My mother, Leola Ann Wright Pigott, was born in Elberton, Georgia, and grew up, from a young age, in Anderson, South Carolina. She considered herself a true Southern belle, in the style of Scarlet O’Hara from the movie, “Gone With the Wind.” Even though Mom spent most of her life in my hometown, Fort Myers, Florida, as a result of marrying my dad, her heart was always in South Carolina. She often told me she missed the honeysuckles in the spring time; she longed for the days spent on Lake Hartwell with her friends, and she only considered one place, South Carolina, her home. Mom had a number of quips she fondly called “South Carolina sayings” that she used to describe various people and situations. Many of them, I suppose, are more properly considered “Southern sayings,” but for Mom, they were the exclusive property of the state of South Carolina. I will share some of my favorites in this post.
- “The South’s going to rise again.” How many times did I hear Mom say this? I can’t count that high! If I dared inform Mom that it was doubtful that the southern states would ever have another uprising from the northern states, Mom would look at me with an expression that conveyed I just didn’t “get it.” - “Cut.” When Mom asked me to “cut the lights off,” she was asking me to turn off the light switch. She wasn’t asking me to use scissors or any other sharp instrument. - “If you say that again, I’m going to wash your mouth out with Peroxide.” Now, this is a pretty serious threat; not soap, as many people’s parents might have said, but Peroxide. I never knew this was going to happen to me until recently, when a dental assistant asked me to rinse out my mouth with Peroxide. Believe me, it tastes awful! - “Who do you think you are, Miss Priss?” was something that Mom asked, rhetorically of course, any time she thought I was acting “too big for my britches,” which was another one of her barbed expressions any time she thought I was conducting myself disrespectfully. (It was never a good idea for me to answer this question! Far better just to slink away.) - “Carolina” referred to South Carolina, never to North Carolina. If Mom was referring to North Carolina, she would refer to it by its whole name. “Carolina” as in the lovely song, “Carolina in the Morning,” one of Mom’s favorite songs, meant her great state of South Carolina. - “A month of Sundays” is a very long time. If Mom had a boring visit with someone, she would describe it as having lasted for “a month of Sundays.” Not a good thing! - “I wouldn’t walk across the street to speak to him/her” or its variant, “He/She isn’t fit to shine my shoes” were strongly worded insults about someone Mom disliked. These types of insults were, for Mom, akin to cursing. - “ You can run circles around those friends of yours” or “I’d have to get up before breakfast to get ahead of you” were compliments paid to me by Mom, who never ceased to be amazed about how quickly I get things done. (Like B.B. King famously said, “I’m pretty fast myself!) - “Wild horses couldn’t drag me to...” was something Mom said when someone tried to get her to divulge a secret or when someone attempted to get her to do something she didn’t want to do or go somewhere she didn’t want to go. I’m not sure why the horses needed to be wild in order to do the dragging, but this was always part of the saying. - “Close the drapes so the haints can’t see inside.” Upon the approach of darkness, Mom always warned me to close the drapes, never the curtains, so that the haints, meaning ghosts or haunts, wouldn’t see inside our home. I never knew what we were doing that needed to be hidden from the haints, but when Mom asked me to close the drapes, you’d better believe I did it!
Mom also sang “God Bless America” anytime she saw an American flag flying. She taught me to sing “Way Down Upon the S’wannee River” every time we drove across it. And, every time we crossed the Lee County line upon returning from our many travels, or in her later years, every time she arrived home, Mom always said “Home sweet home.” Hooray for Mom and her “old South Carolina sayings”! And, the next time my porch ceiling needs painting, it’s going to be painted “Haint Blue”!
This post has intimidated me for some time in that Melissa wrote it effortlessly some time ago, but I haven’t thought of much to say. I don’t recall old southern sayings having much of a place in my upbringing. My parents were from Atlanta, so the southern part is similar, but for whatever reason, these types of idioms didn’t have much of a place at my home. Sure, we had the occasional “bless their heart” which is, as every Southerner knows, not actually a blessing. That said, I can understand these things, southern coded language, even through some thick southern accents. I do recall one of my grandmothers saying “I swanny” once in a while when exasperated. Phrases like that and “gosh” were gentler ways of “cussing” that seem lost in today’s verbally graphic world. It is interesting to consider, though, how despite not being graphic, some of these “Old South Carolina sayings,” while they were used historically, are sometimes seen as politically incorrect today. I think we’re beyond “The South’s going to rise again,” even if that mindset still lives in some. And, the revisions to S’wannee River have hopefully reduced the controversy of the Florida state song, which has an interesting history in that the song was written without initially having the name of an actual river in Stephen Foster’s mind. As beautiful as the Suwannee River is, he never saw it. Finally, Melissa’s plan to have the porch ceiling “Haint Blue,” in a whimsical attempt to keep the evil spirits and bad vibes at bay, has come to fruition. Her mom would have thought it was one of the prettiest ceilings she had ever seen.