Southern Sayings – Life in the South

Southern sayings may baffle some people, but they’re becoming more commonplace around the country. However, you may still hear some sassy southern sayings that you might not understand. Of course, you need to know the meanings of these sayings before you use them.

Picture of a heart with a banner and the southern saying, "Bless Your Heart!"
Bless your heart for reading this!

It’s important to realize that if you say something southern out of context, you might get a snicker or two. Or maybe even a “bless her heart” in a not so nice way. Immersing yourself in the southern culture involves much more than words.

It’s about a feeling and an attitude that can’t be described in a blog post. That’s why it helps to visit the Deep South and get to know some folks. Listen to them talk first-hand. Try to keep an open mind when you hear something you’re not familiar with.

And remember this very important fact: Not everyone in the South is a redneck.

Southern Sayings in Action

How’s your mama ‘n them? – When you ask this question, you’re asking how the family is. In the South, mama is such an important part of the family—the one who looks after the young’uns, cooks up most of the meals, and makes sure no one leaves the house without cleanin’ behind their ears.

She’s throwin’ a hissy fit – A hissy fit is anger on display—a temper tantrum at its finest. She might be screaming and hollering, or she might be having a crying jag. A southerner knows how to throw the best hissy fit you’ll ever see. You can also say, “She’s pitchin’ a hissy fit.” It means the same thing.

He’s not playin’ with a full deck – He’s not in his right mind, or he’s not all “there.”

He’s dumber ‘n dirt, bless his heart – This is self-explanatory—unless you know something about dirt I don’t know. Adding “bless his heart” softens it up a little and shows empathy.

He’s blind in one eye and can’t see outta the other – He has no idea about whatever the topic is.

Looky what the cat drug in – It’s been a while since you’ve seen the person who just arrived.

Black and white tuxedo cat playing with a toy
Tuxedo Cat

She’s runnin’ around like a chicken with its head cut off – She’s frantically busy and maybe even acting like a crazy person.

More Southern Sayings

He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow – He’s extremely conceited and vain.

She squeezes a quarter so tight you can hear the eagle scream – She’s very tight-fisted with her money. Some folks might say she’s cheap, but that can take on a whole ‘nother meaning.

A quarter with the eagle side up
Screaming eagle!

We’re so poor we can’t afford to pay attention – We’re flat broke. This can be ongoing or temporary, but it makes the point that you can’t afford much.

That boy can make the preacher cuss – This boy is so irritating, he’s obviously getting on someone’s last nerve.

His porch light is on, but no one is home – He’s not very smart.

Watch out, or Daddy will jerk a knot in your tail – Whatever you’re doing is going to make Daddy mad.

I feel like I done been bit, chewed up, and spit out – I don’t look my best today. This can apply to having a bad hair day, clothes that aren’t flattering, or a face that broke out this morning.

They’re livin’ in high cotton – They’ve come into some money, so they are able to buy nice things. This started back in the days when the higher the cotton was in the fields the more money the farmer would make.

In Case You Didn’t Get Enough Southern Sayings

It’s colder’n a well digger’s wallet – It’s really cold.

Hotter’n the blue blazes – It’s really hot.

Y’all – This is a contraction for you all. It applies to the people you’re talking to.

All y’all – Add “all” to the contraction for you all, and it encompasses even more people—like maybe the other folks in the room or the family back home.

She can’t carry a tune in a bucket, bless her heart – She’s not a good singer, but we don’t blame her for that.

My shirt is all cattywampus – My shirt isn’t hanging right. The word cattywampus refers to something that is uneven or out of order.

Why are you all gussied up? – Why are you dressed up?

My, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? – It sure is nice to see you. Someone might say this after not seeing the person in a very long time.

I go to bed with the chickens – A morning person who goes to bed early might say this.

It’s time to mend your fences – You need to work things out and settle your differences.

Don’t go flyin’ off the handle – Don’t lash out at folks around you. Someone typically says this to someone who pitches hissy fits (see above) for no apparent reason.

Do go on – You’re kidding, right? No, seriously, this means “You’re kidding.”

Southern Sayings I Know but Have Never Used

I do declare – This has absolutely no meaning, and it’s often uttered when you have nothing else to say.

Just makes you wanna smack your granny – Say this to emphasize a point. If something tastes really good, you might say it’s so delicious it just makes you wanna smack your granny. Now that I’m a “Nana,” or granny, I’m not all that fond of this saying. I mean, who wants to be smacked, right?

Used to could – Someone who was once able to do something might say this. For example, “I used to could run fast, but now I’m slow as molasses.”

More Southern Sayings to Come

Since I haven’t even scratched the surface with these southern sayings, I’ll post more in the future. However, if you use a few of these, folks might ask you what part of the South you’re from. I just tell them I went to Southern Miss, and that pretty much says it all.

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