To this day you can still hear a little Southern lilt in my speech. It doesn’t matter that it was 20 something years ago since I lived there ( not counting a few years at Texas military stations). But some things just never go away, and my habit of slipping back into my drawl is one. Another thing is how I like to toss out phrases that make complete sense to me, but leave everyone around me perplexed. Then I feel obligated to explain it to them, and then it’s not funny anymore.
Growing up, there were a ton of sayings that got tossed about. One Southern saying that everyone knows by now is “bless your heart.” There’s a little conflict on what it means being as different people think different things. But let me be clear, I was raised in a good home where we didn’t say horrible things about people in front of children and strangers. So we said things like “Did you hear, Celia got the house but not the checks … bless her heart” or “Noooo, that boy is up to no good, bless his momma’s heart.” But the phrase could also mean: “Aren’t you so sweet? Bless your heart (insert sarcasm here with a tight smile and hate in your eyes).”
Other such sayings don’t always come across as quick as that one though. My favorite one was “Hush.” You didn’t tell people to shut up. It wasn’t kindly and no one is that rude. If I close my eyes and think real hard on it, I can hear at least 17 of my female family members over the years telling me “Hush, girl.” Yeah, I was such a talker that I would talk to a tree — some things don’t change over time.
If my momma told me, “I reckon so.” That means “yes, but don’t you dare do it.” That was momma speech for “this is the end of the conversation.” This would often be said in public, when you dare to find that tiny pause in your momma’s conversation with someone else to ask a really stupid and inappropriate request. Your answer would be given from between her clenched teeth, ‘cause she was struggling to maintain her proper appearance in public. You would also pay for that comment once you got home. Bless your heart.
Speaking of inappropriate, there are several sayings that could play out proper versus non-proper. “It ain’t fittin.’ “ (That’s right, some things just aren’t fit for society. ) “It ain’t fittin for that girl to act like that; she was raised better.” “Barking up the wrong tree.” This was usually said when I was railing at the world about something that was unfair and I couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t go my way.
Good things get their special sayings too… “High cotton” means that things are real good. Like the days of those high cotton fields equaling a good crop of money and work. “Gettin’s good” also refers good times.
There are some sayings that are only reserved for moms to yell at their children: “Act like you got some sense,” “stop pitchin a fit,” “Lord have mercy,” “you have worn me slap out,” “better off talking to a fence post,” “Imma jerk a knot in your tail,” “quit being ugly” and (my personal favorite)“don’t make me pull this car over or we going home one person short.”
Cooking finds you in a whole different area of speech. If something “ain’t fit to eat” put the spoon down and slowly back away from the table. If someone added “drippings” to a recipe, get seconds. “Stuffing” is something that gets put in the bird and “dressing” isn’t. If someone is serving “peas” it could be one of fifty different flavors, but they will all have bacon in it.
Regardless of how something is said, the main thing is that wherever I go, as soon as I hear that lilt in someone else’s drawl, I have a moment. I go back in time to the smell of the hot humid air, thick soft grass between my toes and the murmur of voices. There’s something so incredibly sweet about home. Even if I never live down there again, I carry that place in my heart and my memories.
— Kalynn Brazeal is a conservative, Christian wife/mom/country girl carrying around an MBA, several decades of business experience and a strong opinion. Now living in the remoteness of North Dakota, she continues to share her column on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and cake. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.