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A Jack Pot of Old Folk Sayings

These colorful old folk sayings have been with us since the first people came from Ireland, England, Scotland and other old world countries and settled on the Appalachian Mountains. They were common where I grew up on the lower reaches of the Appalachians, and it brings me no end of joy to hear them now, which I seldom do. It’s sad when we lose the old culture, but as children grow up and go away to other parts of the country, it’s a given.

I have published two articles of and about the Old Folk Sayings that I grew up with. I love these old colorful mountain sayings and hate to see them pass away. My grandmother and all the older members of my family constantly repeated these so I think they are permanently ingrained in my mind. I’m sure many of them will be familiar to you, especially if you have lived in the mountains.

  1. I’ll give you the long and short of it.
  2. You’ve got a long row to hoe.
  3. How’s the weather up there?
  4. That’s enough to strangle a horse.
  5. Dirt settles to the bottom but trash floats.
  6. I’ll do that when pigs fly.
  7. That’s a bigger cud than I can chew.
  8. It’s betwixt you, me and the fence post.
  9. It’s gonna come a gully washer.
  10. You’re a ring tailed tooter.
  11. Don’t buy a pig in a poke.
  12. She looks like an old cat carrying a kitten.
  13. Shut up your pie hole.
  14. Wild horses couldn’t drag it out of me.
  15. I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.
  16. I don’t break bread with a jackass.
  17. Go that way 10 miles as the crow flies.
  18. The jig is up.
  19. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
  20. Don’t toot your own horn.
  21. He’ll soon be talking out of the other side of his mouth.
  22. She’s playing possum. (Pretending to sleep)
  23. She looks like she’s about to drop a watermelon.
  24. Don’t play the fool with me.
  25. Don’t let him get your goat. (Embarrass you)
  26. My pig wouldn’t eat that slop. (A bad cook)
  27. She’s no spring chicken.
  28. Look at him strut like a rooster.
  29. The cat’s out of the bag.
  30. Get off your high horse.
  31. You’re as crazy as a Bessie bug.
  32. Let bygones be bygones.
  33. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
  34. I ain’t seen you since heck was a pup.
  35. You can’t make me holler uncle.
  36. The two of them can’t gee haw. (Can’t get along)
  37. There’s not enough room in here to cuss a cat.
  38. Still water runs deep.
  39. I’ve got other fish to fry.
  40. Don’t beat a dead horse.
  41. I don’t give a doodley squat.
  42. I’ll be there come hell or high water.
  43. Don’t make me eat my words.
  44. You ran that one in the ground. (Talked to much)
  45. Don’t bust a gut. (Get to excited)
  46. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  47. She wouldn’t say boo to a goose.
  48. Don’t give me that hound dog look.
  49. The fat’s in the fire.
  50. You’d forget your head if it wasn’t fastened on.
  51. You can’t see the forest for the trees.
  52. That’s a mouthful if I ever heard one.
  53. I wouldn’t believe him if he swore on a stack of bibles.
  54. He’s old as Mathulsa.
  55. He has the patience of Jobe.
  56. He’s sly as a fox.
  57. I’ll be there if the good lords willing and the creeks don’t rise.
  58. He’s into it head over heels.
  59. She’s so bow legged she couldn’t hem a hog in a ditch.
  60. Dressed up like a Baptist Preacher
  61. She has on her Sunday go to meeting clothes.
  62. He was flying down the road like a bat out of hell.
  63. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  64. Don’t get your drawers in a wad.
  65. I’ll turn you over my red checkered apron.
  66. Old John Barleycorn will come and get you.
  67. Come on in and put your feet under the table.
  68. Come on to the table, we don’t have much but you’re welcome to it.
  69. Come on in and take a load off your feet.
  70. Y’all come back and see us sometime.
  71. That dog don’t hunt.
  72. Put your money where your mouth is.
  73. It’s gonna come a toad stringer.
  74. She’s pretty as a speckled pup.
  75. Look at her going down the road, looks like two wild cats in a tow sack.

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User Comments
  1. Frances Doolittle

    On September 12, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Good old sayings. Haven’t heard these in a long time.

  2. Darlene McFarlane

    On September 14, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Wow! You remembered a lot of them this time. I remember most of them and it’s good to be reminded.

    Thank you.

  3. Hannah

    On September 17, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    I love these. They remind of my home town.

  4. Nick Kenney

    On September 21, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I know most of these but there are a few new ones to me…
    my wife’s from Texas and she has a bunch that only Texans know, like “hold her head up Knute, she smells alfalfy!”

  5. Harold

    On September 22, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Hey, I know some of these and some I never heard of.I’ll have to dip into some of these and surprise my friends.

  6. Harold

    On September 22, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Hey, I know some of these and some I never heard of.I’ll have to dip into some of these and surprise my friends.

  7. Treva

    On September 26, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    I would like to know where the phrase “J Walking” came from? Does anyone know or know where I can look it up?

  8. Ruby Hawk

    On October 20, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Treva, I don,t know but I would like to, if anyone can enlighten us, please do.

  9. Amos

    On November 5, 2007 at 11:46 am

    You have a lot of them,and I know a few more.Did you ever hear? If wishes were horses beggers would ride. or It’s coming a toad stringer. I grew up in the country too. I don’t hear many of these anymore.

  10. Judy Sheldon (-Walker)

    On November 12, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    It took me over an hour, but here it is: Here’s what Ask Yahoo has to say…
    In the early 1900s, the word “jay” was slang in the U.S. for a hick, rube, or simpleton — in other words, a person inexperienced in the ways of the bright lights in the big city. Wordsmiths believe the term “jaywalking” (or “J-walking”) originated when cars were relatively new but gaining popularity in cities like Dallas and New York. A jaywalker was a newcomer to the city, green to the ways of those modern traffic signals that told folks when they could safely cross the road.

  11. Ruby Hawk

    On December 12, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you Judy for your information. That is very interesting to know, and thank to everyone who left comments. I appreciate you all.

  12. Marilyn

    On January 1, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    These are great and they get to the point.

  13. Mingo

    On January 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Hey these are interesting. I might start sprinkling my conversations with these pithy sayings.

  14. marty

    On March 6, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    i like these. do you know any more/

  15. dorothy

    On March 28, 2008 at 11:32 am

    what about \” lost as a by george \”…my grandmother\’s old saying. have no idea what it means…..

  16. Ben

    On March 28, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a fry. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. let’s get down to brass tacks.

  17. Rick from Newnan, GA

    On June 1, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Wow, Been a while since I have heard most of these. I found this link while looking for old folk saying about non-poisonous scarlet kingsnake. “Red touch yellow, harm a fellow, red touch black friend of Jack”. I could not remember the rhyme. Found it in link of poisonous snakes in Georgia (Fort Stewart).

  18. Billy

    On June 2, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    What about:

    That dog won’t hunt.
    Do you have a dog in this hunt.

    The price for that dog was four six bits.($4.75)
    You are barking up the wrong tree.

  19. Ruby Hawk

    On June 8, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks to you all for your comments. I hadn’t heard the ones about the snakes so that’s one more to add to my list. The others I had heard but thanks for reminding me.

    Dorothy I have heard the ” by george” all my life such as in “By George I’m going to beat heck out of that kid.or “By George go get the wood in right now..

  20. Joe from Las Cruces, NM

    On August 22, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Wow! I’m 65 years old and never realzed I have been using 90% of these sayings all my life.
    Where can I get a list of sayings used by “Festus” in Gunsmoke?
    He was the master.
    “Always drink upstream from the herd”.

  21. Ruby hawk

    On August 22, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Joe, I liked Festus too. Hadn’t thought about him in a long time. He was a natural. Thanks for stopping by. If I find anything pertaining to Festus I will print it.

  22. Jimmy

    On October 20, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Don’t keep a pet you can’t eat.

  23. Mind1

    On October 24, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I have never heard these but they do have a folksy feel to them. They sound pure country.

  24. Katelyn

    On November 4, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    How about “Happier than a clam at a people bake.”
    “Colder than a witches tit out”
    “Slicker then henstuff”

  25. Katelyn

    On November 5, 2008 at 12:03 am

    forgot a few…
    “She can talk the paint off a barn wall”
    “So cheap he’d skin a fart for the hide and tallow”
    “face as red as a poor man’s” embaressed
    “poor as a picked crow”
    “dear cudder” sweet little thing
    “Look like you were sent for and couldn’t come” Looked a mess
    “froze up stiff as a poker” darn cold
    “cute as a bug’s ear”

  26. Dee

    On December 17, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Never let the seeds keep ya from the watermelon.

  27. Ruby Hawk

    On February 23, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks Katelyn,Dee for leaving the old sayings and thanks to everyone kind enough to comment. I haven’t been by in awhile and I see more comments have been left in the meantime. I appreciate it.

  28. Kim Brooks

    On March 8, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I was searching the checkered apron saying because that\’s something my Hoosier grandmother used to say. She would also say, \”I\’ve got a hitch in my get-along\” and \”He\’d squeeze a nickle \’til the buffalo yakked\”. These sayings are such fun. Wonder what my grandkids will find \’colorful\’…

  29. JeanneM

    On April 24, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    My mom used to say, “Not enough room to cuss a cat” and then add, “without getting a hair in your mouth.”

    Talking about target practice on day, my mom said she used to be a pretty good shot, but that today she “couldn’t hit a mule in the ass-end with a base fiddle.”

  30. Tony Hanustak

    On May 26, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I’m looking for the source of “I see said the blind man & he picked up his hammer and saw”

  31. Dave Van Scoy

    On June 19, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Consider these:

    Farting horse never tires.

    Some come here to sit and think.

  32. Richard Springer

    On July 4, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Here’s one I didn’t see on your website:
    When a friend is commenting about their suntan:
    “Why you’re brown as a berry”

  33. Ruby Hawk

    On August 1, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Thank you friends, the list goes on. We will never think of them all. Don’t you think that they go back to the beginning of time? I just love em.

  34. Lil JRoy

    On August 4, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Growing up in the country we used most of those you have listed. here’s a few that we used that i didnt see:

    Rare as hen’s teeth
    A gnat’s butt away (really close)
    Make a puppy pull a freight train
    Mean as a snake
    These skeeters are big enough to pull a plow!
    Dark enough to make the chickens go to roost
    It’s coming a terd floater (hard rain)
    Green as a gord
    Hot as a firecracker
    Tight as a frog’s butt
    Swelled up like a toad
    Dry as dust
    Dumb as a rock
    Aint got the sense he was born with
    Dead as a hammer

    Those are a few that i use all the time. Jerry Clower had alot of good ones if you ever get a chance to listen to any of his stuff. i love these old sayings and they will always be part of my conversation!

  35. keithehlert

    On August 12, 2009 at 7:15 am

    scatter brained
    a empty wagon makes more noise
    the squieky hinge gets the oil
    never count yore chickens fore they hatch
    proud as a peacock
    septin (i’ll do it,septin it don’t rain)
    bottem fell out the bucket (to rain real hard)
    like a ole heel hound (plumb wore out)
    caint squeeze blood out a turnip
    rankled ( to get aggravated) that guy just rankles me to no end.
    got my goat (to aggravate you)
    slim pickens (it’s rather slim pickens here,all the good stuff done bin got already)
    happier than a mule in a corn patch
    grinnen like the above aforementioned mule
    older than dirt
    black as pitch
    dats all i can recollect,i say these things all the time and when you try a milk your brain for em they’re hard to remember,they just crop up during a conversation.i’m originally from marion s.c and we used all these sayings and more.they ain’t all forgot,though i rarely hear the kids today use em much.

  36. keithehlert

    On August 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    ready for some more? i thought about this stuff all day while remodleing a apt i was working on and came up with a few more.many of these i recken are not so much sayings as just stuff us southerners say all the time,but are country as collerd greens.

    drunker than cooter brown. i don’t know who ole cooter brown was,but that ole boy must have been able to do some serious drinking!

    sam hill: what in sam hill are you doing? or what in sam hill was that thang?

    better quit with your shannannigans on the job are your going to get fired.

    high horse better get off that high horse yore on and work here with the rest of us.

    they got more lies in washington than carter has liver pills.

    blue blazes what in blue blazes is he up to yah recken? or it’s hotter n blue blazes in here.

    wet my whistle ahm agoing tah wet mah whistle and get a drank.

    what in tarnation what in tarnation was that loud noise?

    monkey shines i’m ah laughing cause that ole boy ever time you turn around he’s doing monkey shines behind your back.

    high on the hog we’ll be able tah live high on the hog this week,i got 18 hours overtime.

    vittals them was shore some mighty fine vittals yor wife throwed together yes siree bob

    victuals we gotta get some more victuals at the store,cubberd is almost slap empty

    right good that was a right good hog terry shot yah see em?

    pull the wool over his eyes

    feeling his oats that ole boy shore is feeling his oats today,bill is fixen to whop him in the head with a studd.

    to hot to handle that jobs to hot for me to handle,i’ll let joe tackle that one.

    like a scalded dog when jim stepped on that there yellah jackets nest he bellered like a raped ape and took off like a scalded dog.

    right perty thats a right perty pup he’s got,yah seem em?

    arm n a legg shoot i caint afford that,it’ll cost me a arm n a legg.

    ugly as a mudd fence self explanitory for anyone with a imagination

    to beat the band it’s raining to beat the band right now.

    raining cats n dogs

    haint a spook,ghost,haunted my grandmaw used to say places where hainted.

    dense as a pineknot

    two bit peckerwood fighten words sure nuff!!!

    slap tuckered out plumb wore out,tired as all get out

    kiss my gritts!!

    mule headed stubbern

    crazy as a swamp coon

    carpet bagger calling someone this where i come from will abruptly cause a fight!!!

    knockkneed mangy polecat also fighten words

    that boy don’t make a lick of sense

    moonstruck he’s ga-ga over her i tell yah,pure dee moonstruck!

    jim dandy right good that moter i bought was just jim dandy,ran like a top.

    flatter than a fritter

    will stomp a mudhole in your ass n walk it dry

    i did’nt fall off the tomater wagon yesterday yah know.

    fell off the wagon to get real good drunk

    stumpwater shine also ole jack,cornlicker,splitskull,cornsqueezings

    madder than a hornet

    just plain stumped that radius is crazy,why i declare it’s got me just plain stumped!

    cattie wompas that wall them mexicans just built is just plain cattie wompas,it’s outtah plumb i bet two inches at least.

    thats it for now,i recken yall can tell i do construction for a living.had fun thinking of all these.i know theres oodles more.


    On August 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    this is it really…..
    high falooten (rich folks)
    short end of the stick ( i beleive i got the short end of the stick on that deal,dang i done been had)
    mad a hatter
    devil my care
    month of sundays ( dang,give em a month of sundays n he’ll still be workin on dat ceilling)
    smack dab ( i shot that deer right smack dab in the head)
    shining them on ( why that obama ain’t doodly,he’s just shining them on.)
    peachy keen (sounds peachy keen tah me joe,we’ll try catchen some bass over there then)
    catterwaulling (god awful attempt at singing)
    icebox (what citified folks call a refrigerator for some reason)
    ole slewfoot (the devil)
    as the day is long (i swear he’ll never learn as the day is long)
    you said a mouthful
    bone to pick with….(say i got a bone to pick with you bub)
    well you don’t say……
    i do declare
    goodness gracious
    my word! (my word,that was a lot of rain we got yesterday,yah think?)
    gander (take a gander over there,did you happen tah see how big that bass was he got,my goodness,it was a biggen!)
    other side of the tracks
    ciphering (to do math arithmatic)
    robbing peter to pay paul
    cock of the walk
    two shakes of a catstail

  38. Wendy

    On October 2, 2009 at 11:36 am

    It’s only gaudy if its on somebody else

    can’t change spots on a leopard

    you knew it was a snake when you picked it up!

  39. Ruby Hawk

    On October 2, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    LOL, Thanks to every one of you. Looks like we have a hog waller full of them now. I just love it that you good folks have left all these old country expressions for us. As you say I think I have heard all of My grandkids, neices and nephews wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I said these things around them but my sisters and brother would. We grew up hearing and saying these things every day. It’s such a joy to know others remember. I thank you my friends.

  40. keith

    On October 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    head over teakettle..i tripped and went head over teakettle.
    high heaven..that stinks to high heaven.
    skin you grab that cat n he’ll skin you alive.
    land sake’s…land sake’s that thing is expensive,i cain’t afford that!
    land o goshin…why land o goshen,he hooked a biggen!

  41. CA Johnson

    On October 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I loved these! I have heard of some of these sayings, but I have learned some new ones.

  42. jimisaacs

    On April 5, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

  43. Stephen Taylor

    On October 15, 2010 at 4:23 am

    If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas all year long.

  44. Stephen

    On October 15, 2010 at 4:24 am

    If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas all year long.

  45. Karen

    On January 9, 2011 at 4:18 am

    How about this one:

    If the ground is white on Christmas, the cemetaries will be full.

  46. Ruby Hawk

    On February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you my friends, Every time I come back I find more. I just love it.

  47. Jessica

    On July 25, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I’m in my 30’s and was born in the “hills” of WV… were AREN’T there hills in WV!?! I have heard several growing up, but some of these are hilarious! Here are a few that were used on me:

    1) “Want” in one hand and poop in the other, see which one gets full the quickest.
    2) If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump it’s butt when it hopped.
    3) I’ll paint your “back porch” red.
    4) “But’s” are for ashtrays.
    5) You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
    6) You would mess up a junk yard.

    My all time favorite and I use it all the time!

    7) Your just like a bull in a china shop, what you don’t break you crap on!

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