Nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs

A cat will suck the very breath out of a baby and kill it. No, wait. If a cat jumps over a grave, the occupant will rise again, vampire-like. Or is it that a cat will steal your soul? Whatever it is, Southerners have traditionally been deeply suspicious of cats. Mawmaw Atkins refused to even…

Too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash

I have idioms for my idioms. This thought occurred to me this morning while I was in the shower. That’s where I do my best thinking, where I get my best ideas. And this morning I was thinking about the phrase “Too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.” It’s like being between a…

All the things you’re not supposed to say

Southerners won’t hesitate for a minute to comment on someone’s appearance. Yes, we know it’s rude. That’s why we’ll spare your feelings by talking about you behind your back. You know how it goes — if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me. I know. I know. It’s terrible. It’s bad….

If I tell you a chicken dips snuff…

Yardbirds are about as common in southern speech as they are on the Sunday dinner table, so just between us chickens, here are a few sayings regarding our favorite fowl. If I tell you a chicken dips snuff, you can look under his wing for the can. No matter how outlandish, no matter how fantastic,…

Piss on you from a high oak tree

Piss on you from a high oak tree. What a powerful way to express contempt. That’s why this idiom works it’s way into my conversation whenever the need arises to tell someone to go to hell. And the need does arise. I had heard people say “piss on you” before, but until I read Mary…

Crooked as a barrel of black snakes

If you want to talk the idiomatic talk of a southerner, you must embrace the simile. Now in elementary school grammar we all learned that a simile is a comparison of two things using “like” or “as.” And it wasn’t so much something we learned to do as it was learning the name for something…

It’s time to fish or cut bait

It’s time to fish or cut bait. That was my first thought when Javacia Harris Bowser, founder of See Jane Write, issued her annual #bloglikecrazy challenge to publish one post each day for the entire month of November. Thirty days. Thirty posts. A challenge that said to me, “It’s time to fish or cut bait.”…