Mama’s Favorite Sayings: A Beginner’s Guide for Gen X, Y and Z

South Park Library

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The weather’s gotten a wee bit snappy in these parts, in your neck o’ the woods.  But not too chilly yet to sit on the porch for a spell.  Last evening, your friend, Elizabeth upped and said, “Well, I reckon it’s gotten cold enough to kill a hog.”

“Excuse me?” you leaned in closer in case you’d gone deef, as Mama used to say.

“Oh–well my uncle used to say that when it started to get cold,” she said, simply.

Southerners have always been wordsmiths extraordinaire. But y’all need to revive these adages, because they are quickly goin’ by the wayside:

Honey, she was always barkin’ up the wrong tree.

He was caught with his pants down, 

and furthermore, he just. didn’t. cut. the. mustard.

That bug was deader than a doornail.

Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Don’t put your eggs all in one basket.  (this is quite a popular one in your own household)

Well, he’s just dumber than a sack of hammers…

…but I could just eat him up with a spoon.

Well, she just pure-tee flew off the handle. 

He got the short end of the stick, 
And then he went hog wild. 
Then he went at it whole hog. (There seem to be several concerning bugs, dogs, hogs, horses and barns.  Sort of a farm theme, if you will)

Sugar, they got on like a house afire.

He always goes around his elbow to get to his thumb. (as mama often described an uncle)

Great day in the morning, great scott, and good night.   Heavens to Betsy, and (You have never heard a Gen X’er say one of these; nary a one.  Goodness, gracious)

I’m going to have a fit and fall in it.

I’m gonna lick the tar out of you, 

But I love the stuffin’ out of you.

He’s nothing but a Johnny Come Lately.

Truth be told, I’ve been running around all day like a chicken with my head cut off.

You scared the living daylights out of me.

There’s more fried chicken than you could shake a stick at.

Long story short, our cousin has gone and gotten as big as a barn.

Well, I wouldn’t do that to save my neck. (this saying alarmed a young, northern acquaintance one day, as she thought you’d had neck surgery)

It’ll only take two shakes of a lamb’s tail. (as she’d whip up a delicious breakfast of eggs, sausage and biscuits)

Katy bar the door, there’s trouble up yonder.  So if you ever hear any Gen X’ers and so forth making these utterances, please thank them from the bottom of your heart.  They have a lonnnnnng road to hoe…



A freelance writer who revels in the 1970's...and today. Thoughts on being a baby baby boomer and empty nester. Welcome to the Saturday evening porch.
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29 Responses to Mama’s Favorite Sayings: A Beginner’s Guide for Gen X, Y and Z

  1. ryoko861 says:

    Oh, um….I still use A-LOT of those. They’re alive and well in Pennsyltucky.
    We use “…dumb as a rock” here instead of “hammer”.
    “You could wait for that to dry til the cow’s come home” or similar is something we don’t hear anymore.

  2. Val says:

    Well, I’m from the UK and we use a lot of those ourselves. 🙂

  3. winsomebella says:

    Southerners have a way of saying things that is unmatched.

  4. Got a great chuckle out of this one! We also say some of those up here in the Northern part of the country. Of course, when I say ‘we,’ I mean those of us older than 35. 😀 Just Sunday this old one from my grandma slipped out of my mouth – “Oh, you’ll get better before you’re married!” Had to explain it to my 20-something daughter. Sheesh!

  5. Well, he’s just dumber than a sack of hammers…or another one “a fence post.” These are so common down here. Funny!

  6. These are great! This one’s my favorite: “Sugar, they got on like a house afire.” 🙂

    But after reading all these, I have to say that I feel somewhat scolded! These sayings are hilarious, but a lot of them seem to infer we’re all up to no good. (Maybe because we are!)

    • So true, Melissa–great insight! I realized that many were so humble in origin, yet so shameful to boot!
      (Actually, my mother never said about beating the tar outta us, but folks would use it specifically, esp. with sports, as in ‘State beat the tar out of us,’ etc.)

  7. k8edid says:

    You forgot “deader than a door-nail”. “…doesn’t have the brains God gave a goose”. “Hell’s fire”. “Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth”
    I also love how any verbal instructions or directions for making/building/cooking/killing something begin with “ya get ya a big ole….(zucchini/hammer/ham/knife).

  8. You scare the living daylights out of me, thinking these might be has-been expressions….geez, I must be older than dirt!

    • Hey, Julia! It’s scaring the be-jesus outta me! No one uses these anymore, do you think? I still cling to them, even if they are becoming outmoded. Am trying to use them around my children as much as humanly possible.
      You are not older than dirt!!!

  9. Oh yeah…how about “fixin’ to do something…”?
    As in I’m “fixin’ to leave”, or “fixin’ to get me some”, or “fixin’ to read that (there) ” ,etc. Still chuckling…

  10. OMG–Georgette. Love those fixin’s! Also remember Grandma using the term fixin’ in a multi-functional way, such as chicken n’ fixins…

  11. comingeast says:

    Loved your list. Think part of those sayings is regional and another part is generational. In San Antonio, we used to say, “He’s one taco short of a combination plate” for someone who “wasn’t all there.”
    My grandmother used to say, “Well, I’ll Swanee!” when she was flustered. She was a Kentuckian. Actually, she said a lot of other things when she was flustered…

    • Loving the “one taco short of a combination plate,” CE! I had a list of those types of sayings all stored up to share and will add yours to the list. Dad and I always loved those!
      And I remember some kinfolk saying, “Well, I swan…” to boot.

  12. Tori Nelson says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I say at least a few of those, and people look at me like I made them up!

  13. I’ll make an effort to start using more of these and help bring them back, but I may try and increase efficiency by combining sayings like ‘She was barkin’ up the wrong bump on a log.’

  14. Pingback: Old Sayings | Sequoia Senior Solutions Blog

  15. am familiar with quite a number of those.
    how about somebody young, or possibly a greenhorn? i remember the expression ‘young whipper-snapper’ but don’t know if anybody ever used that in real life, or if it was on TV 🙂

  16. saturday evening porch says:

    Love this, Kris–I use the term ‘whippersnapper’ all the time! And believe it or not, ‘greenhorn’ is an SAT word I teach! Thanks for stopping by the porch!

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