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My sister, who is in her 50s, recently mused to my 13-year-old son, "Well, there's more than one way to skin a cat."

Hearing this expression from his aunt, his eyes got big.

"Who skins cats?" he said.

It made me realize that 21st-century Chattanooga kids don't speak Southern anymore. They don't share the proper cultural reference points.

The same 13-year-old asked me the other day: "Who the heck is Elvis?"

See!

On a whim, I decided to make a list of Southernisms and colloquial expressions. Then, I sat this young man down and asked him to interpret these phrases. He had hits and misses.

***

Me: "Heavens to Betsy," what does that mean?

Son: I'm guessing somebody died, and her name was Betsy.

***

Me: "Hold your horses."

Son: Relax. In the old days they rode horses, and I guess they had to hold them back sometimes.

Me: Good answer.

Son: Thank you.

***

Me: "Funny as all get out."

Son: It's so funny you gotta get out of there. I mean OUT!

***

Me: "You've lost your marbles."

Son: You've lost your mind.

Me: Yup.

***

Me: "He won't hit a lick at a snake."

Son: So, I guess he's scared of snakes, right?

***

Me: "Bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck."

Son: What? A bushel? And a peck? You made that up.

Me: Do you even know what a bushel is?

Son: Nope.

***

Me: "Don't let the screen door hit you."

Son: Go quickly. I think a screen door is some kind of mesh.

***

Me: "It doesn't amount to a hill of beans."

Son: Wait, there's a hill of beans somewhere?

Me: I guess.

Son: Interesting. Nobody likes beans.

***

Me: "Madder than a wet hen."

Son: So a hen is a female rooster, right?

Me: Something like that.

Son: Well, I guess female roosters don't like to get wet.

***

Me: On that note: "Scarce as hen's teeth."

Son: Do they even have teeth?

Me: I think that's the point.

Son: Oh.

***

Me: "Till the cows come home."

Son: You need to ring the cowbell to get them moving.

Me: No.

***

Me: "If I had my druthers."

Son: I think it's like a dream brother, a "druther." I wish my brother was a "druther."

***

Me: "Mend fences."

Son: You sit on a fence with two other men.

***

Me: "Too big for your britches."

Son: Your pants don't fit.

***

Me: "Fly off the handle."

Son: If you fly off the handle, you'll fall off the horse.

***

Me: "Don't bite off more than you can chew."

Son: Don't take more than you can eat.

***

Me: "Were you raised in a barn?"

Son: Are you dumb?

***

Me: "Two peas in a pod."

Son: Two people who are really close.

***

Me: "The pot calling the kettle black."

Son: Why did the pot do this?

Me: I don't know.

***

Me: "Whatever floats your boat."

Son: Whatever makes you happy.

***

Me: "We are living in high cotton."

Son: Yes, and it's hot in there.

***

Me: "If the Creek don't rise."

Son: Then we won't have water.

***

Me: Pretty as a peach.

Son: Ugly.

Me: No.

Son: Well, nobody says that anyway.

***

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

some text
Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo

 

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