Saturday, November 28, 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.

Arkansas toothpick: He got mad and drew his Arkansas toothpick on me (long knife; switchblade knife).

Bible-backed: Not only did the new preacher at Antioch have a hook nose, he was also bibled-backed and weak chinned (hump-backed or round-shouldered).

Camp-meeting: I'd image that my great-great-great-grandfather, Frederick Weaver, one of the first preachers in Monroe County, often had camp-meetings (camp ground, usually in the forest, for preaching and revivals).

Circuit-rider: My great-great-great-great-grandfather Hartwell "Shouting Victory" Weaver rode with the Methodist Circuit-riders all over Tennessee. Why he even rode to "Tombeckbee Country" once to visit his son, Frederick Weaver, in what is today's Monroe County (an itinerant preacher).

Dipping: The old lady was fond of dipping, or so I've been told (using snuff).

Fire-dogs: I have a set of fire-dogs for my fireplace which have Devils' heads on them (a set of andirons). Just after I bought them years ago at an antique store, I dropped one of the fire-dogs and it broke. The local blacksmith, Arnie Forrister, fixed it as good as new.

Gob: After she plunked a big ole gob of mashed tators in the middle of my plate, she then proceeded to drown em with a huge serving of brown gravy which she ceremoniously poured over the top while grinning at me the whole time (lump; large amount if not otherwise described; early negative term for sailor). A gob is usually through to be a large amount but note this example: His good looks were spoiled by the tiny gob of bugger hanging from the tip of his nose. [No wonder she was ginning at me.]

Hoodoo: The charming new preacher hoodooed the Deacons and fooled around with their daughters (placed under a charm; pulled the wool over their eyes; the word is probably a corruption of Voodoo).

Mamma and Papa: Who is yore Mamma and Papa (mother and father)?

O.K,: Are you feeling O.K? You look peakedy (all right; correct. Also an indication of correctness as in "The repairs to my car were O.K."). Some attribute the term O.K. to 1828 when President General Andrew Jackson was said to have written "oll korrect" when he attempted to write "all correct" --- and O.K. came to symbolize his poor spelling ability.

Pshaw: You call that large? Pshaw (an exclamation of contempt)! You shoulda seen the catfish I grabbled out of Sipsey last summer if that think you tickled out a big un.

Shifty: I'd like him quite well except for the look in his eyes makes me think he is shifty (tricky; say one thing and do another).

Take a shine: It was obvious to all that the new bachelor store-keeper at Smithville had taken a shine to Miss Orabelle (take a liking). And Miss Orabelle seemed to like the idea just fine as she was his most frequent customer making several trips to his store daily when one should have sufficed.

Use it up: Rather than to throw out my old winter hat, I decided to use it up this summer as my hat to wear in the garden and next year, I'll really use it up by letting the scarecrow wear it (get the final use out of it).

That is it for today's list of words and phrases. We've used up all my space for today and I've got to skedaddle outa here and get busy. I'll be back in a week or so with some more words and expressions that may serve to pert you up and to enthuse you into studying about the words we use. Meanwhile, youenzes make sure you stop this week and give Thanks for all your Blessings.


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



Dorene from Ohio said...

Well I surely "take a shine" to your Southern expressions! And I have a gob of circuit riders in my family tree, too!

Great post!

Terry Thornton said...

Dorene, I sure ate a gob of turkey the other day. Keep reading and we will make a Hill Countrywoman outa you.

Glad you have taken a shine to these Southern expressions.