One of the great joys of writing western books is the chance to use some authentic southern wit. The English language has the versatility to create truly colourful idioms, similes and other expressions and Southerners know how to inject humour into their frequently pithy words of wisdom.

Here are just a few of my favourites – some of which I recognize are contemporary but they still indicate the creative way Southern folk describe things so they’ve been included anyway!

In these liberated times, do feel free to change the gender of the pronouns as the mood comes upon you.

Busy

  • Busy as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking convention.
  • Busy as a funeral home fan in July.
  • Busy as a one-armed paperhanger.
  • Busy as a hound in flea season.
Outhouse being struck by lightning
Outhouse being struck by lightning

Butt ugly

  • He looks like he was inside the outhouse when the lightning struck.
  • She looks like she was born downwind of the outhouse.
  • So ugly the tide wouldn’t take her out.
  • So ugly his mama had to tie a pork chop around his neck so the dogs would play with him.
  • So ugly his Ma takes him everywhere she goes so she doesn’t have to kiss him good-bye.
  • So ugly only his Ma loves him—and she waits till payday.
  • So ugly she has to slap her feet to make them go to bed with her.
  • Looks like ten miles of bad road.
  • So buck-toothed she could eat corn through a picket fence.
  • So bowlegged he couldn’t catch a pig in a ditch.
  • So cross-eyed he can stand up in the middle of the week and see two Sundays.
  • He’s got a face like the back end of bad luck.
  • She can’t help being ugly, but she could stay home.

Countrified

  • Just fell off the turnip (watermelon, tater) wagon.
  • He’s so country he thinks a seven-course meal is a possum and a six-pack.
  • They lived so far our in the country that the sun set between their house and town.

Crazy talk

  • She’s one bubble off plumb.
  • He’s missing a few buttons off his shirt.
  • He’s lost his vertical hold.
  • He’s overdrawn at the memory bank.
  • I hear you clucking, but I can’t find your nest.

Deal with the hecklers

  • Even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while.
  • Anytime you happen to pass my house, I’d sure appreciate it.
  • You smell like you want to be left alone.

Dumb and dumber

  • If a duck had his brain, it would fly north for the winter.
  • She doesn’t have enough sense to spit downwind.
  • Dumb enough for twins.
  • If all her brains were dynamite, she couldn’t blow her nose.
  • He couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with a hole in the toe and the directions on the heel.
  • If he had a brain, it’d die of loneliness.

Easy now

  • Take a tater and wait.
  • Wash off your war paint.
  • Everything’s coming up roses
  • I’m cooking on a front burner today.
  • If I felt any better, I’d drop my harp plumb through the cloud.
  • If I felt any better, I’d think it was a setup.
  • Long as I got a biscuit, you got half.

Fast and loose

  • He’s wilder than a peach orchard boar.
  • She’s just naturally horizontal.
  • She uses her sheet for a tablecloth.
  • They ate supper before they said grace.
  • They planted their crop before they built their fence.
  • They’re hitched bur not churched.

Feeling the heat

  • Hot as a two-dollar whore on the Fourth of July.
  • Hot as a billy goat in a pepper patch.
  • Hotter than whoopee in woollens.
  • Hotter than a honeymoon hotel.
  • Hotter than a preacher’s knee.
  • Hotter than a burning stump.

Garrulous

  • He shoots off his mouth so much he must eat bullets for breakfast.
  • She speaks ten words a second, with gusts to fifty.
  • Her tongue is plumb tuckered out.
  • She beats her own gums to death.
  • He blew in on his own wind.
  • He’s a chin musician.

Handy

  • She’s got some snap in her garters.
  • He’s got plenty of arrows in his quiver.
  • He could find a whisper in a whirlwind.
  • There’s no slack in her rope.

In the distance

  • Down the road a piece.
  • Turn left past yonder.
  • I won’t say it’s far, but I had to grease the wagon twice before I hit the main road.
  • Two hoots and a holler away.

Lazybones

  • He hangs out more often than Mama’s washing.
  • He’s like a blister—he doesn’t show up till the work’s all done.

Lucky

  • They tried to hang him but the rope broke.
  • He could draw a pat hand from a stacked deck.
  • He’s riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels.
  • He could sit on the fence and the birds would feed him.

Making a racket

  • Noisy as two skeletons dancing on a tin roof.
  • Noisier than cats making kittens.
  • Louder than Grandpa’s Sunday tie.

Mouth and trousers

  • He can strut sitting down.
  • He’s all hat and no cattle.
  • He’s all gurgle and no guts

Near enough is good enough

  • That’s close enough for government work.
  • Might as well. Can’t dance, never could sing, and it’s too wet to plow.
  • I could sit still for that.
  • You can’t beat that with a stick.

Not in my back yard

  • As welcome as an outhouse breeze.
  • As welcome as a porcupine at a nudist colony.
  • As welcome as a skunk at a lawn party.
So dry the trees are bribing the dogs
So dry the trees are bribing the dogs

Parched

  • So dry the Baptists are sprinkling, the Methodists are spitting, and the Catholics are giving rain checks.
  • So dry the trees are bribing the dogs.
  • So dry my duck don’t know how to swim.

Plum fired up

  • She could start a fight in an empty house.
  • He’s the only hell his mama ever raised.
  • He’s got his tail up.
  • She’s dancing in the hog trough.
  • This ain’t my first rodeo.

Poor as a church mouse

  • He’s so broke he’s busted all ten commandments.
  • So poor I had a tumbleweed as a pet.
  • He’s too poor to pay attention.
  • So poor the wolf won’t even stop at their door.
  • Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash.

Scrawny

  • She wears her bra backwards and it fits.
  • He’d have to stand up to look a rattler in the eye.
  • About as big as the little end of nothing.
  • Half as big as a minute.
  • Nothing between the horns and hooves but hide.
  • So skinny she has to stand twice to make a shadow.
  • So skinny she shades herself under the clothesline.

Sneaky and shady

  • He’s on a first-name basis with the bottom of the deck.
  • There are a lot of nooses in his family tree.
  • So crooked that if he swallowed a nail he’d spit up a corkscrew..
  • He knows more ways to take your money than a roomful of lawyers.
  • Crooked as a barrel of fish hooks.

So sad

  • You look like you were sent for and couldn’t go.
  • Sad enough to bring a tear to a glass eye.
  • He looks like the cheese fell off his cracker.

Sound advice

  • Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered.
  • A worm is the only animal that can’t fall down.
  • Just because a chicken has wings don’t mean it can fly.
  • Keep your saddle oiled and your gun greased.
  • You can’t get lard unless you boil the hog.
  • Don’t squat on your spurs.

Speedy

  • He can blow out the lamp and jump into bed before it gets dark.
  • He gets there in one-half less than no time.
  • Fast as small-town gossip.
  • Faster than a sneeze through a screen door.

Take care now

  • Don’t dig up more snakes than you can kill.
  • Whistle before you walk into a stranger’s camp.
  • Don’t tip over the outhouse.

Useful

  • Handy as a rope at a hanging.
  • Handy as a latch on the outhouse door.

Useless

  • He could fall up a tree.
  • Couldn’t ride a nightmare without falling out of bed.
  • He couldn’t hit the floor if he fell out of bed.
  • Handy as hip pockets on a hog.
  • Worthless as teats on a bull.
  • Useless as two buggies in a one-horse town.
  • He’s a day late and a dollar short.
  • He can’t win for losing.
  • She’s itching for something she won’t scratch for.

Well, hello

  • Company’s coming; add a cup of water to the soup.
  • We’ve howdied but we haven’t shook.
  • Put on your sitting britches.

Wicked

  • He was born sorry.
  • He’d steal the flowers off his grandma’s grave.
  • Friendly as a bramble bush.
  • She makes a hornet look cuddly.
  • He lies like a tombstone.
  • He wouldn’t scratch his own mama’s fleas.
  • We’re not on borrowing terms.
  • You’re so low you have to look up to see hell.

Wore out

  • Looks like she’s been chewed up, spit out, and stepped on.
  • Looks like she was rode hard and put away wet.
  • I was born tired and I’ve since suffered a relapse.
  • Tired as a boomtown whore.

Worried

  • Nervous as a whore in church.
  • Nervous as a fly in the glue pot.

You’re so vain

  • He strained his shoulder patting himself on the back.
  • He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.
  • I’d like to buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’ll bring.

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