Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Sayings from Appalachia

Favorite Appalachian Sayings



I’m sharing some of my favorite old sayings with you today. I hope you’ll leave a comment and add to the list.

  • That dog won’t hunt
  • If that don’t make your wood burn nothing will
  • Your milk of human kindness has turned to bonnie clabber
  • She threw more out the back door than her man could tote in the front
  • As poor as a bear that wintered up in the Balsams
  • Weddin’ without courtin is like vittles without salt
  • Beauty never made the kettle sing
  • Never get your horse in a place where you can’t turn around
  • I ain’t been in his shoes and I can’t gauge his footsteps
  • It’s never to late to mend
  • Where’s there’s bees there’s honey
  • What can’t be cured must be endured
  • Don’t miss her no more than a cold draft after the door’s shut
  • He’d buy a load of cord wood to peddle out in hell if you’d give him till Christmas to pay for it
  • Sit down and rest yourself, settin’s cheaper’n standin’
  • Lookin’ like the hind wheels o’ destruction

Vibrant descriptive wisdom filled language = Appalachia



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  • Reply
    doug elder
    September 24, 2021 at 4:18 pm


  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    August 12, 2021 at 7:27 am

    When my Mother would hear a new and unusual “saying,” one that she could make no sense of, her frequent response was that it sounded “overly contrived.”

  • Reply
    April 13, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    Ain’t no use shuttin’ the bar door after the horses done got out.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    “I plum ______” as a way to emphasize what came after, such as “I plum forgot,” which basically means “I flat-out forgot”

  • Reply
    Lynn Briggs
    April 7, 2019 at 10:06 am

    My mom would say “You slay me”, meaning you make me laugh. My grandmother would say “Free show” when the kids were acting out in public. She meant you better get in this house so the neighbors don’t see you acting like a fool!

  • Reply
    Jena Sutton
    March 3, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    My Granny Georgie Sutton would always tell me i was “Meaner than a Striped Snake and tougher than a pine knot” . Any time I seemed like my mind was in another place her brother, Uncle Paul would say “A penny for your thoughts?” He’d also tell me I was growing like weed and the last time he saw me I was just knee high to a grasshopper.

  • Reply
    David Frost
    March 2, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Here are some of the saying from around here:
    “Drunker than a boiled owl.”
    “He ain’t worth the salt that goes in his butter.”
    “Crooked as a Rattlesnake.”

    • Reply
      January 27, 2021 at 12:11 pm

      “Well that ain’t more than an ornamental polecat” [totally useless, frivolous]
      “naked as a jaybird”
      “if the good lord’s willing, and the creeks don’t rise” [Hank Williams’ sign-off on his radio show]

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 26, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Tipper love your saying dad told me one time I guess I was skipping around and probably getting on his nerves. He said Moo that was my nickname go over there and sit on your fist and rare back on your thumb .

  • Reply
    lc barn
    February 26, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Having been raised in poverty, poor as church mice was a favorite. A friend in childhood, thru school, would appear to have something better than any thing I knew, I would ask, where did you get it, reply ” stole eggs and bought it”
    Not a sin to be poor, but it sure hurts.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Just a few more: Grinnin’ like a summer ‘possum
    Cute as a speckled pup
    Drunk as Cooter Brown- or, Three sheets to the wind!
    That’ll cut her rain down to a drizzle
    You ought to stay all night- we’ll make a Baptist pallet, or hang you on a nail!
    Cold as Christmas out there

  • Reply
    Julie Moreno
    February 26, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    You don’t find roses in a cow pasture.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 26, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    How about:
    Happy as a pig in slop.
    Cute as a speckled pup.
    I love all these expressions they are Appalachia and they are us!

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    February 26, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Most of ’em have already been covered:
    Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas
    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
    Grinning like a mule with a mouthful of briars
    One I didn’t see:
    Fetch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.
    Really have heard almost all of these at some point in my life. The one about the bear in the Balsams brought back sweet memories!

  • Reply
    Emily in Austin
    February 26, 2019 at 10:37 am

    TIPPER, LOVE this post! I’ll be thinking of other expressions all day. Thank you for all that you do!

  • Reply
    Jim Keller
    February 26, 2019 at 10:32 am

    I’ve heard varitions of most of those. The wife was asking me about one I used the other day to describe a relative of hers, that she swore she had never heard when I said he was “wiggling like a worm in ashes”.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Thanks so much to Granny. I am certain she is probanly a world of info. Here are some and could be repeats. 1) he/she wakes up in a different world every day. 2) slicker than nark on a log 3) uglier than sin 4) crazier than a bed bug.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 9:14 am

    If that don’t ring your bell your clapper must be broke.
    He rows with one oar.
    He’s about half a bubble off level.
    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
    Don’t let the door hit your butt when you leave.
    Run away so fast your shirt tail can’t catch up till middle of next week.

  • Reply
    Brian P.T. BlakePriceless.
    February 26, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Priceless! “He’d buy a load of cord wood to peddle out in hell if you’d give him till Christmas to pay for it.” My third-great grandfather, who grew up in South Carolina and fled across the mountains to Kingston, Tennessee, in 1800 to escape gambling debts and “trouble with the church” related to horse racing, is said to have been “a trader and a shrewd businessman.” He went broke a couple of times in land speculations. This old Appalachian saying nails the gnarly old pioneer perfectly.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 8:58 am

    If that don”t light your fire then your wood must be wet. (to really like or enjoy something)
    Catty-Wampus meaning across from –opposite from. or on the opposite corner.

  • Reply
    Barbara Trent
    February 26, 2019 at 8:38 am

    When folks came to visit, Mother met them at the door and said,”Get out and come in”.
    If someone knocked on the door she would say,”Come in if your nose is clean!”

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    February 26, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Kissin don’t last, cookin do.

    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

    lookin like something the cat drug in.

  • Reply
    Sherry Case
    February 26, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Smiling like a mule eatn’briars.
    Poorer than Job’s turkey
    Why don’t you stay the week or stay till you get weak?
    Stay longer and have less.

  • Reply
    Sherri Moore
    February 26, 2019 at 8:09 am

    This is somthing my grandmother used to say, you don’t pay for you raisin till you have kids of your own.
    My uncle used to say, he lies when the truth would serve him better.

  • Reply
    Diane Tuttle
    February 26, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Birds of a feather flock together.
    Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which fills up fastest.
    Lie down with the dogs and wake up with fleas.
    If wishes were horses then poor men could ride.
    And my favorite, “Can’t never could do nothing.”

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 26, 2019 at 7:29 am

    One my Father said to me. Son I got a crow to pick with you.
    Dad would say I looked and looked for that thang and I found it all at onct,
    Dad talking about a bad marriage. He drove his ducks to a bad market
    When I didn’t do a job to suit Dad He would tell me I had to lick my calf again.
    Dad would say you have too nuf or too none,
    My father-in law had some really colorful and insulting ones. He would say that woman was so buck tooth she could eat a pumpkin through a picket fence
    I never liked or understood one of his favorites. That fellow will run through that money quicker than a dose of salts through a widder woman.

    • Reply
      May 23, 2021 at 4:38 pm

      dose of salts refers to epsom salts, which’ll work as a laxitive right quick like if you drink it. why it works faster on a widow I can’t say.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 7:18 am

    [said of an expensive car] I wish I had that one and he had a better one.

    [said of a speeding car on the highway] If you were on your way to Hell, someone would try to beat you there.

    [said of an arrogant person] If you could buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth, you’d have a fortune.

    [self-explanatory] If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 26, 2019 at 7:13 am

    Love these. I’m going to add a couple from George Masa, a little Japanese fellow who loved these old mountains we call home. He wandered amongst them, and led others in the wandering and wondering.

    “More walk, less talk.

    “Off your seats and on your feets.”

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 5:32 am

    One of my favorites I heard my Mother in law say one time in raising kids, ” It’s the Parents place to help get those Kids over Fools hill.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 4:53 am

    “He’s got enough money to burn a wet mule.” Self explanatory.
    “Every tub sits on its own bottom.” Take responsibility for your actions – don’t blame others.
    “Cat fur to make kitten britches.” A pointless, unproductive waste of time.
    “Grinning like a mule eating briars.” Self explanatory.
    “Hog killing weather.” A fall day with temperatures above freezing and below 40 degrees.
    “Hotter than a two dollar pistol.” Can refer to ambient temperature or extreme anger.
    “Happy as a hog in slop.” Self explanatory.

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