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Monday, December 14, 2009

Idiot-Proofing the Southern Idiom

Pin It I figured everyone was getting a little overloaded on Christmas right about now--Christmas music on the radio, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, Christmas...everything. So even though I have some fairly decent Christmas blogs lurking in the back of my head, I thought I'd give yall a break and do something different today.

I'm going to talk about the South.

I'm Southern, born and bred. As some of you may know, we occasionally speak a different language in the South--sometimes for effect, sometimes just because we don't know any better. It's just our raising. I have the benefit of higher education--an English degree, mind you--and still find myself lapsing into the comfort of "yall's", drawled vowels, and words that seem to last forever.

There are idioms, though, that are beyond even me. I think it has something to do with leaving the farm at a relatively young age--perhaps they just didn't stick? Maybe they're more country than Southern?

When I was around twenty, I was driving down the road with my brand-new boyfriend and future husband, Duane. We were passing an apple-orchard on the right, full of twisty, gnarled, totally adorable little apple trees. We were listening to Alan Jackson on the radio (no clue why I remember that--must have something to do with the trauma of the experience) singing "Tall, Tall Trees"--appropriately enough. I remember Duane pulling over, looking at me sideways, and saying slyly, "how you like them apples?"

I sat in silence for a second, pondering his asinine question. How did I like those apples? I liked them fried. I liked them baked. I liked them raw. I liked them fine. I liked them all. "Er. They seem a little scrawny to me."

I knew I had said something totally and completely WRONG when Duane busted out laughing (AT me, not WITH me) and pointed to the buck standing back in the shadows of the apple trees. "I'm talking about that," he hee-hawed. Apparently, the phrase "how you like them apples" is a gloating expression used to ask "what do you think about that?" It doesn't literally mean, "how do you like those apples," although I felt I might be forgiven for thinking so, since we were parked in an apple orchard.

I've learned many other fascinating Southern expressions over the course of my almost thirty-five years.

Root pig or lose your acorn (Eat before someone steals your grub).
I heard they ate supper before they said grace (They're living in sin).
If I had a dog as ugly as him, I'd shave his butt and make him walk backwards.
He's so ugly his momma had to tie a pork chop to him so the dog would play with him.
He's two bricks shy of a full load.
He's a few fries shy of a Happy Meal.
She was all over him like white on rice.
Boy, you are letting your mouth overload your butt. (can't back up speech with actions)
That woman would argue with a fence post. (or, "an empty house")
You're just cuter than a speckled pup in a little red wagon. (I've actually had someone say this to me--when I was sixteen years old, working as a cashier at Kroger, a forty-something man thought this was a great idea as a come-on line. Not so much.)

At any rate, I hope I've duly entertained you with a few of our little euphemisms. I promise not to tie pork chops to my kids or start arguments with any fence posts any time soon, although I have noticed a few fries missing from my Happy Meals lately. I think I'll go look for them now. ;)


PMC said...

cute! love it...i have heard some of these all my life. my favorites (from my grandma who was born, raised, and lives in a little southern town: play perty (toys), cloe-rox (bleach..which by the way will help with bee stings according to my dear granny), and her version of patty-cake..."patty cake, patty cake, bake me a cake as fast as you can. rollllllll it aroun' rollllll it aroun' PITCH IT IN THE PAN!"

Mamma has spoken said...

Or how about "Oh honey, he's just not the sharpest tool in the shed if you know what I mean."

Rachel said...

HUH? I have no idea what y'all are talkin' bout. Y'alls just left me in the corn crib. What y'alls just said don' make a lick a sense I tell ya. Not one lick a sense. And y'alls call yurselves ejucated!

Richard & Natalie said...

Thanks for sharing your "southern experience"- it made me smile.
I have cousins from Tennessee. We gathered in Oregon one year for a reunion where we all stayed at a relative's home. Most of the boys slept in the attic over the garage; away from the house and the bathroom. When they were getting ready for bed my great uncle asked them if they wanted a "pee can". My brothers politely declined, but the Tennessee cousins readily accepted. They were very disappointed when he handed them an old coffee can instead of a can of nuts. We got a good laugh anyway and tease them about it still to this day.

Mamma has spoken said...

@Rachel The local city water tower has Florence Y'all painted on it and it faces I-75. Many who aren't from the area find it funny. Those from the area find it common place....

Lori said...

PMC: I can hear your granny now, bless her heart, especially that Cloe-rox. That stuff works miracles.

Mamma: I know that one WELL, believe me. It comes with several hysterical variations that work quite well depending on the situation--I think it's a contest, sometimes, to see who can come up with the most original.

Rachel: Sorry to leave you in that thar corn crib, hon! Just smile and nod and you'll be okay. ;)

R&N: HAHAHA! I have to laugh at this one, 'cause my husband's grandfather slept with a Mason jar in his bedroom until he died at the ripe old age of ninety-five. If I'm not mistaken, his uncle still has one. It's a right old farm tradition. Unless you want to visit the outhouse in the middle of the night, you'll keep one nearby. They're handy on prolonged trips, too. ;)

Gerb said...

I went to McDonald's in Texas just to ask: 'Do you frah your frahs in ol?' (I thought I was SO funny.) The cashier looked at me funny, looked back to the vat of oil then turned to me and said, 'Yay-uh. In ol.' It was pretty much the highlight of my Texas trip, hearing those Texans talk. Whenever they'd see how many kids I was carting around they'd say, "Oh, bless your heart, darlin'." I don't think my heart has ever been so blessed.

Lori said...

Gerb, you ARE SO funny. And you needs lots of blessin', dear. Or therapy, one. ;)

The thing about Texans is that they kinda sorta speak a language unto themselves. My brother moved to Texas out of college and it's been real interesting learning some of their lingo.

Richard & Natalie said...

Lori, LOL about the Mason jars. May I please, send my FIL to live in the South with you? He uses the Mason jars all the time! I've gotten so I won't eat anything that's bottled at their house anymore. Honestly, who knows where that bottle's been or what's been in it! And yes, it travels on long trips with him too. Luckily, he doesn't usually ride with our family...

Teachinfourth said...

Lori, you never cease to amaze me with your posts...

My class started learning idioms this year and each time I'd use a new one, the class would get confused...it was awesome.

Mel said...

One of my favorite women ever is a friend of my mom. She's from Georgia and has a bucket full of southern idioms. One of my favorites is "uglier than homemade sin." As in "Honey, her dress was uglier than homemade sin." Or "That man was uglier than homemade sin." I just makes me laugh. What are we comparing it to - store-bought sin?
Thanks for the fun post.

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