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In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot as the dickens outside, and I’m madder than a wet hen about it.

OK, I’m not really mad — I just wanted to use that Southern phrase.

A new acquaintance of mine, who was raised in Austin, Texas, and lives in Oregon, posted on Facebook a 2016 Southern Living magazine article, “24 phrases only Southerners use.”

She said, “I guess I am more Southern than I think,” because she had used two of those 24 phrases that day. Her fiance, and I don’t remember where he’s from (my guess is not the South), looked at her strangely when she used the phrase “as all get out.”

Well, of course. It isn’t weird at all. I use that one all the time. When I’m not madder than a wet hen, I’m madder than all get out.

My friend said she’d also used the phrase “too big for its britches” just that day, although she said it in reference to a plant that needed to be repotted. So she gets Southern points for using it, although it really means to be conceited.

She posted that she also loves to use “fixin’ to,” “over yonder,” “druthers,” “if the creek don’t rise,” “hold your horses,” “gumption” and her favorite, “full as a tick.” I’ve heard people say they’re full as a tick after a big meal, but they do realize ticks aren’t full of mashed potatoes and fried chicken, right?

I use “fixin’ to” multiple times a day, although, I noticed that I say it more like “I’mfixin’da” do something: “I’mfixin’da go to bed,” for example.

In the magazine article, the No. 1 phrase was “Bless your heart.” I used that just today in an email. I meant it as a true condolence today, but Southern women often use it to mean, “What were you thinking … fill in the blank — wearing, doing, saying that?”

A friend told me his mother has a full repertoire of weird sayings, including that someone “looks like death eating a cracker” when they look tired or sick. That is quite the mental picture, although I was left wondering, “What kind of cracker — saltine? Graham?”

Several other phrases on the magazine list were ones I’ve also heard or used all my life — “Hold your horses,” “Heavens to Betsy,” although I don’t know who Betsy is; “Well, I declare,” spoken by every Southern belle in every movie; “If the creek don’t rise,” meaning anything that might make plans fall through. I usually hear that as “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”

A few of the sayings in this article were not ones I’ve ever used, such as “Worn slap out,” which was described as meaning exhausted, physically and mentally.

I also hadn’t used or heard “no bigger than a minnow in a fishing pond.” I have heard, “He’s a big fish in a little pond,” or vice versa, but that wasn’t on the list.

Also not on the list are a few others I have been known to say: “Good gravy,” which is sort of a “Good grief.” Sticking with that food item, I also say when someone sneezes, because my grandmother used to: “Scat Tom, your tail’s in the gravy.”

I have no idea. She was also inclined to say, “Golly, bum,” when she was irritated.

My dad’s longtime friend visited a few weeks ago, and Mom said the man couldn’t sit still. “He’s like a worm in hot ashes,” she said in a text to me.

As I’m writing this, my eyes are getting heavy. I was up with the chickens (really, just our cat) this morning, and I’m sleepy as a dog now. If I get a better night’s sleep, I’ll be happy as a pig in the sunshine tomorrow. I’ve got lots on my to-do list, and I’m going to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Bless my heart.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

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