Growing up in the South means growing up with a unique set of sayings that make up the local culture. Colorful Southern sayings paint vivid pictures of greener pastures and home-cooked family meals. Southern speakers use phrases to express friendliness, gratitude, or make a situation humorous. Here are some of the top colorful sayings you won’t hear anywhere else.
From Sweet Tea to Cornbread
These Southern sayings pay homage to the flavors of the region. Any Southerner worth their salt would recognize these terms immediately.
• “Come have some sweet tea”: Sweet tea is a classic Southern beverage composed of water, tea, and lots of sugar.
• “He’s wilder than a bull in a china closet”: For Southern families, no staple of decor was complete without a china closet–full of expensive and delicate china dishes. This saying speaks to how chaos will ensue if someone becomes uncontrollable.
• “Bless her heart”: This saying is a perfect example of Southern “passive aggression”. Used regularly to describe people who are not doing their best, this saying is a gentle and polite way of expressing disapproval or disapproval.
• “You look as pretty as a peach”: A popular way to express kindness, the South is rife with peach orchards and gardens.
• “What’s the haps?”: Similar to today’s “What’s up”, this was a fashionable way to ask the Southern youngsters of the time what was going on in their lives.
• “Howdy”: A casual, warm way to greet newcomers or friends.
• “Enough to choke a pony”: This saying speaks to the heart of Southern hospitality. A way to describe how much of a certain item is present, this phrase is typically used to describe how much food there is on the table– so much that it could feed more than a person!
• “He rung my chimes”: A great way of implying that you have romantic feelings for someone.
• “Ain’t no thang” : Used as a way to reply to any request that is not challenging, this phrase implies that something is an easy task.
• “Pass the grits”: If you’re from the South, grits are a breakfast staple. Whether eaten with butter, cheese, eggs, or fish, grits come in a variety of forms and flavors.
• “Colder than a witch’s teat”: People in the south know how to describe a cold day! A witch’s teat is a notoriously cold object.
• “Daddy-o”: This is a respectful way to address someone older than you.
Southern culture is full of animal references, from armadillos to possums– they’re all included in the colorful Southern sayings.
• “Slower than a one-legged turtle in a tar pit”: Expressing a slowness in an entertaining way, this saying is sure to draw a smile.
• “Madder than a wet hen”: A phrase that implies a person is extremely angry.
• “Faster than a jackrabbit”: To imply that something happened or was completed quickly.
• “Crazy as a loon”: A loony is an old southern way of describing someone who is insane.
• “Uglier than a mud-fence” : Mud fences are a thing of the past– common on rural farms, old mud fences were often used to separate property lines and were not a pretty sight.
• “He had a thick head like an armadillo’s”: Armadillos are known for their hard shells and a phrase like this doesn’t necessarily stick to a negative connotation as someone can be as persistent as an armadillo.
• “Cooler than a cucumber”: To describe someone who is so relaxed that they appear emotionless.
• “She wouldn’t hush up. She was excited like a dog with two tails.”: This phrase is meant to indicate that someone is very excited and won’t quiet down.
• “As angry as a bear”: A phrase used to indicate someone is very angry and probably shouldn’t be messed with.
• “Happy as a possum eating sweet taters”: Possums can be scavengers and very content animals, in spite of their reputation.
• “As slippery as an eel”: A phrase used to describe someone who is wily and untrustworthy.
Southern sayings typically go hand-in-hand with Southern hospitality. The phrase “Southern charm” is often thrown around to describe a combination of warmth and graciousness. These Southern sayings exemplify this charm.
• “Have a blessed day”: A polite goodbye.
• “It’s much appreciated”: A phrase used to express gratitude.
• “Ya’ll”: A combination of the words “you” and “all”. Generally used to address more than one person at a time.
• “I do declare”: Meant to express excitement.
• “Well, I never…”: Another way to express shock or surprise.
• “Nosey as all get-out”: Describing someone who is nosy and not too shy to go digging into other’s business.
• “I appreciate that, sugar”: A sweet, endearing term of gratitude.
• “Land sakes, Alice!”: A Southern way to voice surprise and disbelief.
• “He won’t be the same again”: Usually said after a traumatic event, this phrase is meant to express sympathy and understanding.
• “It’s a good thing”: Used to express gratitude for something positive.
• “He’s somebody special”: A phrase used to describe people with a unique feat or skill.
A large majority of Southern culture and customs revolve around sayings. Whether they’re funny, expressing hospitality, or simply comical, Southern sayings often bring a sense of warmth and familiarity. From “sweet tea” to “crazy as a loon”, this list of colorful Southern sayings you won’t hear anywhere else will help keep the unique spirit of the south alive for generations to come.