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Article Archive >> Community

Reflections: Folk sayings we often use!

Reflections
Folk sayings we often use!
By William L. Bulla

Recently, I was in a restaurant watching one of the football playoff games when I heard a male voice shout "He's out of his cotton-pickin' mind!" He was talking about a referee's decision. Since my favorite team was not in the playoffs this year, the ref's decision didn't bother me. However, his comment got me thinking about the folk saying the young man had used.
There were others that express the same basic feeling that the referee was not too bright such as "He's not the sharpest tack in the box", "If he had brains he'd be dangerous", "He's one brick shy of a load", or "He's not the brightest Crayola in the box."
In some parts of our country, this irritated young man might have been asked, "Who put Tabasco in YOUR grits?" which is an expression for someone who appears extraordinarily upset.
Talking to friends about these folk sayings caused them to mention some others to me. They covered many issues. Some of them I had heard over the years, yet others were new to me.
It seems that many folk sayings use animals to convey their meanings. "Finer that frog's hair" refers to something especially pleasing. "Hold your horses" means to slow down. "If it was a snake, it woulda bit me," means that the thing you were looking for was right there in front of you, or that the thing you were trying to remember was obvious. If one is nervous or anxious he may be described "As jumpy as a frog left in a hot skillet." "Crooked as a dog's hind leg" speaks of one's character, while "Dumb as a sack of dog hair" refers to one's lack of intelligence. "Living high on the hog," means living well. And beauty is expressed by the words "Pretty as a speckled pup."
In addition to using animals we find expression using all other types of items. "Barking up a stump," means wasting one's time. "His bread ain't quite riz", "He's not the sharpest knife in the drawer" and "His elevator doesn't go all the way up" are other examples referring to one's intelligence. "Pretty as red shoes", "Pretty as a new penny", "Uglier'n a tree full of owls" and "Uglier'n a mud fence" are self-explanatory.
If asked "How ya doin today?" the response was often "Fair to middlin" meaning you are ok, not real good, not real bad. "Rode hard and put up wet," means you are worn out. It's a reference to a horse being ridden hard in bad weather, and then put in the stable without being dried-off or fed. "Three sheets to the wind" means very drunk as does "He was so drunk he couldn't see through a ladder."
There are more expressions here "than a carter's got oats." How about "A hitch in my git along", "Better than sliced bread", "Cool as a cucumber", "Cooking with gas", ""Happy as a tick", "Bless your pea-pickin' heart", "Land sakes!" "I'll be a monkey's uncle", What in the Sam hill?" "Put on your Sunday go-to-meetin' clothes", "Grinnin' like a butcher's dog", "Slower'n a one-legged octopus" and "Wild as a March hare" are several of the old folk sayings we still hear being used.
Other expressions, "Fixin' to git ready" which means "preparing to prepare", and to be "shut" of something, meaning "finished with" could now be used as I am fixin' to git ready to be shut of this column for this week.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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