Speaking Southern, Vol. 5: How much do you like?

A while back, I wrote a few stories about speaking Southern. (“What in the Sam Hill are you doing?” “Drunker than Cooter Brown,” “I Found it in the Chester Drawers,” and “Nekkid as a Jaybird.”

Quite a few folks saw the stories in the newspapers, online, and in my “Volunteer Bama Dawg” book.  Also, I’ve shared those tales with a couple hundred churches and clubs.  So pretty much every day, someone comments on these “Southernisms,” and then lets me know I forgot a few.  I always write them down, because I don’t want them to get away!

Among my favorites are the sayings that make me laugh, like, “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” Speaking of butter, if you were talking about a “heavy set” fella, you might say, “You’d have to butter him from head to toe to squeeze him through the door!” Now if his wife was petite, people would say, “Well she ain’t no bigger than a minute. But you oughta see them two cuttin’ a rug. They go together like an RC Cola and a Moon Pie!”

Speaking about a guy who ”ain’t right smart,” someone might say, “His driveway don’t go all the way to the road.”

When we saw something that amazed us, we would say, “Goodness gracious! My lands! That beats all I ever saw! I ain’t seen nothin’ like that in all my put-togethers!”

We like to add extra syllables in the South: that football star is an “ath-a-lete,” and that person who sells houses is a “real-a-tor.” Then again, sometimes we take out a letter or two.  Ornery becomes “onry,” aggravate becomes “aggavate,” and library becomes “libary.”

We have to put up a bob-war fence, so them cows can’t excape. If we run a fever, or catch la-monia, we feel mizable…even puny. In other words, we’re not worth a plugged nickel.  But when we get better, we’re finer than frog hair.

After we carry someone to the store (that sounds painful), we’ll get ‘em home so they can put up the groceries.  Especially the roastin’ ears and the squarsh.

If somebody just left the house, we’ll tell you he lit out of here.  He just up and went.  Or if we want to talk proper, he just up and left. If he was wanderin’ around aimlessly, he was runnin’ around like a chicken with his head cut off.

We would talk about the weather, too.  “What’s the tempa-cheer?’  “Is it snowin’?” If the answer was yes, the next question was always, “But is it layin?”

If Mama got impatient with her lazy son, she might say, “Boy, lookie here! You’re on my last nerve. You’re like a blister: you don’t show up ‘til after the work is done.  You orta stop yer dilly-dallying, and get a move on! I’ve got half a mind to make you pick up the house!” (That didn’t mean actually lifting the house….just cleaning it up). He would just shrug his shoulders and say, “Tain’t fair. Stop pickin’ on me.”

Before you asked the boss-man for a raise, you would want to find out if he was in a good humor. After all, everybody knew he was bad to drink.

“Whatcha want for supper?” the wife might ask.  “The husband would reply, “I got a hankerin’ for some fresh okree. But not too much. I’m full as a tick.”

We used to build a lot of things by hand, but some of us weren’t too good at it. “Boy, wait just a cotton pickin’ minute. You call that an outhouse? Don’t you know how to may-sure (measure) those two-by-fours? This side’s all cata-wampus, and the rest of it is all lopsided!”

Back then, the person in charge was “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.” If you were asked to check on a relative, you were told to “Mosey over yonder and see about Papaw.” We had never heard of suspenders.  Those things that held up your britches were galluses.  If you were told to do something you had already finished, you would reply, “Ain’t no need to. I done done it.”

If you had almost completed a chore, we wouldn’t ask how much longer it would take you.  Instead, our question was, “How much do you like (lack)?” In fact, “like” was a multi-purpose Southern word. Instead of saying we “almost” did something, we’d say “like to.” As in, “Lordy, I like to have passed out when she came in here with that hairdo. That ceilin’ fan like to have rurned her beehive.”

If you went to church of a mornin’, you would likely someone hollerin’ “Halle-loo-yer!” followed by a hearty “A-Man!” Then if you started causing a commotion, Mama would say, “Sit still and hush yo mouth! You’re enough to make me lose my religion.”

Well, shoot-far, and save the matches! I’m almost out of space. Until we do this again, I’ll see ya in the funny papers!

About David Carroll

David Carroll is a longtime Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster, and has anchored the evening news on WRCB-TV since 1987. He is the author of "Chattanooga Radio & Television" published by Arcadia.

2 thoughts on “Speaking Southern, Vol. 5: How much do you like?

  1. Renae Smith

    Here’s one for you, David.
    My mom used to tell me “You don’t have brain one,” if she was aggravated with me…so as a child I sometimes thought I had two brains.

  2. Roger Thomas

    If my mother wanted have a word with someone she was going to bless somebody out or give them a piece of her mind.
    My paw Thomas wore overalls his whole adult life.
    Once he went to a Dr in Maynardville (Tn). He had to strip all the way down to his money belt. Never went back.


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