Thursday, October 29, 2009


Words and Phrases from the Hill Country

by Terry Thornton

Today continues a twenty-two part series of words and phrases with Hill Country examples. Each week this space will be devoted to Southern Expressions That Will Take The Rag Off the Bush.

This series is dedicated to the anonymous reader of Hill Country who left a comment on one of my other articles about southern words and expressions. Anon exclaimed that the article "just takes the rag off the bush." The comment tickled me but good. In fact, I'd never heard that expression so I had to do some quick reading to determine if I'd been complimented or if I'd been insulted.

After discovering that "to take the rag off the bush" is a perfectly good old-timey compliment, I am using this expression for the title of this series. I hope these articles will capture the full meaning of the phrase "to surpass; to beat all" and maybe this series will be so good that it will also "snatch the bush right up out of the ground, roots, and all."

Here are some words and expressions you may wish to work into your conversations this week. Impress your friends and family --- and, at the same time, help keep these old sayings alive.

All-fired: That group of do-gooders in Aberdeen was all-fired up to pass an anti-beer ordinance (hell-fired).

Bed quilting: The ladies met for a bed quilting at some woman's house over on Cotton Gin Port Road (quilting bee).

Bee/Quilting bee/Spinning bee/Husking bee: Let's call a bee and get this job done! (social gathering for work and play; caller expected to feed well. Barn-raising/house raising are other examples of "bees." There are records of timber bees at which men would gather to help a neighbor cut a stand of timber.)

Chance and right smart chance: We all have a chance of gettin' the flu but after settin' in the doctor's office all day waitin' to see him, there's a right smart chance of getting the flu. Why I've never sat around that many sick folk before! (A quantity, or, an almost "for sure" quantity; may be used with other descriptive words as in a pretty smart chance or a powerful right smart chance or a good smart chance.)

Daylight: That wicked little cuss threatened to make daylight shine through me (put a hole through someone with a bullet or a knife blade).

Feel like: I feel like I could eat a bushel of those peaches (to feel inclined to).

Get the hang of: I am slowly getting the hang of using my new hybrid car (understanding how it functions). But I do wish the navigation system on the Prius made by Toyota was easier to use!

Hayseed: You can take the man out of the country but sometimes it is impossible to take the hayseed out of the man (a countryman; a put-down phrase used by city-dwellers to indicate that a countryman is not knowledgeable about city customs and ways of doing).

L.A.: Let's go down to L.A. and see if the peanut harvest is going well (Lower Alabama).

Not here for my health: You of all people should know I'm not writing and publishing Hill Country for my health (but rather to have an ulterior motive --- usually that of making money or gaining an advantage). Go figure!

Plumb: Three examples: I'm plumb out of money. I drove plumb up to the water that was running across Bigbee Road. I thought her plumb daffy. (Meanings: completely, close up, entirely)

Semi-occasionally: In the winter months, we kids were only semi-occasionally given an all-over bath much to our delight (infrequently). 'Course we smelled to high heaven in the classroom when the pot-bellied stove warmed up everything.

Sort of: In Parham, we kind of like to use the phrase "sort of." It sort of puts me into a Hill Country frame of mind when I hear someone say that it sorta looks like we all need to go fishing (kind of). I once had a neighbor who would issue mild criticism to me by saying, "Thornton, it sorta looks like you need to mow your yard."

Twister: When I heard that train coming, I thought it was a twister roaring in and threw my wife outa bed screaming, "Twister! Twister!" (tornado) Fortunately it was just the 2 AM freight train rumbling by.

That is it for today's list of words and phrases. I sorta of believe I better skedaddle outa here and get busy. Besides I'm plumb used up. Next week I'll be back with some more words and expressions that may get you all fired up to study more about the words we use.


Terry Thornton is a retired college administrator and former Amory Middle School principal who resides in Fulton. He can be contacted by email at


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