Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Genre Talk

Today for a genre, I'd like to talk a little about a subject near and dear to my heart: Southern writing. Now, the eggheads among us dismiss it, stating anyone can do it ("just write like a hillbilly"). Nothing could be further from the truth. Real Southern writing is as multilayered as a country quilt (Flannery O'Connor, anyone?), and contains phrases and terms that, like jalapeno peppers in cornbread, can add deeper texture to something that's already good.

So in honor of Southern writing; I'd to present just a few turns of phrase I grew up with, with their citified definitions. Some you may know, some not, but see if you don't agree they're tasty!

1. A Bone to Pick (someone who wants to discuss a disagreement)
2. An Axe to Grind (Someone who has a hidden motive. This phrase is said to have originated from Benjamin Franklin who told a story about a devious man who asked how a grinding wheel worked. He ended up walking away with his axe sharpened free of charge.)
3. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel (one corrupt person can cause all the others to go bad if you don't remove the bad one)
4. At sea (lost or not understanding something)
5. Bad Egg (Someone who was not a good person)
6. Barking at a knot (meaning that your efforts were as useless as a dog barking at a knot.)
7. Barking up the wrong tree (talking about something that was completely the wrong issue with the wrong person)
8. Bee in your bonnet (To have an idea that won't let loose )
9. Been through the mill (had a rough time of it)
10. Between hay and grass (Not a child or an adult)
11. Blinky (Between sweet and sour as in milk)
12. Calaboose (a jail)
13. Catawampus (Something that sits crooked such as a piece of furniture sitting at an angle.)
14. Dicker (To barter or trade)
15. Feather in Your Cap (to accomplish a goal. This came from years ago in wartime when warriors might receive a feather they would put in their cap for defeating an enemy)
16. Hold your horses (Be patient!)
17. Hoosegow ( a jail)
18. I reckon (I suppose)
19. Jawing/Jawboning (Talking or arguing)
20.Kit and caboodle (The whole thing)
21. Madder than an wet hen (really angry)
22. Needs taken down a notch or two (like notches in a belt usually a young person who thinks too highly of himself and needs a lesson)
23. No Spring Chicken (Not young anymore)
24.Persnickety (overly particular or snobbish)
25.Pert-near (short for pretty near)
26.Pretty is as pretty does (your actions are more important than your looks)
27.Red up (clean the house)
28.Scalawag (a rascal or unprincipled person)
29.Scarce as hen's teeth (something difficult to obtain)
30.Skedaddle (Get out of here quickly.)
31. Sparking (courting)
32.Straight From the Horse's Mouth (privileged information from the one concerned)33.Stringing around, gallivanting around, or piddling (Not doing anything of value)
34.Sunday go to meetin' dress (the best dress you had)
35.We wash up real fine (is another goodie)
36.Tie the Knot (to get married)
37.Too many irons in the fire (to be involved in too many things)
38.Tuckered out (tired and all worn out)
39.Under the weather (not feeling well - this term came from going below deck on ships due to sea sickness thus you go below or under the weather)
40.Wearing your 'best bib and tucker' (being all dressed up)
41. You ain't the only duck in the pond (It's not all about you.)
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  1. Thanks for the laugh, John, and the reminder of good times. I am a "Southern" writer, and I often include Southern phrases in my writing. One such phrase is "a dog needs his tail more than once". Translation: "One day you'll ask me for a favor, and I'll remember when you wouldn't do this one for me."

    Have a good day!

  2. I'm glad you liked it, Linda. Thanks!

  3. I'm familiar with most of those, but "barking at a knot" is new to me. I love it. It's like trying to get a politician to see your point. You may as well be barking at a knot!

  4. LOL, I'd heard most of these, but learned some new ones, too. Oh, and I've always heard "ax to grind" as something is bothering someone and they won't leave it be until it is fixed - so your interpretation brought new light to that one for me.

    Another one that comes to mind is "wet behind the ears" (still very young or immature or naive or all three.)

  5. "Blinky" has just become my new favorite word.

  6. I've lived all my life in Alabama. I'm also a lawyer who works on national and international cases. At one meeting at a mega firm, we had probably 50 lawyers and bankers trying to hammer out a deal.(Incidently I was also the only female in the room.) We'd been going about 4 hrs., when the meeting came to a screeching halt because I said the other side was about to "crawfish" on the deal. It means to go backwards or sideways to get out of a bad situation. The room exploded in laughter. (Sorry for the long post.

  7. I was in college when I learned that an adjustable wrench was not a "thumb wrench". I learned it in a very public way.

  8. Blinky was the only one I didn't know. Fun list!

  9. Thanks for all the comments, folks. Yeah, we hilljacks are nothing if not colorful! *G*

  10. The 2 I've stumped my yankee friends with are "as the crow flies" (to reckon distance) and "fit to be tied" (chagrinned, shocked, overwhelmed)