Some colorful country sayings

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2016

    Some years ago, we devoted several Short Rows columns to southern — and particularly Southeast Virginia — colloquialisms.

    From time to time, though, I’m asked to catalogue more of them. So, this week, I refreshed my memory on what had appeared in earlier columns and added a few. There may an occasional repeat, but here’s another whack at some of the country sayings that were an important part of growing up in Southside.

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    Poverty has always been the source of colorful expressions in the country, probably because there have been so many poor folk. One saying that I have heard but predates me in meaning is “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.” White wash was a poor substitute for paint on houses as well as barns.

    The classic description of rural poverty, though, was “not a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of.” And an even poorer soul might be described as “so poor he can’t pay attention.”

    Of course, the wealthy ran afoul of country descriptions as well. They were “born with a silver spoon in their mouth” or wore “silk underwear.”

    Southerners have always reserved some of their most colorful expressions for people they don’t like. A lazy person might be described by saying he “wouldn’t hit a lick at a snake.” Snakes come into play often, in fact, and the harshest criticism of a person might be that he’s “lower than a snake’s belly” or “a snake in the grass.”

    There are many more and some may find theirway here soon. Any you would like to add?