you ever find yourself in the south and in need of directions. Let us explain what Yonder really means to you. Not everything is so difficult to figure out. This is basically just another way of saying, “Over there.” There’s a good chance they’d be pointing in the general direction of wherever you need to go!

Over Yonder

Over Yonder

See To Christmas

No, this individual isn’t a psychic who can see what Christmas is going to be like. This isn’t what the phrase refers to at all. The phrase is often used to speak of a woman wearing a skirt that can afford to be a bit longer. Maybe you’d like to think of a grandma scolding her cheeky granddaughter! She might tell the younger woman by saying she can “see to Christmas.” Next time, if you are going to drop by her house, you might want to cover up some more!

See To Christmas

See To Christmas

Being Ugly

This does not always mean you are unattractive physically. If you are behaving in an unacceptable manner, Southerners will call you ugly. It seems that more than looks, they value what is inside! It is an interesting phrase, but if you ever start using it this way in any other part of the country, it might lead to a lot of confusion and frustration! Feel free to use it as long as you are prepared to clarify the usage.

Being Ugly

Being Ugly

Sweating More Than A Sinner In Church

There are times when the sun is shining a little too brightly. No one wants to feel like they are roasting in the pit of a volcano, right? It is even worse when the air conditioner is not working when you need it the most. This is a phrase that you will hear in the middle of the summer, when you are probably literally sweating more than a sinner in church. It also shows just how religious folks are in this part of the US!

Sweating More Than A Sinner In Church

Sweating More Than A Sinner In Church

Pretty As A Peach

You know when you see a lovely lady that you can’t help but feel the need to throw her a compliment? It is easy enough to say generic stuff, but you can also give it a southern flavor! Southerners will probably say that someone is pretty as a peach. This is, of course, not to be taken literally. It is just a nice way to say that a girl looks nice! There is no need to be alarmed if anyone ever says this to you.

Pretty As A Peach

Pretty As A Peach

Hissy Fit

Can it get any more descriptive than this phrase? Despite this, it is only more common down south. No one likes it when a little kid throws a tantrum when they are told no. After all, it can be difficult to calm them down after that. This is a good example of someone throwing a hissy fit. The handy phrase does not only apply to kids either! Just so you know, adults tend to throw hissy fits of their own as well.

Hissy Fit

Hissy Fit

Fixin’ To

It can be bothersome when someone tells you to do a certain thing that you already planned to do. This happens to us all the time. In the south, they came up with a great way to respond to it: fixin’ to. “Hey what are you about to do?” someone asks. The response, “Well, I’m fixin’ to do the dishes then go for a six-mile run.” To clear up any confusion, this just means that you are going to do something.

Fixin' To

Fixin’ To

Too Big For Your Britches

In the south, it is not odd for locals to use britches to refer to pants and undergarments. But what does it mean when they say that you are too big for your britches? Don’t worry, they are not insinuating that you are overweight! Often, it just means that you are getting ahead of yourself. They might think that you view yourself too highly. This is commonly heard when parents are trying to discipline their kids!

Too Big For Your Britches

Too Big For Your Britches

Full As A Tick

When was the last time that you felt way too full after a meal? This often happens to us when we visit our folks for the weekend. You might even have to pull the zipper of our pants down to accommodate it! When you are in the south, you can say, “I’m full as a tick.” If you are lucky enough to be unfamiliar with ticks, they balloon after drinking a fair amount of blood! It is not a nice image, but if the shoe fits.

Full As A Tick

Full As A Tick

Hold Your Horses

Not everyone owns a horse, but the phrase does not require you to have one! It is just a common phrase that people throw around all the time in the south. If someone ever tells you this, they just want you to slow down a little. We all know that it takes a lot of self-control to remain patient at all times. However, it can’t hurt to simmer down and take it easy every now and then!

Hold Your Horses

Hold Your Horses

If The Creek Don’t Rise

It is not easy to maintain a good social life when you have a lot on your plate. Sometimes, you might have to turn down invitations because of prior commitments. There is a good southern phrase that you can start using in these situations. The picture shows a bunch of older gentlemen. Let us say that they meet on Tuesdays at the same time. However, one of them wants to do something else next Thursday. He might have cooked up plans with his nephew, but it has yet to be verified. He might say something like, Well, Jim, if the creek don’t rise, I’ll be there.” That means that he will see but no promises!

If The Creek Don't Rise

If The Creek Don’t Rise

Yankee

You are probably not from the south if someone refers to you by this term. This has nothing to do with baseball in case you were confused. In the south, this is simply a word used to describe someone who is from the north. If not that, it might be someone who acts like it. This term spread in the south back in the Civil War. In those days, it was a word used to describe a Union soldier.

Yankee

Yankee

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

This is more common than the other entries on the list. Even though you are familiar with it, you might not have known that this came from down south. The truth is that we bark up the wrong tree a lot of the time. We simply fail to recognize that this is the case unless someone tells us about it. Someone is said to be barking up the wrong tree when they are assuming the wrong thing. Your parent might have once told you, “If you think I’m going to give you $100, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Cattywampus

We agree that this looks like a very silly word! However, you might be unable to stop yourself from saying it once you start. It is a lot of fun to say it out loud! You are wrong if you assumed that it has anything to do with cats, however. This refers to something out of sorts, like that painting in the living room that tilts to the right. Your southerner friend might say that it is pretty cattywampus! Get it now?

Cattywampus

Cattywampus

Till The Cows Come Home

Again, you do not need to have a farm of your own to use this term. Do you have a friend that promises to be right back even though they typically take a very long time? We have all been there. This is a nifty phrase for a situation like that! You are going to be waiting till the cows come home when that happens. This implies that the wait will not be short, so you might as well do a different thing in the meantime.

Till The Cows Come Home

Till The Cows Come Home

No Bigger Than A Minnow In A Fishing Pond

As you already know by now, people are fond of their euphemisms and metaphors in the south. This phrase is straight to the point, but you might still be confused. It is a fun way to describe a small thing when you are telling a story. People from the south will drive the point home by saying that it is no bigger than a minnow in a fishing pond! We all know the minnows are much smaller than the bass.

No Bigger Than A Minnow In A Fishing Pond

No Bigger Than A Minnow In A Fishing Pond

Three Sheets To The Wind

Anyone who has ever been drunk in the past can use this phrase. We tend to overestimate ourselves in more ways than one! When you are on your way to getting drunk, you will probably say that you are all right. Well, we bet that your friends do not agree with that. Trust us, you should trust them if you do not want to make bad decisions! This is where the phrase in question comes in. The phrase sounds nautical because it is. A “sheet” is actually a rope that is unmoored, flailing about in the wind like a drunk person.

Three Sheets To The Wind

Three Sheets To The Wind

Madder Than A Wet Hen

We have to admit that we have never seen a wet hen before. However, the term is not meant to be taken literally. When a woman is said to be “madder than a wet hen,” it means that you should not provoke her some more. After all, you never know what she will do when pushed to the limit! This is actually pretty similar to the old saying that goes, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.”

Madder Than A Wet Hen

Madder Than A Wet Hen

A Mind To

Have you ever found yourself thinking, planning, reflecting, and contemplating about something? In the south, they have a term for that. It is not something that you will typically hear in different parts of the United States. Over there, you have “a mind to” do something when you are thinking of it. Here is a neat example: “I have a mind to go over to Tom’s house to help him work on his car, but I’m not sure when.”

A Mind To

A Mind To

Piddle

Can you guess what piddle means? In the South, it means that you are procrastinating or simply being lazy! So, if a person is the type to “piddle” around, it means that they like to waste time. If you need a longer example, here it is: “Would you stop piddling around back there and get it done?” This is another good one: “Jane was going to come out tonight but she piddled away all her money before Friday.”

Piddle

Piddle

Happy As A Pig In Mud

We are city people, so we do not really know if pigs are truly happy in the mud. Come on, when was the last time that you even saw a real pig? We bet that it was at the County Fair with no mud in sight. In case you are in the same boat, we want you to know that they really are happy in the mud. “Jimmy is as happy as a pig in mud at college” means that he is having the time of his life now that he is in college.

Happy As A Pig In Mud

Happy As A Pig In Mud

Dog Won’t Hunt

You might not be a hunter, but you can probably figure out what this means if you think long and hard. When someone uses this phrase, it means that the dog refuses to do his job! It is not helping its owner look for birds, raccoons, and other small animals. “Dog won’t hunt,” therefore means that something “won’t work.” It is possible to use this as a way to describe something that will not get you anywhere.

Dog Won't Hunt

Dog Won’t Hunt

If I Had My Druthers

Fun fact: this is a phrase that came from a ‘50s Broadway musical that shows life in the South: Li’l Abner. The musical pokes fun at the lifestyle of the people living in the rural South. During these moments, they say, “If I had my druthers… “ It means “If I had my way…” or something to that effect! An example of it would be, “If I had my druthers, this party would be over by nine and I’d be in bed by 10.”

If I Had My Druthers

If I Had My Druthers

All Get Out

Just so you know, it is very fun to say this. “All get out” is used to describe something that is very extreme. This is a phrase that you can use in different situations throughout the day. It might be a good idea to adopt the phrase. When you are starving, you can simply say, “I’m hungry as all get out.” If you are happy with the concert, you can also exclaim, “That concert was as good as all get out.”

All Get Out

All Get Out

Gumption

The truth is that a lot of people from all over the country use this word in different situations. However, they do not generally know that it has its origins in the South. It is nice to hear that you have gumption. After all, it means that you are brave and bold! This is typically not used in a negative light, so you should not be defensive when someone says something along those lines about you. It actually means that they admire you!

Gumption

Gumption

I Declare

If you want to add this to your vocabulary, keep in mind that you need to use this at the start of a sentence. In reality, you can actually use it no matter what you say. However, you should really believe in whatever it is! “I do declare, it is hot today!” is just another way that you think that it is very hot. “I do declare, this is some good chicken you cooked,” meanwhile, means that you really like the dish.

I Declare

I Declare

Living In High Cotton

It is not exactly a secret that the cotton industry was important in the South. As a matter of fact, it shaped the culture in this part of the country in certain ways. You will find a lot of cotton fields down there, and it makes sense that there is more money when there is higher cotton production. That is why a person who is “living in the high cotton” is not worrying about their next meal. If you ever land a nice job, you can tell all your friends that you are “living in high cotton now.”

Living In High Cotton

Living In High Cotton

Hush Your Mouth

Well, it is not like this one is hard to figure out. It is actually straight to the point! When your pal keeps speaking even when they shouldn’t, you can ask them to hush their mouths. You can say this in a lot of ways! Others might instead say shut your lips or put a sock in it. This one has a more southern flavor, so you can use it if that sounds good to you. In the south, you hush your mouth when your parents talk.

Hush Your Mouth

Hush Your Mouth

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

As you can see, southerners like to use animal metaphors more than anyone else. What does “cat on a hot tin roof” even mean? Let us just say that the definition of this is very interesting. A person who is like a cat on a hot tin roof is someone who is behaving in a sketchy and anxious manner. It might help if you think about how a cat on a literal hot tin roof would behave! Do you get it now?

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Stompin’ Grounds

We bet that you had no idea what this meant! If that were the case, allow us to fix this error. This basically just means a place that you consider home. You can use this phrase to describe your childhood hometown once you leave for college or a job. Did you come from the south but now live elsewhere? If that is the case, you can always say that the “hood” is your old stomping grounds.

Stompin' Grounds

Stompin’ Grounds

Can’t Make A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow’s Ear

To no one’s surprise, we have yet another animal reference on the list! Mind you, southerners are not talking about a literal female pig. They are actually using it as an insult instead. If someone ever calls you this, they are poking fun at your taste. This is usually used to talk about tacky clothes, so you should react accordingly. We are keeping our fingers crossed that you never have to hear it directed at you!

Can't Make A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow's Ear

Can’t Make A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow’s Ear

You Can’t Carry A Tune In A Bucket

It must suck a lot if someone has ever told you something along these lines. Let us explain exactly what it means when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. This simply means that you are not the best singer out there. All in all, it is actually quite simple. Most of the time, a bucket should be enough to help you sound better. If this does not improve things, it is probably time for you to give it up and pass the microphone to someone else.

You Can't Carry A Tune In A Bucket

You Can’t Carry A Tune In A Bucket

There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

No one is trying out different ways to skin a cat! Again, Southerners just like to use animals in their lexicon. This phrase has something to do with functionality. Once you hear it, keep in mind that it only means that there are various ways to go about something. For example, you might be tired of eating soggy cereals. If this is the case, you should add the milk before the cereal to make it less soggy!

There's More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

God Don’t Like Ugly

Can it get more southern than this? We doubt it! Earlier in this article, we talked about what it means to be ugly down south. “God don’t like ugly” is even worse than that, however! This is a clear sign that no one likes it when you are acting in an unwanted way. It is important to stay positive if you do not want to hear this phrase. As long as you do not dwell on the negative side of life, that should never happen.

God Don't Like Ugly

God Don’t Like Ugly

Cuttin’ A Rug

You do not need to grab a knife or pair of scissors for this one. As a matter of fact, the only thing that you need is music. After all, cuttin’ a rug just means dancing! You might want to ask your friends to cut a rug next weekend. As soon as the pandemic is over, we can’t wait to hit the dance clubs again! If you see a couple moving to the beat in an impressive way, you might think, “Wow, they’re cuttin’ a rug.”

Cuttin' A Rug

Cuttin’ A Rug

Whatever Floats Your Boat

There are times when other people will ask you for your opinion. What do you say when you do not have any strong feeling about it any which way? Sure enough, you can always just shrug if you feel like it. However, you can add also say this southern line, which would have the same effect: whatever floats your boat. This is just another way to tell someone that they are free to do whatever they want.

Whatever Floats Your Boat

Whatever Floats Your Boat

Pot Calling The Kettle Black

This is not a phrase that anyone wants to hear. If someone ever tells you this, they are essentially calling you a hypocrite. When you say that a pot is calling the kettle black, you are saying that someone is accusing a different person when they are guilty as well. This is not the way to live, folks. It should be fine if you say it as a joke. However, you might want to be careful before you throw it around seriously.

Pot Calling The Kettle Black

Pot Calling The Kettle Black

It Doesn’t Amount To A Hill of Beans

You might have heard of this phrase before if you watched Casablanca. In the classic movie, Humphrey Bogart says this to Ingrid Bergman as he is bidding her goodbye: “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” This has something to do with the fact that you can very easily grow beans. When someone says this, they are usually saying that someone or something bears little significance.

It Doesn't Amount To A Hill Of Beans

It Doesn’t Amount To A Hill Of Beans

Bless Your Heart

The truth is that there are many meanings to “Bless your heart.” It depends on the usage. For one thing, this can be a passive-aggressive way to say that someone is wrong. If it is not that, it might also be a way to show sympathy! On the other hand, you can also use it as nothing more than an exclamation. You should be on the lookout for the tone and delivery to figure out what they mean by it. Reese Witherspoon once talked about it and said, “How we feel about everybody… It’s what we say literally about everybody we know. And we mean it. We do.”

Bless Your Heart

Bless Your Heart

Heavens To Betsy

This is a fun little phrase, but no one knows how it came to be. “Heavens to Betsy” is a phrase used to show surprise at something that has just happened. A lot of people think that it has something to do with Betsy Ross, but this remains unverified. Its first known usage was in the fifth volume of an American journal called Ballou’s Dollar Monthly Magazine. This was published all the way back in January 1857. There are also people who think that it was a euphemism for “Hell’s bells” instead.

Heavens To Betsy

Heavens To Betsy

I’m Finer Than Frog Hair Split Four Ways

Most of the time, people tell you that they are fine when you ask how they are doing. In the south, you might hear them say, “I’m finer than frog hair split four ways.” This was meant to be an ironic way to talk about how they were faring. It first appeared in the 1856 Diary of C. Davis. He said, “I have a better flow of spirits this morning, and, in fact, feel as fine as frog’s hair, as Potso used to say.” We do not know who Potso is, but this is definitely a fun way to brighten up your answer to such an ordinary question.

I'm Finer Than Frog Hair Split Four Ways

I’m Finer Than Frog Hair Split Four Ways

I’ve Got A Hankerin’

There are several meanings associated with “hankerin.’” Etymonline says that it is to “have a longing or craving for” or a “linger in expectation.” When someone from the south says that they are hankerin’ for something, it means that they are craving it. This goes back to a Flemish term called “hankeren” and the Dutch word called “hunkeren.” They both mean “to long for something.” This term might be an intensive form of “hangen,” which is Middle Dutch for “to hang.”

I've Got A Hankerin'

I’ve Got A Hankerin’

I Might Could

You might think that this sounds strange, but this double modal is used in the south. It means that a person might be down to do something in the future. Let us pretend that someone asked you, “Are you going to work on the car later?” You can always respond by saying, “I might could.” As you might have figured out by now, Southern slang involves cutting down the number of words that you need in the response. This is just a shorter way to tell someone, “I’m not sure but I might decide to do it later.”

I Might Could

I Might Could

It’s Blowin’ Up A Storm

We have talked a lot about metaphors, but this one actually means what it looks like it means. In the south, you use this phrase to talk about the smell, look, and feel of an approaching storm. You might notice that the temperature has dropped or felt the strong breeze all of a sudden. This also involves the scent of rain, as well as the sight of lightning. If you ask us, we really would not mind other people using this phrase in the same way!

It's Blowin' Up A Storm

It’s Blowin’ Up A Storm

Can’t Never Could

Here is another example of a double modal from the south! What does it mean when someone “can’t never could”? The truth is that there is a simple reasoning behind this southern phrase. You will never accomplish your goals if you think that you cannot do something. When you dwell on the negative aspects of the task at hand, you tend to derail your shot at actually accomplishing this goal!

Can't Never Could

Can’t Never Could

Well, I S’Wanee

It is a pretty common practice to take out unnecessary words in the south. That is not the case this time around. For some reason, “I swear” morphed into “Well, I S’wanee.” According to southerners, it has something to do with the Southern Suwannee River or a small town called Sewanee, Tennessee. It is also possible that it is another way to say “I s’wan” or “I s’wan ye.” Both of those come from the northern English dialect and mean, “I shall warrant (you).” In our opinion, this is such an interesting way to swear something!

Well, I S'Wanee

Well, I S’Wanee

Worn Slap Out

You probably already know that to be worn out is to be exhausted. However, to be “worn slap out” takes things even a step further. In essence, it means that you are both mentally and physically tired. You will probably hear this a lot in the middle of the summer, when temperatures go up to the triple digits. No one enjoys heat strokes! This is another fun southern slang that you might want to add to your vocabulary.

Worn Slap Out

Worn Slap Out

Busier Than A Moth In A Mitten

Fair enough, this one is not used as much as the other entries on the list. At any rate, this is still a handy southern phrase every now and then. A month inside a wool mitten would probably be busy eating the material. This phrase is not all that hard to figure out. We all know that moths love nothing more than chowing on our favorite wooly clothes. A person is “busier than a moth in a mitten” when they have a lot of things on their plate at the moment. It is not that complicated, is it?

Busier Than A Moth In A Mitten

Busier Than A Moth In A Mitten

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