Burke folks spoke a Southern inflected English with many colorlful expressions. There are many lists of old time sayings, but these are ones that we can remember someone at Burke actually using. If you have any favorite expressions or unusual words that you actually heard spoken at Burke, please submit them to the webmaster.
WARNING: Burke talk was not always appropriate for church. For the sake of historical accuracy, the following list contains a few words and expressions that are a bit earthy. Compared to language commonly used in our time, even the worst Burke talk was tame.
- Ain't nobody come
No the kind of people you have to put on airs or clean up the house for.
- Big head
Arrogance, as in "He inherited money and go the big head."
- Been eating razor soup
Making "sharp" statements; being a wise guy
Plain acting; without pretense
- Fat, dumb and happy
Dangerously satisfied; oblivious to risks
- Feet on the ground
Balanced, wise, as in "Old Billy has his feet on the ground."
- High horse
Stubborn or haughty, as in "Don't get on a high horse."
- Might as well
Decision to do something. Ex.: "I might as well go on down to the bottom and fix that fence.
- Nose in the air
Possessing an attitude of superiority
- Put on airs
Act important or superior, as in "Since Grace moved to town, she is putting on airs."
Spoiled, as in "That boy is rotten."
Speak to someone, esprcially a parent, with disrespect, as in "Don't you sass me!"
- Second childhood
When a middle aged person starts kicking up his heels. Now commonly called "middle age crazy."
- Shoot a big gun
Boast or do things in an ostentatious way
- Stubborn as a mule
- Too big for his britches
Arrogant; inflated sense of self importance
- Vigorous (v-eye-gorous)
Mean or aggressive, as in "a vigorous dog "
- Wash your mouth out with lye soap
Warning to a child who is sassy or says a naughty word, as in "You say that one more time, and I'll wash your mouth out with lye soap."
- Before God and everybody
Done very publicly as in "He showed his ass before God and everybody."
- Bellerin' like a bull
Yelling or screaming loudly
- Born in a barn
Failure to close a door, as in "Close that door! Were you born in a barn?"
- Caught with his pants down
Discovered in a compromising position.
- Conniption fit
- Cut a dido
Take a crooked or unusual path
- Cut a rusty
Engage in vigorous fun
- Cut Someone's Water Off
Squelch someone's behavior, as in "She found out he was running around on her, and she cut his water off."
- Didn't go to do it
Unintentional or accidental
- Cut off his nose to spite his face
Act irrationally revengeful.
- Cut up
Misbehave, often in a humorous manner
- Double dog dare
A strong dare
- Egg someone one
Encourage someone to do something wrong or unwise
- Keep your britches (or drawers) on!
Calm down! Be patient!
Stunt, as in "cut a monkeyshine."
- Naked as a jaybird
- Odd duck
Someone who behaves in a peculiar or unusual way.
- Pass and repass
Have a formal but not friendly relationship
- Peck's bad boy
A mischievous child. Derived for a series of "Bad Boy" books by an author named Peck.
Prison, as in "Old Joe's boy Bill went to the pen for two years for making moonshine." Short for "pentitentiary."
- Pillar to post
Erratic, unreliable behavior.
Example: "He moves from pillow to post."
- Pitch (Throw) a fit
Show extreme anger
- Put on the dog
Do things in a showy way. Throw a big party.
- Raise Cain
Complain or cause trouble, as in "She came to the school board meeting raising Cain." Refers to the Biblical story of Cain killing his brother Abel.
- Raise the roof
Make a lot of noise
- Ring tail tooter
A wildly energetic person
- Run someone ragged
Tired you out with activity or aggravation
- Show out
Engage in unusual behavior to draw attention to oneself. Example: "Billy, stop showing out!"
- Show your a**
Misbehave in an embarrassing way
Fined for a legal infraction, as in "The constable caught his speeding, and they stuck him."
- Up and
Did something unexpectedly, as in "He up and hit him."
- Went and
Did something as in "He went and hit him."
- Worry the horns off a billy goat
Extremely annoying, as in "That kid would worry the horns off a billy goat!"
Call of Nature
- Go outdoors (out of doors, or outa doors) or Go out
Go to the toilet
To defacate, as in "That blamed rooster messed on the porch!"
- Ripped my britches
- Slop jar
Chamber pot. It's a long way to the outhouse in the dark, especially in the winter.
- Absotively posilutely
- Fact of the Matter
Speculate, as in "I figure he'll buy the Jones place." Usually pronounced "figger".
- Half a mind
Notion, as in "I have half a mind to go tell her off."
May. Often pronounced "labble". Example:"We'd better get the clothes in off the line 'cause it labble to rain."
- Like to
Almost, as in "I like to fell down."
- Nigh onto
Nearly, as in "I ain't see Joe in nigh onto 30 years.
- No ifs ands or buts about it
Absolutley certain, as in "I gotta go to town to pay the bank note, no ifs and or buts about."
- No way on God's green earth
- Of a mind to
Intend, as in "I'm of a mind to go to town."
- Out and out
Total or complete, as in "out and out lie."
Completely, as in "I'm plumb tired out."
Combination of precisly and exactly
- Purty Near
Guess, as in "I reckon."
- See further on down the road
Wait for better information, as in "We'd better not buy the land until we can see further on down the road.."
- Sure as I'm standing here
- Sure as shootin'
- Up to snuff
Meet acceptable standards
- When all is said and done
The essence of the matter. The result.
- Wouldn't put it past him
Capable of something. Wouldn't be surprised if he did.
Character, Good and Bad
Succeed, as in "That Jones boy never amounted to anything."
- As good (bad) as they come
Best (worst) or their kind
- Bad egg
A troublemaker or bad person, as in "That Billy Jones is one bad egg."
- Crooked as a barrel of snakes
- Egg sucking dog
A despicable person. Refers to dogs who sneak into the chicken house and steal eggs to eat. The habit is hard to break and usually requires the owner to get rid of the dog.
- Good for nothin'
Lazy or dishonest
- Honest as the day is long
- How I'm made
My moral code or ethics, as in "I won't lie to you because, that's not how I'm made."
- Knot on a log
Useless, as in "He useless as a knot on a log."
A lazy person
- No account
Worthless, as in "He ain't no account." Often pronounced "no count."
- Not worth killing
Worthless, as in "That old boy ain't worth killin'."
- Snake in the grass
Dishonest or untrustworthy person
Worthless, as in "Old Mac is as sorry as they come."
- Useless as teats on a boar hog
- Wouldn't trust him as far as I can throw him
Clothing and Dress
Underpants, as in "If that kid of mine don't finish college soon, I'll be wearing tow sack drawers."
- Dressed fit to kill
- Long handles
Long underwear. Also called long handle drawers.
- Sunday best
Your nicest clothes
- Sunday go to meetin' clothes
Best clothes, the kind you would wear to church (meetin')
- Wrong side outards
Inside out, as in "My long handles re wrong side outards."
- All she wrote
The end, as in "That's all she wrote."
- Fair to middling
OK. Response to "How ya' doin'?"
- Green as a gourd
- Slicker than owl s**t
- Soppin(g) Wet
Soaked, as in "Come on in out of the rain. You are soppin' wet.
OK. Response to "How ya' doin'?
State an opinion, as in "Bill, what do you allow?"
- Bless your heart!
Expression of gratitude
- By the by
Incidentally, by the way
- Cat got your tongue?
Why are you silent?
- Ears are burning
Somene is talking about you.
- Full of s**t
- Heard tell
Heard a rumor, as in "I heard tell that he went to the pen for making moonshine."
Tease. Pronounced "hoo-raw".
- I declare! (or I'll declare!)
Exclamation of surprise or recognition as in, "Well, I declare! I never heard of such!".
- I'll swan! (or I'll swanee!)
An exclamation of surprise or recognition, as in "I'll swanee! You don't say?"
Speak incomprehensively, as in a foreign language, as in "Them foreigners was just a jabberin' away ".
- Let on
State orgive an indication of, as in "The mule kicked Ed in the leg, but he never let on that he was in pain.
- Looky here
Look here. Or pay attention, this is important.
- Okey doke (Okey Dokey)
- Pop off
Boast or make a rude comment.
- Pull your leg
Tease someone by stating an untruth
Statement made when someone sneezes. Equivalent to "geshundheit!" Also warning to a cat to leave the area.
- Shoot the breeze
Expletive,as in "Aw, shuckins!"
- Smoke follows beauty
Humorous campfire saying
- Sooner (Just as soon)
Rather, as in "i'd sooner haul hay than dig post holes."
- Speck (expect) so
Probably, as in "Uh, huh, speck so." -- Uncle Bob Weisinger
- Squealed like a stuck pig
Complained loudly or made a lot of noise
- Talk up a storm
Talk a lot
- Tell 'em how the cow ate the cabbage
This expression means to forcefully tell someone an unpleasant truth. It comes from a joke in which a circus elephant escapes and gets into an old woman's cabbage patch. The woman, whose eyesight is very bad, calls the sheriff and tell him there is a huge cow in her garden pulling up the cabbages with its tail. When the sheriff asks what the cow is doing with the cabbages, the old lady says, "You would not believe me if I told you!"
- Throw it up to
Reproachfully remind someone of a mistake
- What in the Sam Hill?
Expression of surprise
- Y'all or You all
Third person plural of you, but sometimes singular, as in "How y'all doin'" or "You all come to see us." The defining Texas word.
- Yessiree, Bob!
- You're s***ing me!
You are joking!
- Barnyard fertilizer
Dried, decomposed cattle or chicken droppings used to fertilize gardens. Chicken droppings were especially strong and had to be used sparingly.
Fertile, lowlying land near a creek or river, as in "I'm breaking the bottom field today.
Plow land for the first time of the season
- Corn crib
A building or barn used to hold corn.
- Cow pattie
Cattle droppings, as in "Watch it! Don't step in that cow pattie!" Sometimes called "pasture lillies."
To castrate a calf
- Dipping vat
A long hole filled with insecticide through which cattle are moved to treat them for pests
- (Cattle) Frames
Fencelike cage installed on a pickup bed to haul livestock, as in "Go put the frames on the truck so we can haul them yearlings to the sale barn."
Command to a mule to go right. Opposite of "haw."
- Georgia stock
A small, wooden beam plow used for lightly turninng the soil over a wide area.
A split between a landowner and sharecropper to split a crop evenly.
A low hill in a pasture or field.
Command to a mule to go left. Opposite of "gee."
A young female cow
- Hen scratch
Chicken feed comprising mixed grains.
- Hog killing time
The time in the cool fall weather when hogs were slaughtered to make bacon, ham and sausage.
- Horse apples
- Junk house
- Lay By
The last cultivation of a crop before harvesting.
- Mammy cat
A female cat
Castrate a calf
A large plow that turns soil to both sides. A double turning plow.
A cow with no horms. Also "muley cow."
Unmatured ear of corn
- Pasture lilly
- Pick off peanuts
Remove dried peanuts from the vines.
A spunky person, as in "That gal's a pistol."
Veto an auction sale, as in the sign seen at all auction barns, "No POs after cattle leave ring." Acronym for "pull out".
- Popping Johnny
A small 2 cylinder John Deere tractor with a distinctive popping engine sound. Called a "Johnny popper" in some areas.
- Prize pole
A pry pole, as in "I think we can lift that wagon up with a prize pole."
The semi-circular pen inside an auction barn in which livestock are held for sale.
Command to a milk cow to calm down. The phrase "Sah! Back your leg!" tells a milk cow to settle down and move her leg to provide access to the udder.
- Sale barn
An auction building with pens for holding cattle for sale.
- Scovil hoe
A heavy duty hoe also called a "planter's hoe". Named for the maufacturer D. & H. Scovil Company.
- Settin' hen
A hen who is sitting on a nest of eggs to hatch them.
A flour-like wheat feed mixed with slop and fed to hogs.
- Side dress
Fertilize a crop on the side after it has started to grow.
A mixture of table scraps and dishwater that was fed to hogs.
- Sook, or Sook Cow
A call used to lure cows to the barn. as in "Sook, sook, sook" or "Sook, cow, sook, cow."
To show that a cow is carrying a calf . A cow that is showing strongly is said to be "spinging heavy."
Probably refers to spring when calves are usually born.
A pond for watering cattle
- Thirds and fourths
A split between a landwowner and a sharecropper.
- Tow sack
Burlap bag. probably derives from "tote sack."
- Turning plow
A plow that cuts a deep furrow and moves the soil to one side, in contrast to a turning plow which turns the soild to both sides.
Food and Drink
A large flat bean similar to a lima bean.
- Calling for water
Thirsty from eating salty meat, as in "That bacon I had for breakfast is calling for water."
- Chittlins or Chitterlings
Fried hog intestines
- Corn dodger
Fried bits of pork fat, often used to make cracklin' cornbread.
A dish made by frying or boiling cornmeal or crumbled cornbread with grease and often other ingredients such as pieces of meat or onion.
The mid-day meal. The evening meal is "supper."
- English peas
Green peas. Not cowpeas.
- Eyes bigger than your stomach
Took more food than you can eat.
- Fartin' Dust
- Feed your face
A desire, ad in "I got a hankerin' for pork sausage."
- Hits the spot
Good, referring to food or drink
- Hog's Head Cheese
Food made from hog brains. Also called souse.
Lip smacking good. Ex: "That pie was larupin."
- Light bread
Store-bought sliced bread, as in "We farm kids had a biscuit and bacon for lunch, but the town kids had sandwiches made with light bread."
- Make you slap your pappy down
Referring to food so good that it make you lose control or yourself, as in, "That pecan pie will make you slap your pappy down!"
- Mayhaw jelly
A delicioius, tangy jelly made from the fruit of the mayhaw, a wild apple that grows only in river bottoms that frequently flood.
An amount of food necessary for a meal. Example: "I picked a mess of butterbeans for supper."
Cowpeas, such as purple hulls, blackeyes, crowder, cream, and whippoorwills. Not green peas as grown up north.
- Poke salad
A wild green that is picked and eaten. Must be parboiled to remove toxins.
- Polly pop
Kool Aid. Apparently from a bottled drink called Polly's Soda Pop probably from the fact that it was made in fruit flavors like Kool Aid.
- Pot liquor
The liquid left after boiling greens or other vegetable.
- Pulley bone
Wishbone from a chicken or turkey, or the cut of meat containing the wishbone when cut separately from the remainder of the breast meat.
- Put up
Can or preserve, as in "I put up 50 quarts of butterbeans this year."
- Rat Cheese
Low quality cheese often used for mouse or rat bait
- Ribbon cane syrup
Syrup made from ribbon (sugar) cane
- River coffee
Coffee made with mudddy river water.
- Soda water
A carbonated drink, such as Coca Cola. What people call "pop" or "soda" in other parts of the country. Often pronounced "sody water."
The evening meal
- Sweet Milk
Regular milk, so called to distinguish from the sour taste of buttermilk.
A drink, as in "Gimme a swig of that RC".
- Three sheets to the wind
- Took [food] and had [food].
Somebody's coming hungry Said when someone takes a food item when they already had it on their plate. Example: "Took bread and had bread. Somebody's coming hungry."
- Run (with)
Spend time together
Maintain a very close friendship, as in "The Smiths and Jones shore are thick."
Fussing, Fighting, and Feuding
- Beat the tar out of
Give a severe whipping or beating. "Tar" refers to "tarnation," which is a contraction of "eternal damnation." So to beat the tar out of someone is to beat them sufficiently to put them back on the path to righteousness.
Curse, as in "he blessed him out."
- Box ears
Slap, as in "Hush up, Jake, or I'll box your ears!"
- Burned up
Angry, as in "it really burned me up when she said I was a gossip!"
- Crow to pick, or bone to pick
Have a reason to complain or disagree, as in "I have a crow to pick with you."
- Cut off his water
Stop misbehavior, as in "If his wife finds out, that'll cut off his water."
- Dust your britches
Spank, as in "You keep that up, Boy, and I'm gonna dust your britches."
- Fall out or Have a falling out
Had a dispute, as in "They had a falling out over the fence line."
- Fight like cats and dogs
Loud intense fight or dispute
- Fly off the handle
Get very mad, very quickly. Probably refers to an axe head separating from the handle.
- Get someone's goat / nanny goat
Make someone angry. Said to come from the old Welsh practice of keeping goats with the cows to calm them and thus increase milk supply. To steal someone's goat was very upsetting. A similar story is told about thoroughbred race horses.
- Get the razor strap
Threaten to spank a child. Refers to the leather strap used to sharpen a straight razor, which als served as a handy means for spanking a child.
- Haul off
Draw back or get ready for (usually violent) action, as in "He just hauled off and hit him."
- Hissy, or hissy fit, or sh***ing hissy
A major fit as in "Throw a hissy fit.".
Given a severe beating, as in "He ought to horsewhipped for that."
- In Hot Water
- Knock down, drag out
A ferocious fight.
- Let bygones be bygones
Forgive and forget
- Loaded for bear
Prepared for a major fight
- Mad as an old wet hen
- Mean as a snake
- P**s Ellum club
A mythical elm switch or stick for administering punishment. Usually used as a threat as in, "If you don't stop that, I'm gonna take a p*** ellum club to you."
- Put the quietus
Stop a behavior. Pronounced "qui-ee-tus".
- Raise Old Billy Hell
"Raise hell" means to protest or reprimand someone angrily. To "raise Old Billy Hell" is to raise hell of the intensity of the devil (Old Billy).
- Raise sand
- Raise the devil
Same as raise Old Billy hell.
Angered, as in "What she said really scorched me."
A small, flexible tree branch used to spank someone, as in, "If you don't stop that, I gonna get me a switch and wear you out!"
- Tan someone's hide
Spank or whip someone, as in, "If you don't stop that, I gonna get me a switch and tan your hide!"
- Wear someone out
Spank or whip someone, as in, "If you don't stop that, I gonna get me a switch and wear you out!"
- Wring someone's neck
Expression of anger, as in "I'm so mad at you that I could wring your neck. Refers to the common way of killing a chicken.
Good Times and Bad
- Ain't got a pot to p*** in or a window to throw it out
- Ain't got two dimes to rub together
Broke, as in "Old Charlie doesn't have two dimes to rub together.
- Between a rock and a hard place
A difficult financial situation, as in "Since Ed, died Sarah has been between rock and a hard place."
- Big money
- Bird's nest on the ground
An advantageous or easy situation
- Day late and and a dollar short
- Down to the nubbins
Consumed all the good one and down to the scraps. Refers to partially matured corn ears.
- Get by
Have resources to cover your needs
- Got it made / Made it
- Hard up
Lacking essential economic resources, as in "He lost job, and they are hard up."
- High as a cat's back
Expensive. Refers to a cat's arching its back when frightened.
- High on the hog
Living well. Refers to the best meat on a hog. Example: "Since Bill went to work at the foundry, he's been eating high on the hog.
- Hubbing a row of stumps or hubbing it
Experiencing hard times. From early roads that still had stumps high enough to hit a wagon's hub.
- Life of Riley
Easy life, as in "living the life of Riley."
- Lost his shirt
Lost a lot of money.
- Not worth a hill of beans
- Poor as a snake
- Rip your britches
- Scrape by
Barely make ends meet
- See further on down the road
Wait for more informaiton before taking a major step.
- Sitting pretty, or Sitting on easy street
In very good condition
- Sleeping on a feather bed
Well off. Refers to a time when most people slept on beds stuffed with straw.
- Sucking hind teat
In a disadvantageous position. Refers the last, and least proctive, teat on a sow, which is usually all that is available to the runt of the litter.
- Up against it
- Went under
Hello and Goodbye
- Be there with bells on!
Excited response to an invitation to a social event. Comes from the practice of putting bells on their horses' harness for special occasions.
- Hidey! Howdy!
How do you do?
- If the Good Lord's willing and the creeks don't rise
Strong intentions to do something if possible. Often said in parting.
- Look what the dogs drug up!
Friendly greeting among close friends. Refers to the disgusting things that dog find in the woods and bring home, such as animal caracasses.
- Y'all come to see us (Y'all come)
Invitation to visit, usually upon parting.
Happiness and Fun
- Grinning like a possum
A big smile
- Grinning like a s*** eating dog
A strained grin, for obvious reasons.
- [As] happy as if I had good sense
- Hog heaven
A state of extreme happiness. As happy as a hog wallowing in mud, etc.
- Tickled/Tickled to death
Pleased, as in "I'd be tickled to have you visit us."
"Ticked to death" means extremely pleased.
- You make your own happiness
No one else can make you happy. You have to do it yourself -- Gertride Johnson Murrah
Heaven and Earth
Minister (usually Baptist), as in "Brother Smith is the new preacher."
An early name for the Church of Christ or Christian Church, which was founded by a man named Campbell.
- God knows!
A mild expletive form of "God only knows."
Short version of "Lordy mercy!" Often used multiple times as a statment of resignation, as in "Lordy! Lordy! Lordy!"
- Lordy mercy!
Lord have mercy! Invocation of God's assistance.
A church service, often a revival, as in "Camp meetin'"
- Once in grace, always in grace
Statement about Calvinist predestination as interpreted by Baptists
Apostolic (Pentecostal) church
A church service, usually at night, devoted to congregational singing.
House and Home
An underground or overground tank for holding rain water collected from the roof of the house.
- Coal oil
- Coal oil lamp
Lift water from a well or cistern using a bucket, as in "Mac, go an draw a bucket of water out of the well."
Refrigerator. From the brand name of a popular early refrigerator.
- Homemade soap
- Ice box
Refrigerator. Derived from original coolers, which were cooled by blocks of ice
Clothes line, as in "Mac, go get the clothes off the line before it rains."
- Lye soap
Home made soap made from hog fat and ashes.
- Mosquite bar
Mosquito net, commonly made from cheese cloth and used to cover a bed for sleeping mosquito-free
A cloth, such as a "wash rag" or a "dish rag."
Bag, as in "feed sack," "grocery sack," or "tow sack".
- Sleeping porch
A screeed portch used for sleeping during the hot part of the year
- Slop bucket
A large bucket in the kitchen scraps and dish water
- Straight chair
A simple straight-backed wooden chair
- Yard broom
A leaf rake
Intensity or Degree
- As all Get-Out
Very, as in "Dumb as all get-out."
- Come down with all four feet
Full ferocity, as in "The mill foreman came down on him with all four feet."
- Just about
Nearly, "I just about fell over laughing."
- Nyelly 'bout (Nearly about)
Almost, as in "I nyelly bout broke my neck when I fell off the barn.
Somewhat, as in "pretty good," "pretty near," "pretty sure". Usually pronounce "puer-ty
- Pure dee
Completely, as in "That youngun' is pure dee rotten."
- Scared the cush out of me
Very scared. Probably refers ot the food dish cush.
- Scared to death
Very scared, as in "That bull just about scared me to death."
Rather, as in "I'd sooner have a Ford than a Shivalay."
- Thick as hair on a dog's back
- Tight as Dick's hat band
- To death
Completely, or very, as in "I'd be tickled to death to see you."
Someone's farm or property. Ex: "the Fairchild place".
- Smack dab
Exactly, as in "smack dab in the middle of the road."
- South side of a north bound mule
The mule's rear end
- Stomping ground
Home territory, as in "Jack moved back to his old stomping grounds at Pine Valley."
A place removed from here
Looks and Age
- Big as the side of a barn
Very large, especially a person, sd in, "Have you seen Suzy lately? She's getting as big as the side of a barn."
- Cute as a possum
- Fat as a bear (pig)
Resemble, as in, "She favors her grandmother."
- Get your ears lowered
Get a haircut
- No bigger than a bar of soap
Small, as in "She's no bigger than a bar of soap.
- Old as Methuselah
- Painted up
Uses heavy make-up
- Spring chicken
Young, as in "She ain't no spring chicken."
- Ugly as homemade soap
Really unattarctive. Refers to lumpy, unattractive homemade lye soap. Ex: "Old Mac is ugly as homemade soap."
A young person
Love and Family
A man making do without a woman in the house, as in "Fred's been batching since his wife went to Houston to visit her sister."
- Big mama
- Dog kin
- Drove her horses to the wrong stream
Did not marry well
- Hug someone's neck
Hug, as in "Come over here and hug my neck, young'un."
- Paw paw / Pappaw
Desert or divorce. E.G., "Sally quit her husband."
- Run around
Cheat on your spouse, "Jimmy's running around on his wife."
- Set her cap for
Attracted to, as in "She set er cap for Earl."
- Settle down
Get married, as in "It's time for me to stop sowing wild oats and settle down."
- Sow wild oats
Live a wild single lifestyle.
- Split the sheet, or split up
- Spittin(g) image
Identical, as in "Gertie is the spittin' image of her grandmother."
A kiss, as in "Come here, Sweetie, and give me some sugar."
- Take after
Physically resemble, as in "Jack takes after his daddy."
- Take up with
Cohabitate without the benefit of marriage. Also refers to a cow adopting an orphan calf.
- Woods colt
A child born of wedlock
- (Like a) blind dog in a meat house
- Broke up
Confused or grieving, as in "Aunt Bettie is all broke up over Grandpa's death."
Confused. Probably a corruption of "befuddled."
- Come hell or high water
Statement of determination, as in "I'll be there come hell or high water."
- Crazy as a bat
- Crazy as a bessie bug
Extremely crazy, as in "Old Sally is crazy as a bessie bug."
- Damned and determined
Determined beyond all reason, as in , "He'd damned and determine to kill himself ridin' that bull."
- Doesn't have the sense God gave a goose
- Doesn't know which way is up
Shocked, as in "I was just floored when I heard they got married."
A bit crazy
- Got a loose screw
A bit crazy
- Light under the hat
- Lost his marbles
- Not all there
Slightly mentally deficient
- Not right
Slightly mentally deficient
- Nervous as a cat
Not mentally normal
- Off his rocker
- Take a notion
- Thumb up his a**
- Touched in the head
- Bar ditch
A place from which fill dirt was taken to build a road. Mispronunciation of borrow ditch.
Switch, as in "cut off the lights."
Low-low (lower than normal low) gear in a truck
- Grocery buggy
An old car. Probably derived from Hupmobile, an early car brand.
- Light Bill
- Peckerwood sawmill
A small sawmill
- Show (picture show)
Movie or movie theater, as in "Y'all wanna go to the show?"
- Puddle jumper
Chevrolet, as in "I shore do love my Shivalay truck."
- Sirene (SI-reen)
- Store bought
Not homemade. Also "store boughten".
- Turtle hull
Watch, as in "Check your Waterbury and tell me the time."
Money and Trade
1/8 of a Dollar. "Two bits" = a quarter. "Four bits"=a half dollar. "Six bits" = seventy-five cents.
Something given in a sale or exchange to equalize the value of the exchange. Example: "He gave me a cow and $50 to boot for the mule."
- Cash money
Cash, as in "I got $100 cash money for the mule."
- Money burns a hole in his pocket
He's a spendthrift
- Squeaks when he walks
Frugal. Squeaks because he is "tight."
- Stand good for
Be responsible for someone else's debt, as in, "Don't worry about your money. I'll stand good for it."
Purchase necessities, as in "We trade a Uncle Bob's store."
- Turn loose of money
- Wagon wheel dollars
Big money. Often used to mock someone who boasts of making big money on a job. Example: "Joe's working construction down in Houston makin' them wagon wheel dollars."
Myths, Superstitions, and Tales
- Booger man
A mythical evil man who would "get" children if they were bad, as in "Johnny, if you don't behave, the booger man is gonna get you." Also "boogie man."
- A cat will kill a baby by sucking its breath
- Catch a bird by putting salt on its tail
This is whimsical advice given to small children who would like a bird to play with. The idea comes from a folk story which says that you can capture a bird by sneaking up behind it and sprinkling salt on it's tail. This story goes back at least to the 1840s when it was mentioned in a story by Sir Walter Scott. This is equivalent to a "snipe hunt" for small children.
- Consuming fish and milk products together will make you ill
- The Signs (of the Zodiac)
Farmers needed all the help they could get, and they often timed their activities by the "signs". These are the astrolgical signs of the zodiac, and it was customary to plant gardens and "work on" calves, for example, only when the "signs are right." On calendars targeted at farmers, the signs were expressed as parts of the body since the signs of the zodiac are said to influence specific parts of the body. Each of the twelve sign usually dominate one or more days of the month. So you might not "work on" calves unless the signs were "in the knees," for example.
- Snipe hunt
A coming of age hunting ritual usually played on naive young men. The older men take the youngster to the woods and ask him to hold a tow sack open on a cow trail while they go drive the snipe into the sack. The The older men, of course, go home leaving the youngster "holding the bag" until he realizes he has been tricked and sheepishly sneaks home to face the laughing tricksters.
- Bee tree
A hollow tree in which bees have established a hive.
- "Chip fell out of the red oak"
Call of the whippoorwill
- Devil's horse / devil's walking stick
A praying mantis
- Dirt dobber
A mud dauber wasp
- Frogs are calling for rain
Statement made when frogs are croaking heavily
A hickory nut
- Hoot owl
- Mosquito hawk
A dragon fly
A woodpecker. A rogue, but sometimes used as an endearment for a child as in, "You little peckerwood!"
- Piney Woods rooter
Feral hog, wild descendants of domestic hogs, razorback
A rat or a mouse
- Rat pills
A small, naturally occurring body of water, usually in a creek or river bottom. Pronounced "slew."
- Switch cane
Small cane suitable for making a switch to spank a child.
- Wiggle tails
Number or Amount
- More than Carter's got pills
A very large number
- More than you could shake a stick at
- Scarce as hen's teeth
Took, as in "He taken the fever and died."
- [Someone] and them ("anem")
A group of related people, such as a family. Example: "We saw Charley and them at Brookshire Brothers last Saturday.
A respected older woman not related to you
- Big shot
An important person. Example: "The big shots were in from Chicargo to visit the plant."
- Dirty dozen
Large family that live in squalor
A person whose name you can't remember, as in "Why don't you call Doomaflotchie and ask him?" Also an unidentified thing.
- Dried up
Small person with wrinkled skin, as in "He married a dried up little woman."
- Droopy drawers
Pet name for a person with baggy pants, especially a child.
- Git up an go has got up an went
Vigor is lost
A belligerent or difficult woman
His own. Example: "The horse is his'n". Similar to her'n and your'n.
- Hootsie Dootsie
A person whose name you can't remember
- Horse's ass
A disagreeable person
A bad woman, as in "I saw you talking to that hussy."
Respectful way to address a woman.
- Rough (or tough) customer
A mean person, as in "Old Joe is one tough customer."
- Shade tree mechanic
An amateur mechanic who often worked on his car under a shade tree.
Old fashioned nickname for Susan or Susannah, but often as a generic name when addressng a girl, as in, "How's your mama doing, Sukey?".
- Titty baby
An immature person. Used as a taunt by children.
- Too old to cut the mustard
Physically diminished by age.
Live a dissolute life
Pet name for a child.
A respected older man not related to you, as in "Uncle Bob Weisinger".
- Whistle britches
Whimsical name for a young male
- Widow woman
- Young 'un
Child. Literally "young one".
Recreation & Fun
- Annie over
Game involving throwing a ball over the roof of a building
- Coon hunting
Hunting raccoons at night using dogs and lights.
- Hide 'n go seat
Hide and seek
- Funny as a Barrel of Monkeys
The chaser in tag
- Mumbly peg, or mumblety peg
Game involving flipping a two-bladed knife and attempting to stick it in the ground
- Tom walkers
In hunting, when a dog locates a squirrel or raccoon in a tree. Dogs make a characteristic yelp when they have treed an animal.
Results Not So Good
- Barking up the wrong tree
Mistaken, as in "I don't know anything about it. You are barking up the wrong tree."
- Cleaned his plow (or wagon)
Took advantage in a business deal. "He really cleaned Joe's plow when he bought fine bull for $10."
- Cooked his goose
Made him look bad
- Deader than a door nail
Absolutely dead. Refers to old time nails that were unsalvagable when a house was torn down. From Shakespeare
- Fix your wagon
Receive your comeuppance
- Go to the dogs
Size and Shape
Postioned crosswise or severely out of alignment
- Bass ackards
Backwards. Spoonerism for "ass backwards."
Severly out of alignment
- Flat as a flitter
Very flat. Flat as a fritter.
- Hard as a rock
A small amount
- Not enough room to cuss a cat
Small or insignificant
- Scrunch up
Squeeze together, as in "Scrunch up, or we won't get everyone in the truck."
A small amount, as in "Would you please give me just a smidgen on that pie?"
Severly out of alignment
Sickness and health
- All blowed up
Suffering severe intestinal gas attack.
Bedridden with illness, as in "She's down with the flu."
- Got the colly mobus
This refers to a serious, messy illness. It probably refers to cholera morbius, or "deadly cholera" which causes a messy lost of body fluids in every way possible.
- Head is swimming
- Hitch in your gitalong
A limp. Not doing well
- Lay a corpse
Died, as in "when Uncle Bill lay a corpse."
- Loose as a goose
Pale or drawn, as in "Sally looked peaked today." Pronounced "peak-ed".
In good spirits or health. Pronounced "pyee-urt". Ex: I'm not feelling pert today.
- Risin' (rising)
- Sick as a dog (or horse)
- Sit up with
Stay all night with someone who is ill.
- S**tting over a ten foot rail
- Stove up
Stiff or immobile
Caught or became infected by an illness, as in "He took the pneumonia and died."
- Up to it
Capable, as in "I was going to put in another crop this year, but I'm not up to it."
Smart and Not
- Absent-minded as a goose
- Can't find his butt with both hands
- Can't tell his a** from a hole the ground
- Couldn't pour p*** out of a boot (with directions on the heel)
- Dumber than a post
Not very intelligent.
- Head full of sense
- Head screwed on straight
Has good judgment, as in "That old boy don't have his head screwed on straight."
- Horse sense
- Lick of sense
Intelligence, as in "That old boy ain't got a lick of sense."
- Light under the hat
- Not all there
- Put two and two together
Figure something out. Reason by inference.
- Smart as a whip
- Smart duck
An intelligent person, as in "that kid is one smart duck."
- Wakes up in a new world every day
- Like a bat out of hell
Very fast, as in "He drives that truck like a bat out of hell."
- Like a dose of salts thorough a widder woman
Fast. Epson salts was used as a laxative. The reference to a "widow woman" is unclear.
- Ninety to nothing
Very fast, as in "He came around the bend going ninety to nothing.
- Ran like a scalded dog
- Shake a leg!
Hurry, as in "We're late already. Shake a leg!"
- Slow as Christmas
"That blamed cat got on the table and grabbed a piece of chicken!"
A spoonerism for a well-known curse.
Very, as in "It's a mighty fine day."
A with emphasis, as in "He's one tough customer."
Something whose name you cannot remember. Comparable to "thingamajig"
- Thingamajig (thingamabob)
An unidentified thing
Time and Distance
- After [a] while
Later, as in "I'll do it after while."
- A ways
A long distance, as it "It's a ways to Uncle Joe's house."
- By and by
1. Eventually, as in "We'll get there by and by." 2. Eternity, as in the gospel song "in the Sweet By and By"
- Can to can't
From dawn to dusk, as in "Frank worked from can to can't all week."
- Coon's age
A long time. Ex: "I haven't seen you in a coon's age." Based on the old time belief that raccoons lived a long time.
A large area, as in "The train wreck was scattered all over creation."
- Dark thirty
Just after dark, as in "I'll be over about dark thirty."
Soon, as in "I'll be there directly." Pronounced "d-rectly".
- Dusk (or dusky) dark
- Forty forevers
A very long time.
- Hop, skip and a jump
A short distance, as in "It's just a hop, skip and a jump from Burk to my place."
- Month of Sundays
A long time
Distance. Ex: "Down the road a piece."
- So far back in the woods that we don't get the Grand Ole Opry until Wednesday night
Way back in the woods. The Grand Ole Opry is broadcast on Saturday night -- Marcus Burrous
An indeterminate period of time, as in "cold spell" or "It's been quite a spell since we'v seen Jim."
- 'Til the water gets hot
A short time, as in "They're in love, but it won't last until the water gets hot."
- When all is said and done
At the end or conclusion of anything.
Walk aimlessly or carelessly
Landed, as in "The plane lit in the field behind the school" or "The bird lit on the power line."
- Lit out
Left in a hurry, as in "He lit out across the field on his way to Burke."
Truth and Fiction
- Bet your bottom dollar
You can bet you last dollar that it is true
- Building air castles
Telling tall tales
- Cross your heart and hope to die
- Go on!
Tell tall tales, as in "Grandpa would always go on about being a war hero." Also and expression of skepticism, as in "Oh, go on! Are you sure about that?"
- Gospel truth
Absolutely true. As true as the Bible, as in "And that's the Gospel truth."
- Hits the nail on the head
- Honest to God truth
- I'd be lying if I told you that...
I'm telling you the truth.
- Lying like a dog
- Pulling your leg
Putting you on
- Put that in your pipe and smoke it
- Right as rain
A child's lie, as in "Are you telling me a story, Billy?"
- Windy, or windy as a bird dog
To talk excessively, especially telling stories that are not true. The reference to bird dog is unclear.
Buttocks. as in "Stop that, or I'll tan your behind."switch
Bottom. Alternate for "butty"
- Female trouble
Medical problems with a woman's reproductive organs
Male organ. Also a peanut.
- The bottom dropped out
It rained very hard
- Clabber up
To become overcast
- Cold as a well digger's tail
- The devil is beating his wife with a frying pan
Explanatory expression used when it is raining while the sun is shining
- Fair off
Sky clearing after a rain
- Gully washer
- Hotter than the 4th of July
- Toad stringer
Heavy rain. Mispronunciation of "toad strangler."
- When the wind comes whistling through the peach orchard
- Beggars can't be choosers
One who is dependent on someone else loses the right to call ths shots
- He made his bed. Now let him lie (or sleep) in it
This expression means to let someone suffer the consequences of their foolish actions.
- I've always heard...
Opening for a pearl of wisdom, as in "I've always heard that the early bird catches the worm."
- Let sleeping dogs lie
Don't stir up trouble unnecessarily
- A watched pot never boils
Too much attention seems to slow the passage of time.
Working and Doing
- Anohter day, another dollar
World-weary comment on routine toil to earn a living.
- Back up your ears
Get prepared to do something difficult. Probably refers to the way a dog folds back it ears when getting ready to fight.
- Big shot
A high ranking person in an organization, as in , "The big shots came down to see the new plant we built."
- Blowin' and goin'
Making rapid progress or doing extremely well
- Built by a jake leg carpenter
Poorly constructed. Refers to someone who consumes lead tained moonshine ("jake") and developed muscular problems ("jake leg") from lead poisoning. Some say jake leg was caused by denatured jamaican ginger.
- Busy as a cat covering up s***.
- Cooking on the front burner
- Cooking with gas
Doing well. Ex: "Now you are cooking with gas!". Cooking with gas is far easier than cooking the old fashioned way with wood.
- Easy as falling off a log
- Easy as pie
Getting prepared to do something. Example: "I'm fixing to go to town."
- Fool around
- Give out
Tired, as in "I'm plumb give out!."
- Go whole hog
Pursue something to the maximum
- Go to town
Tackle a job very efficiently or successfully, as in "He really went to town on that pile of wood!"
- Got the bull by the tail on a downhill drag
Has an extremely advantageous situation.
- Grab the bull by the horns
Meet a problem head on
- Hard row to hoe
- Hit a lick
Work a small amount, as in "He came to the barn raising, but he never hit a lick."
Became a member of a profession, as in , "Lee made a lawyer".
- Make hay while the sun shines
Take advantage of an opportunity
- Messin' and a gummin'
Activty without progress, or making things worse
- Ran it in to the ground
Abused or overdid
- Rat killing
Routine work. Ex: " I need to get back to my rat killing."
- Root, hog, or die
Necessary for survival
- Run for their (his) money
A strong contest, as in "Burke's got the better ball team, but Hoshall will give them a run for their money."
- Running around like a chicken with its head cut off
Aimless or confused action. Refers to the actions of a chicken whose head has been severed with an axe to prepare for Sunday chicken and dressing or dumplings.
- Tuckered out
- Turn a hand
Work, as in "She did not turn a hand to help with the dishes after dinner."
- Went and [did something]
Emphatic way of saying that someone did something, as in "He went and hit him."
- Could (mess) up a good train wreck
- Couldn't hit the (broad) side of a barn
- Curl your toenails
Very frightening or disgusting, as in "It was enough to curl your toenails."
- Dead dog and no hot water!
Teasing phrase said to a sleepy child or pet
- Hen scratches
- Hide or hair
Presence, as in "We searched the entire creek bottom, and we never saw hide or hair of that cow."
- Hold your horses!
- Hunky dory
- If it had been a snake, it woulda bit me!
Remark upon overlooking something obvious or close by.
- Kick the traces
Threw off all constraints. Refers to the trace chains used to pull a plow with a mule. The mule would sometimes object to the trace chains rubbing his back legs and try to kick them away.
- Let well enough alone
Be satisfied with a good though not perfect result.
- Light a shuck
Motivate. Example: "If you want Billy to that hay in today, you better light a shuck under him."
- Nothing to write home about
- Push comes to shove
When action must be taken, as in "When push comes to shove, we'll have to buy a new truck."
- Put on our thinking cap
Concentrate. Think hard.
- Speak of the devil and his imps appear
Someone you have been talking about unexpectedly appears. An imp is an attendant to the devil.
- Strong as an ox
- Tired little merchant
A sleepy child
- Turn your damper down!
Calm down! This refers to the damper on a wood stove or heater, which controls the stove burn rate and thus temperature.
- Wet your plow
Punish, as in "You keep doing that, and I'll wet your plow."
Probably refers to the fact that a wet plow cuts through the soil with difficulty.
Unusual words or regular words used or pronounced in an unusual way at Burke.
- A tall>
At all, as in "I don't feel good a tall."
Past tense of "bring" (brought) as in "He brung his shotgun with him."
Soon, as in "I'll be there directly." Pronounced "d-rectly".
Dose, as in "A dose-t of whiskey and honey will cure that cough."
- Dudn, or dudn't
Doesn't. Misuse use of "don't" as in "He don't" was not common at Burke.
Has, as in "Bobby's got the measles."
Old fashioned way to say "it".
Old fashioned past tense of help, i.e., helped.
None, as in "Nary one of them eggs hatched."
Poor, meaning either in ill health or very thin.
- Shed, or Shet
Rid, as in "We need to get shet of that dog." Often pronounced "shut" or "shet".
Took, as in "He taken the mule over to the Treadwell place."
- M. Lee Murrah, Personal Recollections