One of my favorite things about living in the state of Alabama is our southernism, particularly the quirky sayings that are attributed to our unique customs. I know, bless my heart.
I love words and I have always been triggered by words and phrases that make the wheels in my head turn. These trigger words and phrases are the ones that I don’t always hear in everyday conversation. I like descriptive words, words that have deep meaning, and I like phrases that make me stop and think, especially the ones that make sense as part of a metaphor, simile or an analogy.
Like most of you, I grew up hearing my parents, grandparents, and other family members throw around funny phrases and analogies, so this ain’t my first rodeo with southern slang.
I heard one of my favorite southern sayings from my granddad when I was about 8. He was talking about a young girl that he went to church with. He said, “Well, that girl ain’t no bigger than a bar of soap after a hard day’s washing.”
Initially, I wanted to ask him what that meant, but the next thing to come to mind was an image of a dissolving bar of soap. That’s when I put it all together and realized that he was talking about how, in comparison to her siblings, she was small in stature.
Another saying I appreciate is one that I first heard from my dad when I was about 10. He was irritated at me for breaking something and said, “You could break a bowling ball with a rubber mallet.” Being that is basically impossible to do, he got his point across to me that I can be pretty destructive at times, but I guess being destructive is better than being as useless as a screen door on a submarine.
As dumb as a box of rocks. As quiet as a mouse peeing on cotton. Couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. As weak as water.
All of these saying and analogies have stuck with me through the years because when I first heard them my ears perked up, so to speak. They are all descriptive and made the wheels in my head turn, and that’s what I love about words.
Recently, I learned a new one from my mom. She came to visit me the other day and we were sitting on my front porch talking like we always do when she said, “Now that’s snag lightning ugly.” I looked at her, laughing, and asked what that meant. She said, “It means it’s ugly enough to snag a lightning bolt from the sky.” We laughed some more and I told her that I thought I had heard all of the analogies in the book by now, but that that one was a new one to me.
That’s the beauty of our culture and particularly our language–it is constantly evolving and we are constantly learning from it.
What are some of your favorite southern analogies and saying?
You should send them with us as a letter to the editor and good lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll share them with our subscribers.
Kayla Beaty is the managing editor of the Times-Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.