Southern Sayings Your Mamaw Used That Still Make You Smile

Southern Sayings Your Mamaw Used That Still Make You Smile

If there’s one thing Southerners are good at, it’s colorful sayings.

Our mamaws had a phrase for everything, each one dripping with wit and that special brand of Southern charm. Whether they made you giggle as a kid or roll your eyes in mock exasperation, these expressions hold a nostalgic power, reminding us of home and simpler times. Let’s revisit a few of those gems.

1. “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”

The ultimate expression of surprise, good or bad! Its pure silliness was always guaranteed to at least get a bewildered grin out of you. Mamaws could make even exasperation sound downright adorable with this one.

You may also like: Religious Beliefs That Science Has Debunked (But People Still Cling To)

2. “That dog won’t hunt.”

A no-nonsense way of saying an idea just ain’t gonna fly. Mamaws didn’t mince words, and this bluntly assessed any foolhardy plans you might propose as a kid. It’s that perfect blend of practicality and gentle ridicule that only a Southern grandma can pull off.

Don’t miss out – follow Bolde for exclusive content daily

3. “He/she’s got a face like a foot.”

Mamaws would NEVER openly insult someone’s looks…but this was their thinly veiled way of expressing disapproval. It’s the Southern equivalent of the raised eyebrow, the meaning clear even if the words seem harmlessly odd to an outsider.

You may also like: If You Recognize These 15 Signs, Your Upbringing Was Better Than You Realize

4. “Don’t get your panties in a wad.”

Aka, calm down! This colorful visual was generally aimed at a child throwing a tantrum, but Mamaws weren’t above dispensing the same advice to grown-ups in need of a chill pill. The sheer absurdity of the phrasing tends to diffuse tension more effectively than a simple “relax” ever could.

Don’t miss out – follow Bolde for exclusive content daily

5. “I swear, child, you were born in a whirlwind.”

If you were a rambunctious kid (and most of us were at some point), this is what you got when Mamaw was at her wit’s end. It’s exhaustion mixed with exasperated affection, and as odd as it sounds, the imagery really IS quite accurate when describing a force-of-nature child.

You may also like: Habits That Will Make Your Adult Children Cut You Out of Their Lives

6. “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas!”

This was the way to shut down whining or excuses. Mamaws were all about practicality and not dwelling on what-ifs; this bluntly cheerful saying was a way to redirect you towards action in the present moment.

Don’t miss out – follow Bolde for exclusive content daily

7. “I reckon…” (Before absolutely any observation, big or small).

It doesn’t necessarily MEAN anything substantial; it’s more of a conversational tic, a little pause to gather her thoughts. But hearing that drawn-out “I reeeckon…” is instantly comforting, a signal you’re about to get a dose of Southern wisdom or a good story.

You may also like: 16 Habits Of People Who Are More Attractive Than They Think

8. “Pretty is as pretty does.”

While Southern women DO love their sense of style, Mamaws knew true beauty was about actions, not appearances. This was a reminder that a kind heart and good deeds mattered far more than any amount of fussing in front of the mirror.

Don’t miss out – follow Bolde for exclusive content daily

9. “Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.”

A qualifier added after any future plans, big or small. It acknowledges the unpredictability of life with a mix of faith and rural practicality. Plus, the mental image of a troublesome creek always makes it that much more vivid.

You may also like: 19 Stereotypes About The South That Are Totally Untrue

10. “You’re gonna catch your death of cold out there!”

Whether you were wearing shorts in slightly chilly weather or dared to go barefoot for two seconds, Mamaws were convinced hypothermia was always looming. It was less about medical accuracy and more about motherly concern.

Don’t miss out – follow Bolde for exclusive content daily

11. “Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

No boring “you seem anxious” for a Southern grandma! This hilarious image perfectly captured jumpy energy. The fact that most of us had no idea what a long-tailed cat even WAS made it better.

You may also like: Things You Should Never Say To Someone You Love

12. “She’s all hat and no cattle.”

Ouch. The Southern burn for someone who talks a big game with nothing to back it up. It’s about calling out pretentiousness with a folksy, down-to-earth metaphor that hits its mark with brutal efficiency.

Don’t miss out – follow Bolde for exclusive content daily

13. “Well, I swanee!”

A more polite version of “I declare!” This exclamation was reserved for moments of genuine surprise or bemusement. There’s something inherently funny about invoking a swan as a reaction to life’s little oddities.

You may also like: Reasons Your Adult Children Want Nothing To Do With You

14. “I’m so hungry I could eat the north end of a southbound mule.”

Mamaws didn’t just say they were peckish; they painted vivid pictures of ravenous appetites. The sheer ridiculousness of the image always elicited a giggle, even if you were feeling similarly hangry.

Don’t miss out – follow Bolde for exclusive content daily

15. “He’s about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.”

Mamaws had ZERO patience for laziness or incompetence. This colorful saying summed up utter worthlessness, and often caused more laughter than anger, even when it was directed at you after a particularly boneheaded blunder.

You may also like: People Who Had Unhappy Childhoods Usually Develop These Traits

16. “That’s colder than a well-digger’s knees!”

No boring thermometers in the South! Weather reports involved quirky, vaguely unsettling similes. This somehow conveyed a deep chill more vividly than any actual temperature reading ever could.

Enjoy this piece? Give it a like and follow Bolde on MSN for more!

Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.