Someone once said that when you visit the South, you need a translator. It’s true, we do have a mouthful of sayings that only Southerners understand. However, if you’re from the South, you know that sometimes there’s just no other way to get your point across.

If you’re trying to be nice, but you just can’t quite let it go, “bless your heart” is a go to.

When you’ve met the girl of your dreams, chances are she is “pretty as a peach.”

If you just heard your mama come home and you haven’t finished your chores, she will definitely be “madder than a wet hen.”

There are many “sayings” we use “down here.” I will relay this one to you, and I remember it vividly, for some reason. Mama had taken me to the home of the late Mrs. W.A. Saunders, Sr., who for many years was the unofficial “Grand Dame” of the Suwannee River Valley, the DAR, the Stephen Foster Memorial Commission, doyenne of considerable acreage in and around White Springs, one of the Founders of the Florida Folk Festival, as a woman elected to Hamilton County School Board in the mid 1930’s when, for women, in this part of the world, it was unheard of to run, political activist, and champion for this area.

The afternoon reception was held in her stately home near the banks of the Suwannee river in White Springs, and both hot tea and cold punch were being served. I must have been 5 or 6. I can’t remember who was serving punch, but when I took a cup and tasted it, it was more tangy, shall we say, than anything to which I was accustomed, definitely not “sweet tea” nor “Co-Cola”, that’s Coca Cola for those who need translation. Mrs. Saunders, a true Southern lady, imperious and wonderful, rather like the Dowager Countess Grantham on Downton Abby, eyed me and my expression as I drank the punch, and she asked very coyly: “How is the punch Johnny?” I responded without missing a beat, “I do appreciate it Mrs. Saunders, but you may take my cup, it’s very nice, just not my favorite.” She laughed so hard, and said to one of the ladies helping host the event, “Take this young gentleman in the kitchen and pour him a Coca Cola.” And to my mother she said, “Mary Lou, you are to be commended for having a well-brought up child.” I was happy as a “dead pig in the sunshine” and, that time, not many times, but that time, praised for having deported myself as a young gentleman. I was so happy I “tumped over” a half glass of Co-Cola on Mrs. Saunders’ kitchen table and spilled some of it my seersucker short set “a la John-John Kennedy.” Even that didn’t raise anyone’s wrath, not that time.

For this article, I have chosen just a few of “our” cherished Southern expressions. Sorry to those who thought I was going to go hysterical or historical this week, that muse didn’t hit me. The muse that can make me smile did. So here goes. Bear with me readers. Let’s start with a classic:

• “Fixin To”: When you’re fixin to do something, it’ going to happen, but you also may decide to take your sweet time.

• “Can’t Never Could”: Positive thinking, Southern style. If you think you can’t, you won’t be able to accomplish something, but if you think you can, you’ll succeed.

• “Too Big For His Britches”: This Southern criticism is unarguable. Translated it means: “He sure thinks a lot of himself,” which leads me to one my Daddy often said: “If you bought him for what he was worth and sold him for what he thought he was worth, you’d make a huge profit.”

• “She’s Got Gumption”: Scarlett O’Hara, the famous heroine of “Gone with the Wind” comes to mind and so does “Miss Celie” from “The Color Purple.” Gumption is spunk, courage, boldness and initiative. If someone tells you that you’ve got gumption, you should thank them and walk a little taller.

• “I’ll Declare”: A multipurpose Southernism. I can attest this is a great one to use as a response when you have to say “something”, but you don’t want it to be specific. You could be declaring a number of things: surprise, dissent, happiness. The only requirement is that you declare it loud and proud.

• “He was Funny as All Get Out”: “All Get Out” finds its way into many Southern expressions, and it intensifies any statement. I was surprised as “all get out,” or “it was bad as all get out.” Anything to the degree of “all get out” is something to talk about.

• “Worn Slap Out”: When you’re exhausted. Have you ever spent a long, hot summer down here doing hard work? You KNOW what “Worn Slap Out” means.

• “Hold Your Horses”: Stop right there! If you hear this one, it’s best to slow down.

• “Full As A Tick”: If you’ve just eaten a BIG Southern meal, complete with fried chicken, rice and gravy, acre peas, a little potato salad, some homemade pickles and a deviled egg, and a piece of pecan pie for dessert; all washed down by sweet iced tea you know what “Full as a Tick” means.

• “I Reckon”: This can replace any number of phrases such as “I guess,” “I suppose,” “I think” and “I imagine.” It is an often used “Southern phrase” said by family members on porches and in rocking chairs across the South.

Now I only choose a few of these funny “local color sayings,” “colloquialisms” or call them what you will. You may utilize another good Southern expression and let your sweetheart know “She’s as pretty as a peach.” You won’t go wrong.

And my VERY FAVORITE is: “Bless Your Heart.”

And many folks who hail from the region of the nation that led the War of Northern Aggression never, never quite get this, and those of us who do “get it” are kind of happy that we speak in “code,” of course, “Up there,” a water fountain is a “Bubbluh,” “Bubbler” and a Coke which is any soft drink in the South, “She was drinking a Coke,” is a “Pop.”

Some of the Many Uses of ‘Bless Your Heart’

Example: When someone walks into a room wearing a distasteful outfit and someone says “Bless her/his heart” … it means: “That poor thing has the tackiest taste in the world!” or it could even be more specific as in “Good grief, those pants make her bottom look like it’s dragging the ground!”

When, let’s say, a family member calls and tells you of something stupid another family member has done there are several “Bless her/his heart”s and this means: “Well, even though they don’t have enough sense to get out of a wet paper bag, we still love them.”

When someone you love and care about gets hurt or has something bad happen to them and you say “Bless your heart”… it means “Oh, I am so sorry you are going through this, I wish I could take it away and make things better.”

It can be a form of empathy and used as a big hug… as in when a friend calls and tells you about how bad her job is, and the kids are going crazy, and the dog just destroyed the house…we say “Bless your heart”…and it means: “Honey, I hate that you’ve had a bad day, but I’m glad it’s you and not me!”

And then one of the biggest ways southerners use “Bless your heart”…is a way to identify each other. You pretty much know where someone came from when they use this powerful phrase. You also know where someone came from if they use it incorrectly. :) {And you appropriately say “Bless. your. heart.”}

Now, this is definitely an abbreviated lesson…just in a nutshell. There are many other ways to use it, and the nuances are many…for instance: when it is said through clenched teeth, drawn out slowly, with a squeal, etc…but, for any of you that are not familiar with it, I don’t want to over

I am so excited about my “soon to be Published” fourth Novel: “Black Runs the River,” which is in the final stages of editing and publishing. More news on that soon. I will be having book signings anyplace I am invited. I do thank Janet Moses, Cathy Jo Foster, the Jasper, White Springs, Jasper, Lake City, and Live Oak Public Libraries for their past support and to Nancy Boatright McCullers who supported me in Suwannee County from the beginning by allowing me to sell my books in front of her store at Christmas on the Square. My three books, “Nightshade” its sequel “Secrets” and my third novel “Detini” are available on Amazon and Kindle. Again, many thanks.

Before closing this week, I wish to bid a fond farewell to my longtime friend, Michael Harris, White Springs, who passed away recently. A memorial service for “Mike” will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 11 a.m. at White Springs United Methodist Church, White Springs, Florida.

From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs. “I Swanee” I hope you have a good week. This week I have kept my column to a minimum for me. I was once told “Johnny, you write a good column, but you use more expressions than Carter’s Got Little Pills.” “Heavens to Betsy, I Reckon So.

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