Lately on my MSN home page, or whatever it’s called, they have had story after story about things we Southerners say that the rest of the world doesn’t understand. This last one I saw was titled “Southern sayings  that Northerners need a translator to understand.” I have been others, but they tend to have more or less the same words or phrases that yes, we tend to use some of the time, myself included. And some that I might not use I have heard as I grew up and lived in the South. Well, Texas, which has its own language, too, but with lots of carryover to these things the rest of the South says.

So, of course, I had to read it to see if I agreed with the author’s list. And they all made sense to me! No big surprise, right? The list started with the word yonder, as in look over yonder, or we’re going over yonder, followed by the quintessentially southern y’all. The article didn’t mention it, but you do know that the plural of y’all is all y’all, right? Then followed that something will go on till the cows come home, and that something inconsequential doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. 

Bless your heart was explained to have two meanings or inferences, depending on the situation and the tone of voice in which it is spoken. it can be an insult, but I use it quite a bit the other way, as a compliment when someone has done something nice for me or to comment on something done above and beyond the call of duty.

Fixin’ to came next, and goodness, I use that one all the time. Pretty as the day is long, Heavens to Betsy, and madder than an old wet hen I have heard all my life but don’t think I have used to them speak of, but they aren’t that hard to understand.

Then the list talked about katty-cornered, as in something being across from you diagonally or at the opposite point. When I say that, it tends to come out sounding more like caddy-cornered, but again, it makes sense to me. I also grew hearing my daddy describe some as being caddy-wampus, which could be the diagonal thing, but I think he also used to refer to something really crooked or in a mess.

Next came shopping buggy. Well, I don’t know about that one; I use a shopping cart.

Reckon in place of l think or I suppose is very common to the older Southern generation I think, and I guess I am one of those now-ha-but it seems appropriate when used correctly.

Then came slower than molasses and scarce as hen’s teeth, two that I don’t think I have used, but heard growing up. But those two sound more like someone trying to be clever or cute or trying to sound southern, sort of cliches. This list also had spread out like a hot lunch, which I have never heard, so I question that one.Then there is also something being finer than frog hair, since if frogs had hair, it would be so fine you could not see it!

I have heard of chitlins but have never eaten them, but my daddy always wanted Mother to make cornbread with crispy-fried cracklins in the batter because that’s something he grew up eating, which added a bit of protein to the family diet. Daddy also made a snack of cornbread and sweet milk. sometimes with buttermilk.

I can also relate to getting a good scald on something, having a mess of greens-or something else, just a lot of it, and being full as a tick.

One word that was not on the list that I thought was worth mentioning was when a storm would be developing and Daddy would make the comment that it was clabbering up in the distance and it looked like a storm was brewing. This pictures isn’t exactly a good one of clabbering up, but I think you can get the idea, and in my family we still refer to that condition when a storm is brewing.

Two that to me sound pure Texan are rode hard and put up wet and all hat and no cattle. Rode hard and put up wet really applies in a lot of situations, and I think it is very descriptive. Originally it referred to someone who didn’t take care of their horse after a hard workout, but I have seen people who have had been through something strenuous.  All hat and no cattle certainly applies to a lot of obnoxious egotists, but I have not heard it as much nor have I ever used it.

Then as I was working on this, I saw other articles that talked about what Southerners do that mark us as Southern. Two that stuck with me were that we drink sweet tea- I don’t; but I do write thank notes. That’s just common courtesy, and kids everywhere should learn to the value of doing that.

And the list could go on, but you get the idea. And I have seen more than one list of this sort, but interestingly, not one about what Northerners say that we might not understand. I’m not sure what to make ot that; maybe that Northerners are still trying to make Southerners sound corny or foolish? Perhaps ours are more colorful or interesting, but really, the need for a translator? If you think about them in a common sense way, seems to me they should make sense without an explanation. And you’ll notice I didn’t give an explanation for some of them, relying on your judgment to figure them out if you’ve never heard them.

But then, I grew up with them all around me, so I understand them. Or was I born with an instinct to understand them?

I’m sure there is a southern saying that would explain that, so I reckon it will come to me after I publish this story…

I will leave you with an incident that has more to do with our accent than our sayings. When Caroline and AJ were young,  Mother and Daddy took us all to Disneyland in Los Angeles.One stop along the way was at Lake Havasu City in Arizona. The kids and I were walking along the lake, talking, playing in the water, and we met a woman coming toward us. The closer we came to her, the more she smiled, and when we met, she grinning, said hello, and asked us, :”What part of the South are you from?'” We told her Texas, we talked a bit, and she was satisfied, bid us goodbye and we were all on our way.

Who knew it made such a difference?