My mother’s birthday was this week, so in honor of her I’m writing this article on Southern Mom-isms. My mom was actually grew up in rural Pennsylvania. When she married my father, they moved to his home state of Georgia. She adapted very well and I grew up with one of the most Southern “transplants” of all time. She took easily to the colorful language of the South, and my life was full of the traditional and quirky analogies, logic, and colloquialisms that are heard so often. I’ve added several to this list that Mama didn’t say, but I’ve heard them all before.
There’s one problem. There are so many of them I had to categorize them! Hope y’all enjoy!
What Mama says:
When she’s angry:
- I’m madder than a wet hen.
You have angered the beast, and you better run!
Origin: It is well known that chickens do not swim or like to get wet; they get might upset when they are. If a hen is mad, and Mama’s madder, she is absolutely furious.]
- You can stick it where the sun don’t shine!
This is a nice euphemism for “Shove it up your a**!
- You are gettin’ on my last dang nerve!
Mama is losing her tolerance; any further actions will result in a blow up.
- You better straighten up before I jerk a knot in your tail.
You better fix your actions before you get spanked, likely by having to pick your own switch.
Origin: Honestly, I don’t think anyone knows, but this phrase has stricken fear into the hearts of misbehaving children for decades.
- Don’t make me tell your Daddy.
If I have to pull him away from work or tell him about it when he gets off work, you’re gonna be in even more trouble than you are right now.
- If you keep on, I’m gonna give you somethin’ to cry about.
I’m about to whip your butt.
- Quit makin’ all that racket!
When she’s teaching you about life:
- Don’t get too big for your britches.
Don’t let your ego take control; stay grounded.
- Pretty is as pretty does.
Looks ain’t everything; true beauty comes from within.
- It’ll all come out in the wash.
Everything is gonna be alright.
Origin: Mama never worried too much about a grass stain. With a little TLC, it’d come right out.
- You better load your brain before you shoot your mouth.
Think before you speak.
- You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Being nice will get you a lot farther than being ugly.
- You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, it doesn’t change what it is. Stay true to yourself.
- It “buts” and “ands” were pots and pans, the whole world would be a kitchen./ If wishes were horses, beggars would ride./
You can’t always get what you want.
- Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Origin: Back in the day when a person bought a horse, they checked the teeth before they came home with their expensive purchase. However, if someone gave them a horse for free, it would be considered rude to inspect the teeth in front of them. Be grateful that someone helped.
- Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Don’t count on something before it’s happened.
- Don’t put all your eggs into one basket.
Don’t put all your hopes, money, or plans into one thing. Always have a backup.
- If you can’t run with the big dogs stay on the porch./ If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
- Don’t air your dirty laundry.
Don’t share the horrors of your life or family with everyone. You don’t want everyone to know that cousin Joe is an alcoholic; that would certainly tarnish the family name for generations!
Origin: No one would ever dare hang up dirty laundry for the whole world to see! If those stains won’t come out in the wash, you bury it in the back of the bottom drawer where no one will see it!
When dealing with an unpleasant person:
- Someone sure ruffled her feathers!
You sure made her mad.
Origin: Have you ever seen an upset chicken? Whether they’re mad because they’re wet or mad because you got the egg, it’s not a pretty sight.
- May as well be talkin’ to a fence post/brick wall.
Usually said when someone is insanely stubborn or isn’t paying attention, because as we all know, fence posts and brick walls don’t respond.
- He’s three gallons of crazy in a two gallon bucket.
That’s a lot of crazy, folks.
- Quit bein’ ugly.
Remember “pretty is as pretty does”? If you hear this, you’re not being very nice.
- You could drive a preacher to drink.
You are so stubborn!
Origin: Baptists aren’t usually the drinking type, so if you are so frustrating that the preacher wants to drink, maybe you ought to think about a compromise.
- Your face is gonna get stuck/freeze like that.
Scowling because you were told to quit being ugly? You’re like to hear this as a dire warning to fix your face.
- I’m sweatin’ like a sinner in church.
It’s just that hot.
When She Really Wants to Say Someone/Something is stupid:
- He ain’t gonna break his back totin’ his brains.
He ain’t that smart.
Origin: This goes back to when people thought if you had a larger brain, you were smarter.
- He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.
- He’s about as useful as a pogo stick in quicksand.
On Manners & Appearance:
- Beauty is pain.
Whether you’ve burned yourself with a curling iron or are forced to wear uncomfortable heels, Mama has reminded you that looking put together is a little more important than being put together.
- Mind your manners.
I heard this one every time I went somewhere else with someone that wasn’t my parents. It was a term that meant, “I care about you,” but also a warning that if I acted up while away from home I’d get in trouble more.
Random Southern Mom-isms:
- You’re barking up the wrong tree.
When hunting dogs tree an animal they’re hunting, they start making such a racket! Obviously, you’re at the wrong tree and it’s none of her business.
- I’m as full as a tick!
Ew. Ticks are disgusting, and I’ve seen them swell to 5 times their original size when they’re done feasting. Of course, I’ve seen Mama that way after Thanksgiving too.
- Come Hell or high water/ Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise
Mama didn’t care what came up, nothing was going to stop her from doing what she needed to do or going to an event.
- Gimme some sugar.
You better give your Mama some kisses!
- Bless your heart.
You’re so pitiful and stupid, but I’m gonna be nice.
- I’m fixin’ to…
She’s preparing to cook dinner, clean house, or whoop your butt.
- Knee-high to a grasshopper.
A little bitty kid.
- You make a better door than a window.
Get out of the way; you’re blocking the TV. Mama can’t see her “soaps”, so move!
- You better eat or you’re gonna dry up and blow away./ There are starving children in China.
It doesn’t matter if the taste of collards makes you gag, Mama made them so you could eat, so you better eat them. And if you don’t, she’ll always guilt you into it by reminding you that there are people who don’t even get collards.
- You weren’t raised in a barn!
Shut the door and don’t track in all that dirt!
- Blow it off. It ain’t dirty.
So you dropped your french fry. You better blow all those germs off and eat it anyway. Don’t be wasteful!
- This ain’t my first rodeo.
Don’t treat her as if she’s never done it before. She’s done it far more than you and knows what to expect, whether it’s pregnancy, child rearing, or planning a garden.
Now, y’all, I know this isn’t all of those wonderful Mom-isms we’ve heard throughout the years. There are just too many for one article. Do you have some of your own favorites?