Wednesday, February 12, 2020

"Kitten Britches" and other Southern slang by Guest Author Jane Tesh

Please welcome guest author Jane Tesh! A retired media specialist, Jane lives in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s hometown, the real Mayberry.  She is the author of the Madeline MaclinMystery series featuring former beauty queen, Madeline “Mac” Maclin and her con man husband, Jerry Fairweather, as well as the Grace Street series, featuring struggling PI David Randall, his friend Camden, a reluctant psychic, and an ever-changing assortment of tenants who move in and out of Cam’s boarding house on Grace Street. (You can buy the 6th Grace Street book, Death by Dragonfly, here.) Her mysteries, published by Poisoned Pen Press, are set in fictional North Carolina towns and are on the light side with a little humor and romance. She is also the author of four fantasy novels, Butterfly Waltz, A Small Holiday, The Monsters of Spiders’ Rest, and Over the Edge, published by Silver Leaf Books.  When she isn’t writing, Jane enjoys playing the piano and conducting the orchestra for productions at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.

For more about Jane and her books, visit Jane’s website and her Facebook page. She also blogs and occasionally tweets.

What in the world are "kitten britches?"
Image by Edwin Valencia from Pixabay
I’ve lived in North Carolina all my life, and I grew up with lots of Southern sayings. I didn’t think much about them until my friends from other parts of the country would say, “Um, Jane, what do you mean ‘tight as a tick’?” or “Why do you say you ‘might could’? You might and you could, but ‘might could’?” and “What in the world are ‘kitten britches’?”

As a writer, I love words, and I realized my Southern heritage had bequeathed a goldmine to me.

When I started writing my Grace Street Mystery Series, I knew I wanted one of the characters to be what we in the South call a Good Old Boy. A Good Old Boy is a big old friendly fellow you can always count on if your tractor breaks down or you need help moving heavy furniture or getting the crop in. You can find them hanging around gas stations and repair shops, chewing tobacco and having a beer or two, chatting about hunting and fishing. This type of man often looks deceptively slow but has a razor sharp wit and a fondness for Southern slang. My Good Old Boy is Rufus Jackson and he’s one of the tenants in Camden’s boarding house at 302 Grace Street in the fictional city of Parkland, NC.

Happy goat!
Image by christels from Pixabay
Having a boarding house allows me to move characters in and out as the series progresses. My PI, David Randall, is also a tenant and has his office in the downstairs parlor. Cam is psychic and helps Randall solve his cases. Sometimes Rufus helps out, too, but he’s mainly there to provide the color commentary. Here are a few of my favorite sayings, so they are Rufus’s favorites, too.

My mother had two favorites that I borrowed. One is “He’s as happy as a goat eatin’ briars.” (My brother raises goats, and they are happy eating anything.) The other is “It’s a poor dog that don’t bury a bone.” I think she wanted her children to prepare for the future!

I’m sure most of you have heard “The porch light’s on but nobody’s home” to describe someone who might not be very smart. “Not enough buckwheat in his pancakes” or “A pickle short of a jar.” There are so many sayings like this I couldn’t list them all.
  • “He’s so dumb, he couldn’t find his ass with both hands in his back pockets.”
  • “Her cornbread ain’t cooked in the middle.”
  • “He’s got a hole in his screen door.”
  • “She’s parked too far from the curb.”
  • “His belt don’t go through all the loops.”
  • “Got a hole in her screen door.”
  • “The cheese done slid off her cracker.”
  • “If brains were dynamite, he wouldn’t have enough to blow his nose.”
  • “He’s three gallons of crazy in a two gallon bucket.”
Then there are the “so” sayings for folks with special talents or attributes.
  • “She’s so tall, if she fell down she’d be halfway home.”
  • “He’s so stingy he wouldn’t give you air out of a jug.”
  • “She’s so cross-eyed, when she cries the tears roll down her back.”
  • “He’s so narrow-minded, he can look through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time.”
  • “She’s so late, she’d hold up a two-car funeral.”
  • “I’m so hungry I could eat a raw dog backwards” or “I’m so hungry I could eat the stuffin’ out of a rag doll.” (Neither option sounds appealing.)
  • “I’m so poor I can’t afford to pay attention.”
  • “There’s so much food here it’s more than I can say grace over.”
  • “I’m gonna slap you so hard when you quit rollin’ your clothes’ll be outta style.”
And my all time favorite saying which describes someone who looks unwell is “She looked like Death eatin’ a cracker.” Why a cracker, I don’t know. I’ve also heard “She looked like Death suckin’ a sponge.” But I prefer eating a cracker. I can just imagine the Grim Reaper chomping on a Saltine.

As for “Kitten britches,” this is one my Mother always used. After a storm, if you see enough blue sky to make a pair of kitten britches, then the storm is over.

If you have a favorite saying, I’d love to hear it. Perhaps Rufus will use it in a future Grace Street adventure. And be careful if you’re having too much fun because “Sometimes whee is a rat in your pocket.” 

1 comment:

Ann Parker said...

Thanks so much for your post, Jane! as you know, I love slang, and you certainly gave me a bucketful of new expressions to ponder and enjoy.

I think my favorites from your lists are:
“The cheese done slid off her cracker.”
“He’s three gallons of crazy in a two gallon bucket.”
and, of course...
"Kitten britches!" (I would've never guessed the meaning of this one. I thought it was a euphemism for something stronger...)