Slang - Funny Sayings - Southern Dialect

We havin' ourselves a hootenanny in the Appalachian Mountains!
We havin' ourselves a hootenanny in the Appalachian Mountains! | Source

Southern Dialects

I’m fascinated by slang, southern dialect, and funny sayings. Since I grew up in the South, “Southern speak” is just part of life for me. Until I got old enough to read extensively, I thought everyone talked the way people around here did - except for those movie and TV stars. I can’t really include myself in this group of Southern dialect speakers – my mom was very precise about grammar and vocabulary, so I was expected to express myself accordingly. Even so, I slip into slang from time to time, and I sometimes use funny sayings and slang words that are rampant in the Deep South. I also have a pronounced southern drawl. Most Americans are aware that people from different parts of the country have their own regional dialect. What you might not realize, however, is that different parts of the South have their own individual southern dialects. There are numerous southern dialects. This is true even of neighboring states, and in fact, within individual states. This fact became startlingly clear when I compared my husband’s and my grandmother’s speech to my own southern dialect. Enjoy this romp through slang and funny sayings!

My grandmother's childhood home in Charleston.
My grandmother's childhood home in Charleston. | Source

Charleston

Granny grew up in Charleston and lived in both Charleston and Savannah as an adult. My grandmother was what you might call a proper Southern lady. I grew up listening to her stories of these two sister-cities, and I found them fascinating. Better than the actual narratives was the delivery. Granny had a lovely lilting voice and used a charming southern dialect. Here are some of her pronunciations and sayings:

Vegetable – This was a four-syllable word for Granny, although most of us in the South say “vejtable” – three syllables.

Battery – Granny used to talk about how they would stroll the “Bottery” on Sunday afternoons.

Turn off the lights – Granny “outed” the lights.

Blue jeans – To Granny, they were dungarees.

Charleston Chahlston (no R)

Here or hearheeya

Granny was a huge fan of Clark Gable, especially in his role as Rhett Butlah.

Househoose (I think this came from my grandmother’s Scottish ancestry – she was a Kilpatrick.)

Aboutaboot (I think this also came from Granny’s Scottish heritage.)

Small sofa – a settee

Large sofa – a davenport

A bathroom or kitchen sink – a basin or wash basin

A closet was always a chifforobe.

A refrigerator was an ice box.

Any shirt worn by a female was a blouse – even if it was in reality a ratty tee shirt.

Granny’s bathroom was her lavatory.

Advertisement – Granny said ad VER tis ment.

Sausage – Granny said sossidge.

She referred to both a beer and a bear as a beya.

Charleston, South Carolina

A markerCharleston, SC -
Charleston, SC, USA
[get directions]

My Hillbilly hubby's family came from the Appalachian Mountains.
My Hillbilly hubby's family came from the Appalachian Mountains. | Source

Hillbilly

My husband, Johnny, is from North Carolina, and some of his words are very amusing to me and my Georgia friends. He grew up in Charlotte, but his family was from the Appalachians, so he speaks a sort of Hillbilly, which includes slang and pronunciation alterations. After meeting some of Johnny’s NC friends and relatives who hail from the same part of the state, I realized they all talk like Johnny! It’s definitely a regional thing – my relatives from a different part of NC don’t talk like this. So when I refer to NC below, I’m referring to just one section of the state:

- In Georgia, when we sink in mud, we bog down. Johnny mars up.

- To us, baby chickens are biddies. In parts of NC, they’re dibbies.

- We water our flowers with a water hose; Johnny uses a hose pipe.

- A large machine that moves dirt in GA is a backhoe. In NC, it’s a backhole.

- A wheelbarrow is a wheelbarrow.

- Johnny cuts out the lights.

- He takes a shire when he’s dirty.

- He dries with a tal.

- He warshes his hands.

- He cleans the grill with a war brush.

- He cracks the window when he needs fresh air.

- He was adopted and sometimes says he was an awphan.

- Charlotte is Shahlot.

- Our is are.

- A considerable distance is a fer piece.

- A tire is a tar.

- A fire is a far. (That’s why one of the Wise Men was black – he came from afar.)

- Body is pronounced bi-dee.

- Johnny works in the garden with a tral.


I’m sure as soon as I finish writing this, I’ll think of more interesting southern dialect from my grandmother and my husband. When I do, I’ll add more to this article.

She's all gussied up.
She's all gussied up. | Source

Slang

I feel relatively sure that every culture uses some slang words. Maybe we just use more slang here in the Deep South. Or perhaps our slang is better known because it’s more unusual, more colorful, or more interesting. Some of the words and terms below can be considered slang, while others are examples of southern dialect – proper words that are pronounced differently in the South.

Airish – cool, chilly

All gussied up – dressed up

Birdshot – an affectionate nickname for a child

Boggin’ - a pastime that involves driving pickup trucks in deep mud

Break bread – to have a meal

Buggy – a shopping cart

Carry – to give someone a ride in a car

Cat heads – large biscuits, often of irregular shapes

Co-coler – Coca-Cola or any cola beverage.

Coon’s age – a long time

Croker sack – a bag made of burlap

Crunk – drunk, in a festive mood

Dark-thirty – a little after dark

Dinnah – the noon meal

Fern – something or someone foreign

Ferner – a foreigner

Fixin’ - repairing

Fixin’ to – about to

Good ole boy – someone who’s in the clique and has the right connections

Graveyard deadreally dead

Hanker – to want

Hay bear – a fictitious creature that causes shaking, nausea, and/or vomiting for those working in the heat and humidity, especially when loading bales of hay

Heap – a large supply

Heatherns – people who don’t attend church regularly or are “wild” in some regard

Heinz 57 – a dog or head of livestock with mixed breeding

Hen party – an event or gathering for women only

Hissy fit – a temper tantrum

Hootenanny - a party, usually involving music

Idjit – someone extremely stupid

Iron - ours

Johnson time – daylight saving time

Laws – Lord or lordy, used as an expression

Light bread – sliced white bread

Maggot wagon – a food cart

Mash – to press

Mealymouthed – someone who doesn’t speak directly

Meat wagon – an ambulance

Mush – crumbled cornbread in milk

Nary – none, not a one

Nearbout – almost

Nocount – lazy

Pertneer - almost

Pickemup – a truck

Piddlin’ – lazy; a small amount

Pot likker – the cooking liquid in a pot of vegetables that were seasoned with cured pork, usually sopped with cornbread

Oldmonia – pneumonia in the elderly

Oughta - should

Reckon – to think or believe

Right smart – a fair amount of something.

Rile – to incite anger

Run – a small stream or creek

Sass – to talk back to

Scooter-pootin’ – cruising or riding around in a car, with no specific purpose or destination

Skeeter – a mosquito

Sorry – lazy or good for nothing

Stove up – sore, stiff

Suppuh – the evening meal

Tarnation – a mythical place that’s often used in a question, as in “Where in tarnation do you think you’re goin’?”

These parts – this area

The sticks – a very remote, rural area

Toe up - drunk

Tore up – very emotionally upset

Tote – to carry

Urine – yours; something that belongs to you

Varmints – vermin; small animals that are nuisances

Vittles - food

Walmartin’ – a verb meaning to hang out/shop at Walmart

Washateria – a laundromat

Widder woman – a widow

Yam – a sweet potato

Yonder ways – a direction, usually accompanied by a hand or arm gesture

Youngun – a child

The dialects of Scotland and Ireland supposedly influenced southern dialect.
The dialects of Scotland and Ireland supposedly influenced southern dialect. | Source

Southern Dialect

What’s the reason for the southern dialect? I’ve done a lot of research on this. I’ve read a lot of theories and have listened to college professors and linguists offer their ideas. The experts don’t always agree, but the general consensus seems to be that the southern dialect is closely related to the vernaculars of Scotland, Ireland, and parts of England – the ones spoken in the 1600s through the 1800s. Most of the South was settled by immigrants from the countries I mentioned, and once the immigrants got here, they often remained isolated on plantations or in remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains. Some of the same terms are still used today, like "hootenanny," a Scottish word. Many of these communities were made up of extended families and/or of closely knit groups, so they weren’t influenced much by outsiders. And that included their dialect, slang words, traditions, and customs.

Southern dialect and slang were also influenced by African slaves. In some southern communities, and on almost all the plantations, black slaves far outnumbered white inhabitants. Some southern slang came directly from African words, like “tote,” for example.

Why do southerners talk so slow? Well, I have my own theory about that. I think it’s the grits! Have you ever tried to talk with a mouthful of hot grits? Give it a try sometimes. You’ll develop a southern drawl, too. It probably won’t make you speak southern dialect, however. And you probably won’t come up with any southern sayings, either.

Vittles
Vittles | Source

Funny Sayings

I think the South is known for some pretty funny sayings. Actually, I’m sure most parts of the nation and perhaps even the world have their own unique colloquialisms, but southern sayings are special to me because I’m a daughter of the South. Below are some funny sayings I’ve been hearing my whole life. Some are self-explanatory, while a few have even me scratching my head!

  1. Happier’n two dead pigs in the sunshine. Very joyous. I’ve never understood why dead swine would have a reason to be happy.
  2. That’s as useless as teats on a boar hog. A boar is a male hog and has no use for mammary glands.
  3. That horse is black as tar. Tar is black, so such a horse would be ebony in color.
  4. As happy as a possum in a ‘simmon tree. Opossums apparently have an affinity for persimmon fruits.
  5. Even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while. Anyone can get lucky occasionally.
  6. A cat can have kittens in an oven, but that don’t make ‘em biscuits. Don’t jump to conclusions. Things are not always as they seem.
  7. As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers. A cat with a long tail would worry about being injured by the presence of numerous rocking chairs.
  8. A month of Sundays. An extended period of time
  9. I got up at the buttcrack of dawn. I got up when the sun began to rise.
  10. Granpa goes to bed with the chickens. My grandfather goes to bed very early.
  11. I didn’t know if I outta wind my butt or scratch my watch. I was very confused.
  12. He’s livin’ high on the hog. He’s living well.
  13. I’ll pay you when my coon gets fat. I’ll pay you when I’m better off.
  14. Get off that wheelbarra. You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout machinery! You’re in over your head.
  15. As crazy as a betsy bug. Crazy, silly, or dizzy. I have no idea what a betsy bug is.
  16. Easier’n fallin’ off a log. Something extremely easy to do.
  17. He’s a few firelogs short of a cord. He’s dumb. A cord is a measure of firewood.
  18. She could make a freight train take a dirt road. She’s really ugly.
  19. That boy’s as stubborn as a mule. Mules are often noted for their stubbornness.
  20. You can’t sling a cat without hittin’ one. There are numerous said items in the nearby vicinity.
  21. It’s hotter’n seven hells today. The temperature is at or above 100 degrees.
  22. Hellfire and damnation! An expression of anger or frustration.
  23. Enough to wake the dead. Something very loud.
  24. Don’t let your mouth write a check your butt can’t cash. Don’t talk too big.
  25. Grinning like a mule eatin’ briers over a barbwire fence. When a mule eats sticker bushes, it pulls its lips back and appears to be smiling.
  26. That’d make a maggot puke. Something that’s really smelly or visually gross.
  27. He could eat corn on the cob through a picket fence. He has an extreme case of buck teeth.
  28. As crazy as an outhouse rat. Crazy or not knowing which way to go.
  29. She couldn’t hem up a pig in a corner. She’s very bowlegged.
  30. Like a wart on a frog. This describes a very lazy person.
  31. That stinks to high heaven. Something that really, really stinks.
  32. Well, don’t he think he’s cock o’ the henhouse. Describes someone who has a high opinion of himself.
  33. Like a bagel in a bucket o’ grits. Describes something that sticks out in a very obvious way.
  34. That’s better’n sliced bread. Describes something especially clever or useful.
  35. I’m feelin’ sorta fair to middlin’ today. I’m feeling so-so today.
  36. We’re getting’ a frog-strangler tomorrow. The weather forecast calls for heavy rains.
  37. Good enough to make ya slap your grandma. Something that’s really good, most often used to describe food.
  38. You’re gonna get foundered. You’re eating too much. Founder is a hoof condition equines can get from eating too much in certain conditions.
  39. She’s a little long in the tooth. She’s showing her age. Horses’ teeth get longer as they get older.
  40. I got a bone to pick with you. I have to talk to you about something you’ve done to annoy me.
  41. I’m hongry enough to eat the south end of a northbound mule. I’m starving!
  42. He could get a peanut outta the bottom of a Co-coler bottle. He has long, protruding front teeth.
  43. Grandpa’s older’n dirt. My grandfather is ancient.
  44. Back when Jesus was a boy. Something that happened a long, long time ago.
  45. Sit down and let’s chew the fat. Have a seat, and we’ll chat.
  46. Madder’n a wet settin’ hen. Apparently, setting hens hate getting wet.
  47. You can’t get there from here. Describes a place that’s difficult to find.
  48. That boy’d rather fish than eat when he’s hongry. This describes a passionate angler.
  49. They live so far out they have to pipe in sunshine. They live “way out” in the country.
  50. Fish or cut bait. Do what you’re supposed to do or find something else useful to do.
  51. Like washing a cat. Describes a difficult task.
  52. That sticks in my craw. That really annoys me. A craw is in a bird’s throat.
  53. He’s as old as Methuselah. A reference to the Biblical character’s longevity.
  54. Well, ain’t that the cat’s pajamas. Isn’t that cool, neat, or clever?
  55. They don’t have a pot to pee in. They’re destitute.
  56. Put on your big boy britches. Be a grownup and deal maturely with the situation.
  57. He ain’t the brightest crayola in the box. He’s dumb.
  58. I gotta go see a man about a dog. I have to go to the bathroom.
  59. I ain’t put my face on yet. I haven’t put on my makeup.
  60. I’m gon’ skin you alive! You’re in big trouble!
  61. She had a fit over that dress. She really liked the garment a lot.
  62. Finer’n frog hair split three ways. This is often a response to “How are you?”
  63. He ain’t got the sense the good Lord gave a billy goat. He’s dumb.
  64. You’re talkin’ outa both sides of your mouth. You’re saying two different and opposing things.
  65. She knows which side her bread is buttered on. She knows what’s beneficial for her.
  66. Tryin’ to catch a cat in a whirlwind. Something that’s extremely difficult to perform.
  67. Little pitchers have big ears. Children can overhear what they’re not supposed to hear.
  68. I gotta pee like a crippled goat. I feel an urgent need to urinate. I’ve always wondered why lame goats feel such pressure.
  69. She looks like she was rode hard and put up wet. She looks old/tired/ugly/abused.
  70. He moves like the dead lice is fallin’ off ‘im. He looks barely alive.
  71. I didn’t know if I should $hi& and go blind or fart and close one eye. I was in a dilemma.
  72. Bless his heart. This phrase is usually uttered by genteel southern ladies, immediately after they’ve said something bad about a person.
  73. Well, I swanee! This expression is used as a substitute for swearing or cursing.
  74. We’re burnin’ sunlight. We’re wasting time.
  75. I’m gonna jerk a knot in that boy’s tail! The boy is in trouble.
  76. He’ll squeeze a nickel hard enough to make the buffalo beller. This is in reference to a buffalo nickel and is used to describe a miser.
  77. That dog won’t hunt. This could mean that you don’t believe what’s being said, or that the suggested idea won’t work.
  78. I’d jump on that like a duck on a june bug. I would take full advantage of that situation.
  79. Like white on rice. Same as above.
  80. As slow as molasses in January. Describes someone or something that moves very slowly. In cold weather, molasses gets thick and becomes difficult to pour.
  81. He ran like a scalded dog. He ran away quickly.
  82. He’s richer’n ten inches up a mule’s butt. He has a lot of money.
  83. He’s a hard dog to keep under the porch. He doesn’t like to stay home much.
  84. $hi# or get off the pot. Make up your mind!
  85. She’s so ugly her mama had to tie a pork chop around her neck to get the dog to play with her. She’s supremely unattractive.
  86. He looks like he stuck his finger in a light socket while his mama was beatin’ him with an ugly stick. Describes a very unattractive male.
  87. Slicker’n owl $hi#. Describes something slick and slimy.
  88. Hotter’n a firecracker on the Fourth of July. This could describe something that’s hot, temperature wise, or someone who’s very attractive and sexy.
  89. Like water off a duck’s back. Ducks have natural oils on their feathers that shed water. The expressions describes something that doesn’t bother or anger.
  90. Them boys are rough as cobs. This in reference to dry corn cobs, which are rough. The boys are unruly/mean/uncouth.
  91. Tell the truth and shame the devil. Be honest and tell the whole truth.
  92. Smart as a whip. Does the average whip have a high IQ?
  93. He couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. He’s completely tone deaf.
  94. As lost as Hogan’s goat. Hopelessly lost. I never have figured out who Hogan is, or why his goat is always lost.
  95. She ain’t got no home raisin’. She wasn’t taught any manners by her parents.
  96. He eats so much it makes him por’ to tote it. “Por’” here means skinny. He eats so much he stays thin.
  97. She looks wormy. She’s too skinny.
  98. Madder’n a hornet in a rainstorm. Apparently, these stinging insects don’t like to get wet.
  99. As busy as a church fan in dog days. Dog days are hot, and before churches were air conditioned, hand-held cardboard fans would be passed out to the congregation.
  100. Wild as a mink. Wild, unruly.

I hope you got a kick out of these funny sayings and my examples of slang and southern dialect! If you know some other interesting southern sayings, please share them in the comment section. In fact, they don’t have to be from the South. Heck, they don’t even have to be from the Unites States. I do ask that if the funny sayings are in another language, please translate them for those of us who speak only English so that we can enjoy them. If you know of some more southern slang, I’d love to hear that, too. Also, I ask that you not be too quick to judge us southerners as dumb and ignorant. Some of us are actually of or above average intelligence. I sometimes think that many of my fellow southerners just enjoy being thought of as “colorful” and “different.” Perhaps that’s the reason why funny sayings and slang are so widely and so often used here in the Deep South.



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Comments 27 comments

Vanne Way 6 years ago

Good story! As an English teacher in a coastal town I have observed that the dialect here is influenced by the Geechee-Gullah culture. Residents of Sapelo Island and some of the other more northern barrier islands up the coast have the same or similar dialect. After teaching here for quite some time I have become accustomed to the "lingo" and can converse and understand what is being said.


maudine_05 profile image

maudine_05 6 years ago from United States

A unique and very interesting hub...really true as a foreigner (from the Philippines) I had a hard time understanding not just the accent but the phrase and the meaning itself, but Im getting along well I hope.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Yes, Vanne. The dialect there is very similar to that of Charleston. Thanks for stopping by!

Well, Maudine, you seem to be doing fine! Thanks for reading!


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Wonderful stuff, habee-pahleeze keep the Southern stuff coming!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

That's so sweet of you to say, Lorlie! As long as my hands cooperate or I have someone to type for me, it will continue. lol


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

We need to compile a dictionary of both Johnny and Beth's invented words. Of course, Beth wouldn't think it was too funny.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Ahhh, Beth hath no sense of humor. Johnny would think his was funny! We do need to work on a dictionary!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Oh, habee, I gobbled it up like the cat the cream. I

loved every bit of it.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

That was fun. Where I come from our accent is terrible. Perhaps I could write on Yorkshire dialect such as poss for purse, watter for water and chotch for church :)


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

I love this hub and I love the Southern dialect in all its variations.


Helengi 6 years ago

How interesting! As a South African living in England I found it amazing to find that there are similarities and differences between my two homes and yours. I love your hubs. Please keep them coming!


C.J. Wright 6 years ago

Loved this HUB. I'll never forget my first visit to the Appalachian Mountains. They have a complete language it seems. My girlfriends kin greeted me with "Hey heya! Ha yooins dooins?" I had to look to her for a translation.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Love your dialect, too, HH! Good mornin' to ya.

Good idea, Ethel! I'd love to read it!

Thanks, Pop. I'll be over in a minute to see what's for breakfast!

Helengi, thank you for the kind words!

Yeah, CJ - even other Southerners have trouble with THAT dialect! lol! Thanks for reading.


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

Hilarious...I don't have an accent per se but I have learned how to put on a really convincing one. My daughter on the other hand has a true southern accent I always get a kick out of the little ones who have a real southern country accent it is just so darn cute (like in the Forest Gump movie when he was a kid).

I really enjoyed this one.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I agree. I have a 4-yr-old grandson with an amazing Southern drawl! He's precious. Thanks for reading!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

hi habee, I like my bidee, very nice tutorial here, might use some when talking to some people down here,

Happy New Year to you and yours! Maita


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 6 years ago from Southern California

Now that was funny, it took me back. Living here in So. Cal, I had forgotten this very interesting way of speaking, kinda made me homesick. Although some of those I've never heard of. Thanks habee for this walk down memory lane. Very good hub!


TnFlash profile image

TnFlash 6 years ago from Tampa, Florida

Great Hub! I'm originally from Tennessee and I have a major southern drawl. I'm currently living in Florida. Numerous people have commented on my drawl. Most people find it to be quaint. Is that a compliment or not?


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Writing my yorkshire dialect hub today, will link to your hub


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Maita, Happy New Year, my friend!

Hi, FF! I know most of this is nothing new for you. Good to see ya, ya hear? lol

TN, I have a terrible southern drawl! People either love it or hate it!

Oh, Ethel - I can't wait to read it! I'll link, too!


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Great Hub 'yall have put up hee-ah! My family reigns from Tennessee small towns of Finger and Sweet Lips in the western portion. It's amusing but confusing there sometimes. 'yall is 1 and all'yall is 2 or more like 'yall come or all'yall hep me carry this to town. I'm gonna carry this to the house, you care to help me? No I don't care to. Which means yes not no. Anyway I go on with what I grew up with on a small scale because I was born in Arizona and grew up here but some of the dialect made the trip as well as my Pop and on a visit I got exposed full force.

Fun hub!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hey there, 50! How's ya mama 'n' dem? I'm tickled y'all paid us a visit! Hit makes me happier 'n a dead pig 'n' the sun!


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Too funny... Ole Larry an that otherun, Foxworthy feller dune made 'em a heep o cash tellin them stories 'bout us and all dem dare peoples thunk he was a tellin jokes.......


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

So true, 50! They need to pay us a visit, huh?


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas

Good ones habee. But what about goin' ta, fixin' ta, and like gat?


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, RM! That will be another hub!


Shawna 2 years ago

Enjoyed your article, especially the one on your Husband as I grew up in and around Translyvania and Gaston Counties. Some that you didn't mention:

Chimney was chimley

iron was arn

soda was a dope

And we almost always drop our ings

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