May 2, 2012
I just finished up an interview with a major radio station here in Atlanta (O.K. it was B 98.5 – very exciting!), and one of the topics on which we touched was Southerners and the stuff we say. I love living in the South and always have; we are such a colorful, often genteel, sometimes raucous bunch. Although I was born here and grew up down in Doraville, I have lived in other regions of the U.S. and believe me, I can say without a doubt that we have them beat. I’ll never live anywhere else as long as I have a choice.
At any rate, we were laughing in the interview at the colorful way we Southerners have of expressing ourselves, of getting our intent across. Once we say something, there’s little chance of the point being misunderstood or forgotten. I’ve heard our way of speaking referred to as “y’allbonics,” which I find amusing. I'm willing to bet you've all heard these:
“Sam Hill,” as in, "What in the Sam Hill are you doing?" — While there are a lot of stories floating around about who Sam Hill was (a politician from Connecticut, a champion of the Pacific railroad, and more), this phrase seems to simply boil down to “what on earth,” as in “What on earth are you doing?”
“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” – There’s more than one way to get this accomplished. I’m not sure about the reference to skinning a poor kitty.
“fixing to” – about to, as in “I’m fixing to go skin a cat.”
“up under” – under, as in, “The cat is up under the car.”
“madder than a wet hen” – I’ve never seen a wet hen, but if it’s anything like a wet cat, I get it.
“uglier than a mud fence” – I’ve never seen a mud fence either , but I have to assume they’re ugly.
“Drunker than Cooter (or Cootie Brown)” – Cooter Brown supposedly lived right on the Mason-Dixon line during the Civil War, making him eligible for military draft by either side. He had family on both sides, so he didn’t want to fight in the war. Legend has it he got drunk and stayed drunk for the duration of the conflict so that he would be deemed useless for military purposes. I guess Canada was out of the question.
“Get on the stick” – Hurry up and get started.
“Gimme some sugar” – Give me a kiss.
Oh, and one more thing I have to add: When you grow up here, every soft drink, no matter the brand or color, is referred to as a “Coke.” Older folks use the term, “Co-Cola.” My dad does, anyway.
Where else can people get their points across with such flourish? What a great place to live.
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of the recently-released book, “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is eagerly expected in summer 2012.