Posted by: episystechpubs | February 24, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Lively Southern Expressions

Today I have a great expression from one of you that is something you might say when you’re extremely happy: “Grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato.” I’ve seen many a possum in my time, but they always look more scary than smiley. I have never, however, seen a possum eating a sweet potato. While I was researching this idiom, I found a list of nine other “lively Southern expressions” from the Huffington Post that I thought you might enjoy. I have to admit that several of you mentioned the grasshopper, molasses, and the cat on the hot tin roof in your submissions, too!

“All hat no cattle”
Imagine the would-be ranching magnate, flush with cash earned elsewhere, who blows into town with a ten-gallon lid, a fresh pair of boots — and a much too loud mouth.

“Fine as frog’s hair split four ways”
What’s that? You’ve never seen hair on a frog? Exactly. Split it four ways and it becomes awfully fine indeed.

“Drunker than Cooter Brown”
As legend has it, Cooter Brown was a man who did not see fit to take up with either side during the Civil War, and so remained so staggeringly drunk throughout the entire conflict that he avoided conscription.

“Grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato”
For a scavenger accustomed to a diet of bugs, slugs, and roadkill, having a fat, juicy sweet potato to gorge on is like winning the lottery.

“Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine”
Deceptively complex, this one contains a built-in lesson in postmortem porcine physiology. As a dead pig’s body lies out in the sunshine, see, its lips begin to pull back from its teeth, creating the illusion of a wide grin. The expression describes a similarly oblivious (though quite alive) person who smiles away when in reality things aren’t going so hot.

“Knee-high to a grasshopper”
Most often used to denote growth, as in: “I haven’t seen you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper!”

“Slower than molasses running uphill in the winter”
Things don’t get much slower than molasses. Uphill in winter? You get the picture.

“Ran like a scalded haint”
The opposite meaning of the previous phrase. A haint, in old Southern terminology, is a ghost, and according to tradition, scalding one will send it running right quick.

“Like a cat on a hot tin roof”
Cats are jumpy enough in a comfortable living room. The expression describes someone in an extreme state of upset and anxiety, and, of course, it was used by Tennessee Williams as the title of his Pulitzer-winning 1955 play.

“Enough money to burn a wet mule”
Why a person might choose to burn a soaking wet thousand-pound mule is anybody’s guess, but the expression was made famous (in some circles) when legendary Louisiana governor Huey Long used it in reference to deep-pocketed nemesis Standard Oil.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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Symitar Documentation Services

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