Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Mean As A Striped Snake

The other day a friend said “Where have my girls been? Haven’t seen them around this year. Are they still mean as striped snakes?” I told him the girls were still around and yep they were still mean as striped snakes.

Really-they’re not mean at all just slightly mischievous and tough as a pine knot when it comes to taking care of each other or their momma for that matter.

The phrase mean as a striped snake is one I’ve heard my whole life. In most instances it is said in a teasing manner about a person who is mischievous but not truly evil spirited.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    June 28, 2017 at 9:03 am

    My dad always said I was meaner than a stripped snake and tough as a pine knot.
    I’ll take his description because I have had to be both to get where I am today.
    My Mom just says I have grit and I am fearless!
    I love being Appalachian born!

  • Reply
    September 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I know I’m late with an answer to this…”Does anyone know it (without googling)?”—but, I think it’s because it’s from the Dr. who treated John Wilkes Booth was named Mud. He was found guilty of being part of the conspiracy, but over 100 yrs. later, if I remember correctly, he was acquited.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Daddy used to say that all the time.

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    September 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Tipper, the phrase “mean as a striped snake” was intended to indicate a person who would bear watching, but not one who could/would do you harm.
    In Georgia most all snakes with stripes are non-venomous; thus though they might give you a start, they won’t do you any physical damage.
    My grandma told me that about sixty five years ago.

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    September 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    That is how people described me in high school. Haha

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Archimedes, Aristotle and Einstein have long since departed this earthly realm. There remains but two brilliant minds and I am extremely proud to proclaim I ain’t neither one of them.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Tipper–This is belated, but anyone who was mean as a snake would likely be told: “Your name is mud!” There’s a very sound historical reason for this expression. Does anyone know it (without googling)?
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    September 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Yes, I have heard it, used it and have been accused of being it! We say stri-ped. Chitter and Chatter are beautiful young ladies! I always wanted a daddy’s girl but the good Lord gave me a four boys. I have used the term mean as a stri-ped snake many times when dealing with their antics!

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Have heard it many times growing up and have said it a few times myself, along with mean as a hornet, mean as an old wet hen and mean as a snake, without the striped added to it.

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    September 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Hi Tipper, I don’t remember the saying But I knew it was pronounced stri_ped (two syllables)~ My dad used to say “grinning like a mule eating briars”, which I assumed meant a fake grin. He had a lot of sayings that I wish I had written down. I love the way you preserve our Appalachian sayings.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Another possible origin of using “zinc” for sink is from the German influence as many of German descent tend to pronounce the letter s as z.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Ed is spot on with stri-ped snake, that’s what I was alswys told I was anyhow, of course Ed & I lived just two ridges apart as we were getting older (not to be confused with growing up which I refuse to do). My mother-in-law also called a sink a zink, if I’m not mistaken this came from Middle or Anglo-Saxon English and originated since most sinks were make of zinc so technically zinc is correct.

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    September 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    That’s a new one on me, I’ve never heard mean as a striped snake. I’ve heard as mean as a two headed snake and as mean as a biting sow (this really meant you were mean not just mischievous). I’ve also heard “full of devilment” to mean mischievous all of my life. I’m also familiar with though as a pine knot.
    I have a friend who had twin boys, they looked like cherubs blond curly hair, fair complected and bright blue eyes and they were beyond any doubt the “meanest” boys I’ve ever seen. The “devilment” they could think up was in a class of its’ own. Those boys could “tear up an anvil”. They are grown now and I imagine “paying for their raising”.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

    My mom used to use that phrase now and again…I like it, meaner than a striped snake….LOL Hadn’t heard it in years and years though…Mom’s been gone nearly 16 years now….I still miss her though.
    I’m not wonderful about navagating blogs…did we ever hear the end of the fairy tail? I haven’t been able to find it if we did, and my curiosity is my best virtue….heehee

  • Reply
    Carrie P Potts
    September 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Them girls might be meaner than a striped snake but they are cuter than a speckled pup. One day, sooner than you think, some man is going to put rings on their fingers.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Just “mean as a snake” but mostly heard “meaner than a yard dog”. It was usually meant seriously though.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 15, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Tipper–I’ve heard the phrase all my life, although more often than not without the word striped. Other examples of meanness include “Mean as a wet hornet” (also “mad as a wet hornet) and “mean as an alley cat.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    September 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Never heard that one! Might have to adopt it– the saying, not the snake!

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    September 15, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Didn’t hear ‘mean as a striped snake’, but my Kentucky born mother would say “mean as a snake” and my NC dad and his folks would say “mean as a haint.”

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 9:43 am

    When my kids were growing up, ever once in awhile they would turn mean as striped snakes making me crazy. I love all tho old mountain descriptive sayings. They are a part of me. Have you ever heard the word zinc used for a kitchen sink? When I was small I knew a lady from over Toe Cane way who said it all the time, but don’t believe I ever heard anyone else use it. Now I wonder if she was describing a sink made of zinc rather than mispronouncing.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 9:41 am

    No, Mama and her family just said “Mean as a snake!”

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    September 15, 2012 at 9:16 am

    You got me again! I have not heard that saying. Another thumbs up to learning about the Appalachian area. Keep up the good teachin’ so I can keep learnin’!

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Every day is becoming my favorite on this blog. Meaner than a stri-ped snake was the expression my uncle recently used for my grandson. This expression is sure to bring on laughter, as do many of these old phrases. I suspect I was meaner than a stri-ped snake as a child. I took a visiting cousin out to the coal-bin and proceeded to rub coal all over both of us. I wanted us to be coal miners like my Dad. The heat was on when both coal covered urchins returned to the house to show off my handiwork. I do not recall her ever visiting again!
    My Dad was a treasure trove of these expression, and i think I need to get with family and write these down lest they be lost forever. One he used commonly when astounded by something was, I’ll be a suck egg mule.”

  • Reply
    Mary Jane Plemons
    September 15, 2012 at 8:33 am

    My mother’s friend used to say, “Mean as a striped spider”, and we all adopted that saying, but I never heard striped snake. We say “stri-ped”, two syllables.
    Mary Jane
    Central Texas, but grew up in East Texas

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 15, 2012 at 8:15 am

    After thinking back over the years about all the twins I can remember I reached the conclusion that all of them were described as meaner’na stri-ped snake. Maybe it is because they seem to resonate off each other. Mathematically speaking 1+1=12. ♫♫

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I have heard the expression,”meaner than a snake in the grass.” The word striped is new to me. Have a super Saturday.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I remembering hearing the term when I was a kid. I was a pretty obedient kid, but my younger brother, well, he could be meaner than at striped snake. He is now 62 and much different from the little kid who was always into mischief.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    September 15, 2012 at 7:52 am

    thanks for some lovely memories, Tipper. Granny always said one of our girls was ‘meaner than a stri-ped snake’.
    So much color and beauty is disappearing from our language!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 15, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Yes, heard that all my life, in fact I was called that many times as a child. It was pronounced strip-ed snake.
    Your girls are not mean in any sense of the word. A little mischievous, as you say, but never mean. In fact they are really sweet girls but don’t tell them I said that.
    I’ve always wondered just who/what was the snake with stripes that got such a bad reputation. You know we hear lots of old and odd expressions like that one but never hear where they came from……just another of the many things in life that I wonder about!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 15, 2012 at 7:35 am

    That’s a new one on me. Love it.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Striped (stri-ped) for those that don’t know how to pronounce the word.
    Y, yeah I used to be as mean as a stri-ped snake. Now I’m meaner’na stri-ped snake. Mommy used to stripe my legs for being as mean as a stri-ped snake. Mommy is gone now so there is nobody to keep me in check.
    Did Granny ever threaten to send you to reform school?

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    September 15, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Nope, but have heard tough as a pine knot…

  • Reply
    September 15, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Your post today brought back a wave of little sayings from my Grandpa. He often spoke of us kids as being as mean as striped snakes and he told me I was made of pine knots. He usually spoke of the pine knots when he called me his “boy”. I also remember him saying he was as cold as a frog. Thanks for that.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    September 15, 2012 at 5:40 am

    I can’t imagine Chitter and Chatter being mean as a striped snake…well, maybe once in a while.
    I have heard this sayin’ all my life and use it myself sometimes.
    One of my Mothers favorites to describe my husband, when he would tell a story about someone or tell one of his jokes. Not dirty mind you, but one of those funny, not expected type ending jokes, sending her into a fit of laughter at 93…ending with he’s meaner than a stripped snake!
    Thanks Tipper for the memory!

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