It’s Saturday night, almost midnight, and your California protagonist has arrested a couple of strangers who sorta-kinda sound as if they’re speaking English, but not quite. Sure, every third or fourth word is recognizable, but phrases such as, “If’n you don’t let me go I’ma gonna stomp a mud hole in your ass,” well, they just don’t quite make sense.
The drawl, though, should be a dead giveaway. Yep, those folks are from the southern part of the country from where I lived for a few decades. It’s where life is just about as fine as the hair covering our little green friend pictured above.
You know the old saying, right?
No? Well, when someone who resides in the bottom half of the Commonwealth of Virginia asks how another person feels, and they feel good, the person might respond by saying, “I’m as fine as frog hair.”
So, without a Southern-speak interpreter your hero’s caught twixt a rock and a hard place. But this ain’t his first hog-callin’, no sir. He’s been in this pre-dict-a-ment afore. So he reaches for his handy-dandy Officer’s Guide To Southern Speak, and within seconds he’s a hootin’ and a hollerin’ with the best of of ’em, including that famous southern lawman, Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins.
Now you, too, can join in on the conversation. All you have to do is print out the pocket guide (below) and keep it real handy because you’ll want to know exactly what to do when Bubba Lee Johnson, Jr. says, “If you feel froggy, jump.” Of course, even without “jumping frog” warning, when Junior spat out his Redman chew—the whole wad—and snatched off his grease-stained Hank, Jr. t-shirt while puffing out his narrow chest, well, you sort of knew he was ready to fight. His words were simply a dare for you to make the first move (why they always, always, always tear off the t-shirt is a mystery of the universe, along with black holes and Stonehenge).
Anyway, poke your finger at the print button, ’cause if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’m fixin’ to help you understand Southern Speak. And to help us out, Bubba Lee is going to share some of his favorite expressions.
Take it away, Bubba …
1) He’s so poor he cain’t pay attention (a person of meager means)
2) D’rectly (in a little while) “I’ll be there d’rectly.”
3) Like white on rice (extremely close to something or someone) “Bobbi Sue is so stuck on Junior she’s like white on rice.”
4) Looks like two bulldogs in a gunny sack (the motion of a female’s rear end is very appealing). “Hey, Junior, look at ‘ol Bobbi Sue over yonder. Looks like two bulldogs in a gunny sack.”
5) Fixin’ (going to). “I’m fixin’ to head down to the liquor store. Y’unt anything?” (See definition of “y’unt,” below).
6) Blessed me out (fussed or cussed). “I got Bobbi Sue pregnant and dang if’n her husband didn’t bless me out.”
7) Like a cow peeing on a flat rock (a downpour). “It’s raining so hard it sounds like a cow peeing on a flat rock.”
8) Slicker than snot (extremely slippery). “That dad-gum snow made my driveway slicker’n snot.”
9) Fine as frog hair (exceptionally nice). “Why, I’m as fine as frog hair. Thanks for asking.”
10) Rode hard and put away wet (looking pretty bad). “Dang, what happened to ‘ol Junior? He looks like he’s been rode hard and put away wet.”
11) Hungry enough to eat the south end of a northbound skunk (famished). “I ain’t eat in three days. I’m hungry enough to the eat the south end of a northbound skunk.”
12) Quieter than a mouse peeing on cotton. Extremely quiet. “It so quiet in here it’s, well, quieter than a mouse peeing on cotton.”
13) Dancing in high cotton (successful/wealthy). “I just got my income tax check and I’m dancing in high cotton.”
14) Stove up (sore muscles). “Dang, Lulu’s old man come in the back door and I hadda run all the way home. Now I’m all stove up.”
15) Nabs (Lance snack crackers). “I’m going to the store to get me a pack of Nabs”.
16) Catfish are carrying canteens. Dry conditions/drought. “It’s so dry the catfish are carrying canteens.”
17) – Disremember (forgot). Write down what I’m tellin’ you, Ralphie Sue, so you won’t disremember it.”
There you have it, 17 expressions your hero is likely to encounter when arresting a southerner. So listen closely and keep this guide handy. And, bless your heart, not everything that sounds nice is a compliment.
Bless your heart – a polite way to deliver an insult. Transforms a positive comment into a negative. “Her baby is really cute, bless her heart.” In the region of the South where I lived and worked for many years, this typically means the little one is basically stomp-down, butt-ugly.
Therefore, if you’ve queried an agent who resides below “the line,” and their response to your manuscript submission was, “Your writing is wonderful, bless your heart,” well, it might be a good idea to re-think your career choice.
Help is on the Way
To help out (if the rejections become too overwhelming to handle), I’ve listed a few local “HELP WANTED” ads. A couple of them caught my eye, and they need employees right away. The first …
Ghost writer for James Patterson
Paid participant in new drug clinical trials
The letter “D” works overtime in the South
Oh, I almost forgot about the addition of the letter “D” in places it “dudden” belong. I “wudden” gonna mention these but they are an important part of the dialect in some southern locations. It “idden” right, but it is what it is.
Some of you, I know, “hadden” been around many hardcore southerners, so these phrases and words may be a bit furrin’ to you. And, if used anywhere else in the country they simply “wooden” work.
Suppose, for a moment, that Paul Revere had been born and raised in, say, Richmond, Va. If so, locals might have heard him cry out, “To arms, the Briddish is comin’, y’all.” Lawdy, that sounds purdy silly, dudden it?
Fine-lee, I’d like to mention the ever-popular:
- Lie-berry (library)
- Cain’t (cannot)
- Don’t make me no never mind (I don’t care)
- Cut out the light (turn off the light)
- Might ought to/Might could (should)
- Y’unt-to? Rhymes with “punt two.” Like, “Could the kicker punt two footballs at the same time? (Definition – Do you want to?)
- Lie-berry Ann – (Librarian) “There’s the lady from the lie-berry. I think her name is Ann ’cause my teacher said I have to see the Lie-berry Ann to get the book I need for my report on moonshinin’.”
“Don’t make me no never mind if you go to the lie-berry. I’d go witcha but I cain’t right now. I might could go a bit later, though, if y’unt-to Hey, don’t forget to cut out the light before you leave. And y’all be careful now, ya’ hear.”
* Before any of you “bless me out,” I lived in the south for nearly 40 years and have heard each of the above more times than I could count. Remember, many terms and expressions may vary from place to place, but I reckon you already knew that, didden you?
By the way, this article brought to my attention just how often frogs are mentioned in southern conversations. That, and their legs are absolutely delicious, which explains why frog-gigging is a favorite pastime in many locations in the south.