It just so happens that today my beloved Kelyn (that's my daughter, in case you don't know that fact) came in talking about school and used another of my favorite Southernisms in her description of the day's events. This set my mind to thinking (as minds in the South are liable to do) about even more sayings that we use daily in the South and that oft require explanation for those not born here to grasp their true meaning. It also made my Grandmothers come to mind and words that they used to describe things that I do not hear often enough any more now that they are gone. I thought I might share another small glimpse of the language that belongs only to the South and sounds so beautiful when drawled in that slow, melodious Southern manner.
"Set my mind to thinking" is a saying we use to describe the moment when we have decided to ponder the deep meaning of life or a situation. Example: "When I saw those two boys runnin' off with the spray paint, it set my mind to thinking that maybe ole' red's newly acquired bright color was not a sign from the Lord after all."
Hissy fits and Conniption fits are two things that one does not HAVE but rather THROWS or PITCHES! "I told him mama was going to throw a hissy fit when she saw the new tattoo of Mary Lou in all of her glory that Bubba got on his arm!" or "Lord-a-mercy, did you SEE that conniption fit she pitched when she did not win the county fair beauty review!" These fits are known for their yelling, arm flailing, and often, crying at top capacity. They really are a sight to see when thrown or pitched by a proper Southern female!
Memaws and gegaws and other sum such These are three different things that can be used quite independently of one another. Due to limited time and space, I decided to combine all three after their explanations. A Memaw is a grandmother as in "me" "maw" (my ma.) A gegaw is a showy object or piece of jewelry. Other sum such is other similiar things. Example: "My Memaw put on that gegaw Billy Joe got her the other day and I told her that she needed to find me one too or other sum such that was just as sparkly!"
A purt fur piece (or a pretty far piece) is simply a VERY long way. "I was a thinkin' of goin' to Nashville girls but it sure is a purt fur piece!" Which leads me to directly. In the South, directly is an amount of time. This amount of time is truly only known to the speaker, as in, "I'm goin' to town and will be back directly." You need to be wary of directly. Sometimes directly can be as little as thrity minutes but other times it can darn well be nigh on a month! You may need to ask for clarification if you do not know the speaker EXTREMELY well!
A mess in the South is not an untidy area. No! It is an amount, as in, a mess of greens!
Today, I will end with one of my favorites because I REALLY, REALLY get this one (meaning you get a story to accompany this one)! Runnin' around like a chicken with his head cut off means being extremely busy or having to run all day to get everything done. "She has been runnin' around like a chicken with his head cut off all day tryin' to get those kids where they needed to be!" When I was about three years old, I was at my Memaw's house (yes, I had one) as she was killing chickens. My Memaw was an EXCELLENT chicken killer. She would literally snap it's head off with a large flip of her wrist (this is where wringing your neck comes from too) and then she would take said headless chicken and hang it by its feet on the clothesline to let the blood drain out of the body. Sometimes, as in this day, one of the unlucky, headless chickens hanging by its feet on the clothesline would "jump" off the line and run around the yard WITHOUT HIS HEAD!! On this day, one of the "jumpers" ran around my Memaw's house spraying bright red blood all over her pristine white house and scared the dickens out of me! Needless to say, that day I truly understood "runnin around like a chicken with his head cut off!" As a side note, I could not eat chicken for many, many, many years after that incident but have thankfully overcome that affliction in my middle age years!
I will continue to put down my favorite Southernisms for future generations of my genetic line to have no reason "not to remember where they came from!" Until then, enjoy!