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Odd Sayings In Kentucky
... and probably elsewhere as well

This page was inspired by a recent thread on the KYROOTS mail list. Many of us have heard these sayings all our lives and have no idea where they originated or why.
Brenda We never said "Trick or Treat" while going door to door we said "kinkle kinkle." This is what our parents said when they went trick or treating, also. My cousins and I have always asked this question. Why did we say this and what does it mean?
Beck My Grandmother always said (when things were out of place) This place looks like "SQUATLEY'S DUMP". We never knew who "SQUATLEY" was and we sure knew nothing about his dump, but we knew enough to get our stuff put up where it belonged. Anyone Got a SQUATLEY in their line?
Rhoda My mother's family called any conglomeration or mixed-up mess "a duke's mixture." That's the only place I've ever heard that saying. Did anyone else's family use that phrase? My mom's folks had been in Gallatin Co., KY, since the 1830's, and North America since the 1640's, so I assume it had been handed down through the years.

  • Oh yes, a 'Duke's mixture', was common phrase in our house. Meaning a litlle bit of everything. Betty
  • My mother came from Muhlenberg County KY, and "duke's mixture" was also one of her sayings. Thanks for remnding me. Her ancestors were in that county from the 1840's. Jean
  • "Dukes Mixture" = A Whole batch of this n' that - common usage in our family for generations. Robert
  • Yes, I have heard the saying "duke's mixture" all my life. As mention in another response, it was meant to describe a collection of many things. Betty
  • My family also used the phrase "dukes mixture" I still use it when I put together a meal with several items especially leftovers. My family arrived in Ky as early as 1796. Like you Rhonda I believe it has been handed down for years. Emma Lou in KY
  • Charles I'm really enjoying these old sayings they are bringing back memories to this old brain.
  • Duke's mixture is an old old saying and as I recall, it came about back in the 20's or possibly earlier. There was a tobacco company in Duke, NC that packaged several brands of pipe and cigarette tobacco - one of their cheaper brands was "DUKE'S MIXTURE," a pipe and a roll your own cigarette tobacco, and it was so bad that it was said that at the end of the day, after all the better brands had been packaged, the factory floor was swept up of all the different tobacco droppings, along with anything else that happened to be on the floor and used the sweepings for "Duke's Mixture."
  • Also many years ago I remember a man who worked for the L&N RR at Harlan, KY and when something occured that pleased him he would slap his knee and say, "I lands, I jacks, that beats the hens a wrasslin six ways from Sunday." Never did understand that one.
  • Betty One that my Mom would say, meaning it was a small space or room. "Is so crowded here, I couldn't even cuss a cat without getting hair in my mouth!!" Have you ever heard that one?
  • A large crowd in a small space = "We'll have to count off and the odds breathe out when the evens breathe in.
  • Synonym for "Plum Tuckered Out" = "Been rode hard and put away wet"
  • Meaning obvious - - You "Ain't had no fetchins-up with raisins"
  • I'll trade you off for a yeller dawg then shoot the dawg.
  • Put that in your pipe and smoke it!!
  • "He's two bricks short of a load"
  • "Paddling with one oar in the water"
  • "Blessed is he who runs in circles for he shall be known as a wheel!!"
  • Betty Many descriptive terms seem to be regional, but maybe not. One of my favorite ones was used a lot by my brother-in-law. When he was describing the late evening, he would call it the "edge of dark". That expression would go well when telling a Halloween story, and with the right tone of voice.
  • How about an old one and maybe very common. I ain't seen him in a coons age. The racoon must be schedule to live for a long time.
  • This one maybe local in maybe Hart Co. If something was a little out of straight. "It's leanin'a little toward Granny Metz"
  • How about "since Hector was a pup" I am still trying to find where that one came from.
  • I knew this one as "since Heck was a pup". Janine
  • Heard in and around Memphis in the 40s. " can I tote cha poke."
  • I told the one about the welldiggers rear end before a welldigger and he said that that was to be colder then a welldiggers "helpers" rear end.
  • Louise I don't generally join in this type of message, but here are a few from my home.

  • She can sure "bend your ear."
  • "Hold your horses."
  • "shake a leg"
  • "hop to it"
  • "Hell bent on election"
  • "til hell freezes over"
  • "bought it for a song".
  • "dig up some money" etc.
  • Betty About children, my grandfather use to say, "I should have raised potatoes, I could of sold them!!"
  • Old "Oregon Trail" saying describing the Platt River: "A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep"
  • "Too Thick to Drink and Too Thin to Plow"
  • About the laziest member of the family: "He don't do Doodely Squat"
  • Not Doodley, Robert....Diddley. Can't do Diddley Squat!! Mary
  • How about "Horse Feathers" or "Cat Fur to make Kitten Britches"
  • Be careful which dog you say this around - he may prove you wrong!! "He don't know Sickem!!"
  • "He don't 'mount to a hill-a-beans"
  • "Won't give you the time of day"
  • "Knee high to a grasshopper"
  • About some political arguments:
    "Just a fart in a whirlwind"
    "Shouldn't 'P' into the wind"
  • Don't EVER "Buy a pig in a poke"!!!
  • Their eyes look like "two cigarette burns in a white wool blanket".
  • What ever happened to: "Slikker'n greased owl hockey"??
  • Once knew a couple of flat-chested sisters who "Shared a pair of fried eggs between them"
  • In my pre-teen days, My GGM who's family came to Oregon on a wagon train ca. 1850, used to tell us about when the hunting was bad and food in short supply, they would:
  • "Eat dried apples for breakfast, drink water for dinner, and swell up for supper"
  • Janine
  • She was "three pickles short of a full jar"
  • "As nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs"
  • Inviting "Mrs. D#@$ , Mr. D#@$ and the whole D#@$ family" to an event.
  • That'll last about as long as "Pat stayed in the army"
  • "Marry in haste, repent in leisure."
  • "A cat doesn't travel so far in one day that his tail won't follow in two"
  • "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"
  • "You make a blister, you'll sit on it a long time."
  • "You can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear".
  • "If you wallow with the pigs, don't expect to come up smelling like a rose."
  • "If you take the trip, you pay for the ticket".
  • Becky
  • Slow as a Month of Sundays
  • What in the Sam Hill are you doing?
  • Until the cows come home.
  • Dead as a Doornail
  • Don't get yourself all in a fizz.
  • A Stitch in Time Says Nine
  • This will take you back quite a few years--- How many ever went to a Shiveree?
  • Lord, I have... was carried all over the county on my wedding day, horns blaring nt
  • My hand is up - yew betcha!! Robert
  • Lollygag--Someone having to much fun for other people to accept. "They've been out lollygagging half the night."
  • Stove Up--A persons body is not in good health. "He got kicked by the cow while milking her yesterday and this morning he's all stove up and can't walk.
  • Johnny on the Spot.
  • Scalleywag-- Ornery, prankster type person. "That ornery scalleyway filled a paper sack with fresh cow manure, then put it on the school marms porch, set the sack on fire, knocked on her door and ran like the wind."
  • Get you Goat--angrily frustrated.
  • This was one my grandmother used quite often.
    Reckon--I'll reckon your just have to wait till the cows are milked. This was at 4:00 in the morning when we were hungry, but work had to be done first.
  • I have enjoyed this thread, To me genealogy is not only finding name, places and dates. It also is finding out what our ancestors were like and how they lived. When you get right down to it we are all pretty much the same. Here we are all from different parts of the country but we seem to have the same memories.
    Sarah How about when talking of someone who can't quit talking---
  • "Diarhhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain" ?
  • Ronald This riddle has been told for at least 5 generations in my family: A man without eyes saw pears on a tree he did not take pears nor did he leave pears now how can that be?
  • "This is the best thing since sliced bread."
  • When a person was drinking and was "feeling no pain" or "Higher than a Kite".
  • Jean My mother used to say something about "Job's turkey." Does anyone remember that one? Was it "Colder than Job's turkey?"
  • Jean it was poor as old Job's turkey. Jean
  • I have heard that as "poor as Job's turkey" Betty
  • Maria
  • Knee high to a grasshopper when talking about how tall or far something was..
  • and when asked the time, my husband's grandfather would say "half past a monkey's ass" which meant he didn't have a clue what time it was.
  • At work the other day a man was talking about prices of things, and how he "didn't cotton to those price tags"
  • And when talking about someone not quite right, I heard "as crazy as a chicken with it's head cut off"
  • Someone asked just how mad does a wet hen get? Well in my opinion, a mad wet hen (or grandmother) would act like a chicken with it's head cut off, going back and forth, back and forth (grin).
  • SassyNana Dad loved to say
  • "If a hummingbird had your brain, it would fly upside down and backwards!!!
  • It's colder than old lady Mitchell's black cat's butt!
  • Holy smoke...the church is on fire!
  • Well, I'll be hornswagglered!
  • Gee willikers!
  • Love makes the world go round....unless you are with a square!
  • His elevator don't go all the way up.
  • He is not playing with a full deck.
  • A Chinese fire drill for us was.....stopping at atraffic light and running completely around the car, then get back in the car in a different seat.
  • Kay
  • Remember it being "POOR as Job's Turkey"
  • Any one out there "Mean as a striped snake"
  • "Dumb as a door knob. (Or "is it door nail") Have heard both..
  • Husbands tells our grandchildren "You would make a cup of coffee nervous"
  • "Talking to you is like talking to a brick wall"
  • After looking at the list I remember I am not sure of what kind of childhood I had.. Not an uplifting list..LOL
  • The fog's so thick, you can cut it with a knife.
  • When smoke comes from the chimney and it comes down to the's going to be cold...
  • How takes two to tango...on many things!
  • How about...nobody will ever notice it on a gallopping horse! My grandmother used to say this to to her children, when they would fuss about something they had to wear, that they thought others would notice.
  • Gail "There's more than one way to skin a cat" My mother used to say that and so did her mother who was raised in Kansas. Most people I have ever told it to here in CA have never heard it. Anyone else familiar with it?
  • I've heard it and said it for years... all over the midwest and the south. nt
  • Carolyn Odd sayings? I thought these were everyday language in all households. There is one that I haven't seen mentioned. My mother-in-law often referred to a person as "crazy as a peach orchard boar!" I can't even guess where that came from! She also accused some folks of being "crazy as a bessie bug!"
    Michael My Dad loved these sayings:
  • "That's tighter than Dick's hat band."
  • "That's faster than greased lighting."
  • "That's about as useless as the tits on a bore hog."
  • "That when't like a dose of souce through a widow woman."
  • "If a frog had wings, he would'nt bump his butt on the ground now."
  • jeders After reading these and having our memories inspired, we came up with a few more and realize that my grandma was a corker:
  • Poorer than a church mouse
  • Not worth his salt
  • Face long enough to eat oatmeal out of a 10 inch pipe
  • Dumber than a load of rocks
  • He doesn't have enough sense to pour P_@# out of a boot with the instructions on the heel!
  • More than one way to choke a dog to death besides on butter
  • That dog won't hunt
  • My get up and go got up and went
  • Here is a little more that goes with it.

    How to I know my youth is all spent,
    my get up and go has got up and went.
    My ears in the draw, my teeth in a cup,
    my eyes on the table til I wake up.
    I get up each morning and read the obits,
    if my name is not there I know I am not dead,
    so I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.
    When I was young my slippers were red,
    I could kick up my heels clear over my head,
    when I grew older my slippers were blue,
    but still I could dance the whole night thru.
    Now that I am old my slippers are gray,
    I walk to the store and puff my way back.
    How do I know my youth is all spent,
    My Get Up And Go Has Got Up And Went.    Becky

  • Finer than Frog hair split in the middle
  • Mouth in Motion before brain is in gear
  • Slower than molasses in January
  • A Whistling girl and a crowing hen come to no good end.
  • There's a fly in the ointment (from Ecclesiastes)
  • A Little Birdie Told Me (also from Ecclesiastes)
  • There's not enough there to shake a stick at
  • Where there's smoke there's fire
  • You keep that up and we'll just give you a "little peach tree tea"
  • Lower down than a whale's belly
  • He holds a nickle so tight that the Indian rides the buffalo
  • He's So tight he squeaks
  • Make hay while the sun shines
  • It's a long road that has no bends
  • Don't toot your own horn
  • A fool and his money are soon parted
  • It'd make a preacher cuss
  • Richer than Rockefeller
  • Stubborn as a mule
  • Sowing his wild oats
  • If a bullfrog had wings it wouldn't bump it's A@# on the ground
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
  • Tom
  • My Gma's favorite was, "It's better for two to sleep together than one apart," when we kids got to fussing.
  • After moving to CA in '60s, we heard about running around like a Chinese fire drill for the first time.
  • Betty I grew up in Clay and Laurel Counties (Kentucky), and have heard and still use many of the sayings I have read in this thread.

    My Mother used three that thus far I have not read:

  • "as pretty as a speckled pup"
  • for things or people that were slow in happening or responding: "as slow as smoke off 'possum pooh"
  • for a lazy person or an item of no practical purpose: "as worthless as teats on a boar hog"
  • Sue Anybody heard of this one? Don't know where it came from, but its been in my family a long time.
  • "If wishes were horses we'd all ride to town."
  • My mother's version of this was "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." Gail
  • PLDunford O.K., here goes:
  • "Lord love a duck" (exclamation of surprise and delight, I think)
  • "Don't know him from Adam's off ox"
  • "Good Lord willin' and the crick don't rise" (especially apropos here in southern Arizona, don't you think)
  • "dumb as a post"
  • "Judas priest"
  • "jumpin' gehosafat" (don't know about the spelling, pronounced "jee hos' a fat")
  • "won't amount to a hill o' beans"
  • "Whoa, Nellie"
  • "Katie bar the door" (stop, don't let it happen) (seems this is in a song, too).
  • Well, that's enough for now. . .best ride out on the horse I rode in on.
    Jayne My parents and grandparents were born and raised in Kentucky and I am familiar with most of the sayings I have read so far. One my mother has used ever since I can remember (and it's also the one my children find the funniest) concerns a person if they don't feel well or have had a sleepless night or whatever. She says that their eyes look like "two fried eggs in a slop bucket". Not too appetizing, is it?
    Kathy I've been reading having a ball with these old sayings. Here's some that I haven't seen posted yet.
  • There's more than one way to skin a cat. (my family used mule instead of cat)
  • If there's a will there's a way
  • When a child wanted something: Hold out one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up faster.
  • Ah shaw!
    Brenda When something was backwards, my grandmother would say it was "Hind part before"
  • Smiles like a possum eating s.....
  • Sittin there like a wart on a frog, or a frog on a log.
  • Has feet flatter than a pancake,
  • Eyes like a crosseyed mule,
  • He is as straight as an arrow,
  • You can trust him about as far as you can throw him,
  • "Git off my property if you know whats good fer ya!"
  • Went coon huntin the other night and got left holdin the bag!
  • We haven't seen them in a month of Sundays,
  • Do this or that "or you'll be eatin with the hogs tonight," or "sleepin with the cows,"
  • ma had a hissy over that,
  • "not fit for the dogs"
  • Now you went an done it, I'm gonna tell....
  • "It's a great life if you don't weaken"
  • Lawrence These Eastern Kentucky mountain sayings are sockdologers, and are used when ugly or dumb etc. aren't good enough to give a clear picture.
  • She's so ugly her mama had to borrow a baby to take to church.
  • She's so skinny she could take a bath in a gun barrel.
  • She's so fat, you couldn't tell which wrinkle she opened to talk.
  • He's so ugly the flies won't land on him.
  • She so ugly a tide wouldn't take her out.
  • He's so ugly he looks like the hindquarters of bad luck.
  • He's all vine and no taters
  • He's been chased through the forest of ugly and hit every limb.
  • She acts like she's been places and et in hotels.
  • He's so ugly he could back a buzzard off a gut wagon.
  • He's so ugly he'd have to slip up on a glass to get a drink.
  • She has a face that would blink buttermilk.
  • She's so ugly he mama had to tie a pork chop around he neck so the dogs would play with her.
  • Her face is so ugly it would turn a train down a dirt road.
  • He looks like he's been chewin tobacco and spit into the wind.
  • Her dress looks like 10 pounds of lard in a 5 pound sack.
  • He was born short and slapped down flat.
  • She is so thin that when she drinks a strawberry pop she looks like a thermometer.
  • She's so thin that when she sticks out her tongue she favors a zipper.
  • He's so ugly you could mash his face in dough and make cookie monsters.
  • When Billy went to the post office the first time his mama gave him a welcome home party.
  • A six seater was the top of the line outhouse.
  • Too poor to paint and too proud to white wash.
  • Judi If something was crooked it was Catywampus (sp?) or Wakerjawed.
    Jim How about a more recent one?
  • He's about one french fry short of a happy meal. (not all there)
  • Glenda
  • Slick as snot on a window.
  • She is so thin that she could stand behind a toothpick and not be seen.
  • She is as pale as a ghost.
  • Kathi How about
  • Thats like the kettle calling the kettle black?
  • You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.
  • She was so ugly she'd stop a clock.
  • If you shovel in Sh-- , you can't help but get a little on you.....
  • You lay down with dogs you're sure to get up with fleas.
  • That meal was so good my tongue just about beat my brains out.
  • You made your bed now lay in it.
  • If you don't feed your man at home he surely will go out to eat. (In reference too a man cheating on his wife)
  • He ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer. ( referring to ones intelligence)
  • Jay My Grandfather would tell me: "Don't get in a pissin' contest with a skunk". Sage advice.
    Long How about this one
  • If frogs had wings he would not bump his butt everytime he hopped
  • Debra Ok I give up, how about.............some of my Granny's
  • He don't have a pot to pee in nor a winder to toss it out of.
  • Trip the light fantastic.
  • Them youngins ain't got brains God give a goose.
  • Good lord a willin and the creek don't rise
  • Flip the switch = turn the light on or off depending on which direction it was in when she asked us to "flip it"
  • Cold as a witches tit in a brass bra.
  • Vicki May as well jump in!! How 'bout,
  • "Root Hog or Die," generally said in our house when one of the kids was complaining about what mom fixed for supper . . . . "Well I guess you'll just have to root hog or die, then" mom would say with a smile.
  • Actually saw this one in a book called "Everyday Life in Colonial America" ... apparently the saying originiated in the days of the early settlers, when colonists had to turn their animals out for the winter to forage for themselves.
  • About being very drunk, "3 sheets in the wind"
  • Mad as a puffed toad-frog
  • Tough as white(whit) leather
  • Mean as a striped snake
  • Cold as a witches' tit
  • Peart as a cricket
  • Nervous as frog legs fryin'
  • Runs 'round like a pumpkin vine
  • Sore as a risin' (boil)
  • Ugly as homemade sin
  • Pretty as a goggle-eyed perch
  • Sings like a bellyached hawg
  • Jakeleg drunk
  • Beat him into doll rags
  • In a turkey's dream ya can
  • His head's screwed on wrong
  • Money thinks ah'm daid
  • That road gets littler an' littler 'til hit runs up a tree
  • Men who have pierced ears are better prepared for marriage. They've experienced pain and bought jewelry.
  • She could talk the legs off a chair.
  • He's all hat and no horse.
  • She said that he's all cattle and no prod.
  • If that ain't a fact, God's a possum.
  • So dry the catfish are carrying canteens.
  • He's so busy, you'd think he was twins.
  • He'll squeeze a nickel till the buffalo craps.
  • It's so dry, the trees are bribing the dogs.
  • Cold as a cast iron commode.
  • She's two sandwiches short of a picnic.
  • Ugly? Why she's so ugly that she needs to sneak up on a glass of water else the glass breaks.
  • Confused as a goat on astro-turf.
  • Handy as hip pockets on a hog.
  • So ugly that his mama takes him everywhere she goes so she doesn't have to kiss him goodbye.
  • Looks like he sorts bobcats for a living.
  • If brains were leather, he couldn't saddle a fly.
  • So buck-toothed that he could eat corn-on-the-cob through a picket fence.

    Years ago, a Kentucky grandmother gave a new bride the following "receet" for washing clothes. It appears below just as it was written and despite the spelling, has a bit of philosophy: 2. Set tubs so smoke won't blow in eyes if wind is pert.
    3. Shave one hole cake lie soap in bilin water.
    4. Sort things, make three piles. 1 pile white, 1 pile cullord, 1 pile work britches and rags.
    5. Stir flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with bilin water. rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, then bile. Rub cullord, don't bile, just rench in starch.
    6. Spread tee towels on grass.
    7. Hang old rags on fence.
    8. Pore rench water in flour beds.
    9. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
    10. Turn tubs upside down.
    11. Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tee, set and rest and rock a spell and count blessings."

    Christine When I was a kid my mother used to tell me not to try and "Work a chicken foot" on her, i.e., don't try to put one over on her. I used to know where that came from. Anyone got any ideas. I'll know it when I hear it.
    Becky Okay, I was going to pass on the old sayings but can't resist......
  • She was "crazier than a Bessie bug"......(a nutty person)
  • She looked like a cow at a new gate......(confused about something)
  • That'll keep your dog from sucking eggs........(that'll teach you!!)
  • He was faster than a striped ape.......( somebody quick)
  • Crazy as a loon.......( a nutty person)
  • Not too swift...............( not too bright)
  • Put that in your pipe and smoke it!....(so there!)
  • Up a creek without a paddle......( hopeless/helpless)
  • You look like the back end of hard times!........(looks pretty shoddy)
  • Did you enjoy these?
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