Pretty is as pretty does

In the south, we place a premium on “being sweet.” And it can be a real struggle as I’ve written about before. So since we all aren’t born angelic like Gone With the Wind’s über-virtuous Melanie Wilkes, here are a few idioms about the art of being sweet, or not.

Pretty is as pretty does. If I heard this saying one time while I was growing up, I heard it a million. And it’s true. You can be the most beautiful belle at the ball, but if you’re hateful and mean, it doesn’t matter. The inner ugly will negate the outer beauty every day of the week.

You can’t put in what God left out. You can’t teach someone to be nice, sweet, compassionate, or kind. Some qualities you’re either born with or you’re not.

Her nose is so far up in the air, if it rained, she’d drown. If you’re stuck up and haughty, well … that’s not very pretty.

Age before beauty. A joking way to suggest that someone go before you, sometimes served with a side of catty. Not very sweet, but darn funny if you ask me.

So sweet I could sop you up with a biscuit. For those of you not familiar with the word “sop” it means to “soak up liquid using an absorbent substance.” Down here, a biscuit is the preferred “absorbent substance,” and honey, molasses, or sorghum syrup — whichever you choose — is all essentially liquid sugar to be transported from the plate to your mouth atop said biscuit. So sweet it will make your teeth ache, when used to describe a person, your heart might ache just a little too. (Read a little more about molasses and the art of sopping here.)

And finally, an admonition Granny used when I was not sweet: Remember yourself! If you’ve ignored the warning from your Granny of “pretty is as pretty does,” and continued to act bad, this is what comes next. It means you’d better get right, remember who you are and where you came from, and summon some inner sweetness — or else.

And I’ll wind this one up with the words every southern Mama says when her baby walks out the door, Love ya! Be sweet!

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