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Talkin' Country Don't Make One A Hillbilly -- Does It?
"What did he allow?"
Have you ever wondered where all those old sayings came from? Well, I sure do ‘cause fact is I still use a lot of ‘em. When I come up with some of my “country” lingo my nieces and nephew often look at me like I’m demented or speaking a foreign language – the first could be true but the second would really be a longshot! Fact is, I CAN speak the King’s English and pretty well – but lapsing into the country vernacular is easy because that’s where I come from and how I was raised. If I go to a snooty party I do my best to avoid it but as often as not I fail on that front – however, it will start some good conversations with strangers!
I just did it -- “Where I come from and where I was raised!” I think that’s pretty clear but lots of people would prefer one says “I was born and spent my childhood in Pittsburgh” or “my early life was spent in Mississippi.” The old sayin’ about “don’t rise above your raisin” is pretty accurate right there. It means don’t grow up and pretend to be something you’re not! I know lots of folks who do that and it must be a real problem having to re-invent one’s self all the time.
One of my favorites is when a country person says “well, what did he allow?” That, of course, means what did the person you’re discussing have to talk about or what news did he/she convey – that one covers a lot of territory in small towns ‘cause there’s always some gossip floating around somewhere.
"That old dog won't hunt..."
“You can hear anything in this town except money rattling and bacon frying!” If you remember that one you’re very close to my age as it’s an oldie. It means everybody’s broke – no money rattling in their pockets and no meat to cook (beans and cornbread only situation). “They ain’t got two nickels to rub together.” Another statement about being poor.
“That old man didn’t come into town on a new load of watermelons!” This saying means the person being discussed is not a dummy and is pretty quick on the uptake no matter what it is.
“Oh, Lord, that just makes my butt wanna dip snuff!” This statement obviously means whatever is being discussed is disgusting and no one would even consider doing it – the commenter is obviously turned off by the whole incident, etc.
“Sundown better not catch that fool in my front yard!” Now, this one means a person is tremendously disliked and subject to trouble if he/she comes around the commenter’s property.
“Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush!” Obviously “a bird in the hand” is caught and under control – “two in the bush” could fly away, avoid capture, etc. so a wise person keeps what he has and doesn’t chase after the unknown.
“That old fool could make the buffalo on a nickel scream!” The guy’s cheap and thrifty.
“He’s tighter than Dick’s hatband.” Again, back to the thrifty thing – this guy doesn’t waste a penny.
“Well, that’s a case of the tail waggin’ the dog!” A statement that means everything’s backwards and the wrong person’s in charge of whatever.
“That old man’s busier than a one-armed paper hanger!” The reference here is to wallpaper hanging and it would be a difficult undertaking with only one arm. The second part of this one is “ he’s busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking!” Obviously, the same sentiment.
“Who stepped on his rubber tail?” A reference to a person who’s grouchy and out of sorts for no good reason that anyone knows about.
“Some days chicken; some days chicken s%#$!” Another self explanatory statement – every day’s different!
“Grow where you’re planted!” Be satisfied with where you are and make progress.
“One-eyed mules pull just as good.” A handicap isn’t the end of the world and is no excuse for not working.
“He’s a wild horse rider and a pretty good windmill man.” The person being discussed can do many things; has multiple talents.
“Once bitten; twice shy.” Once you’ve been hurt by something one’s not likely to do the same thing again.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Men and women should have equal rights – what’s good for one is good for the other.
“Same song, second verse” or “same old seven and six.” Something that happens again and again in the same way.
“The south pasture passed by the house today.” The wind’s blowing like crazy and the sand/dust is thick.
“Most of the frogs in Texas don’t even know how to swim.” Texas can be a dry, dry state and the inference here is that some frogs can’t live long enough nor find enough water to learn how to swim.
“Can’t hurt; might help.” Go ahead and do whatever it is under discussion.
“Go ahead on, now – y’ hear?” Get out of the way or continue with what you’re doing. Also a statement of approval for some action or situation.
“Crazy as a Betsy Bug or crazy as a Bed Bug.” Obviously the person being discussed is mentally unbalanced but as no one knows what a Betsy Bug is (or at least not a person that I know) it’s rather hard to judge how crazy that particular person is by this description. Few people have ever seen a bed bug, either but they could be crazy – who knows?
“Oh, he’s dropped a few stitches along the way.” Again referring to someone who’s a bit mentally unbalanced.
“All them chickens will come home to roost.” This refers to someone doing a bad thing and fate deals them a blow in return – there’s a payback for every bad thing someone does.
“Ain’t got a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of.” This used to mean someone was seriously poor – now it kinda refers to the direction Americans are being led by our POTUS.
“If you’re gonna hunt with the big dogs you gotta get off the front porch.” One can’t make any progress sitting on one’s own front porch – gotta get up and get movin’.
“That old dog won’t hunt!” Usually refers to something that’s been tried before and didn’t work the first time so won’t work thereafter – whatever it is has been tried and failed.
When Granny spoke...
“Meaner than a rattlesnake.” Self-explanatory – real damned mean!
“A penny for your thoughts?” I’ve used this one and wound up believin’ I’d spent my penny foolishly!
There’s probably a million more of these old sayings – and I probably know most of them – it’s just that they’re not used among polite society much anymore and are disappearing fast. Is that a loss? Well, hard to say. Sometimes these sayings were shorthand for a long explanation about how crazy someone was, how cheap someone was or how sorry someone was. In other words, it saved a lot of gossip time if one could narrow the verbage down to a few words. . . and old sayings were very good for that. One couldn’t gossip over the back fence all day, you know?
My sainted Granny had a few special sayings that due to the language can’t be repeated but I’ll never forget her attitude about a new, very young preacher that had dinner with us one Sunday. After he’d left I asked Granny if she liked the new minister. Her reply comes very close to explaining my condition at this point in time on a day-to-day basis.
“Precious, that young man reminds me of a fart in a whirlwind!”
Copyright 2012 Angela T. Blair All Rights Reserved