Once on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Ernest T. Bass tried to join the Army. Several times, Barney says comically, “He’s a nut!”
As we are prone to say in the South, “Them’s strong words.”
And for Southerners who are courteous even when it comes to cussing and judging, they are. To outsiders, the words we use to cast aspersions on others are innocent. But we know what they mean, and that’s all that counts. A Southerner can give you the worse cussing of your life and do it by using Cartoon Channel words. No need for HBO language from us. We can cut to the quick with gentle-sounding words, but when we’re really mad, we’ll string a bunch together.
Southern mothers, by the way, use “hush” or the sweet-sounding “shush.” They do not say “shut up” to their children unless the child is over 40 and is lecturing her mother on taking her medicine and staying inside the house while ice and snow are on the ground. By this point in life, mothers have had enough of being nice, and it’s time to get tough.
Let’s look at a few examples:
“No account” — This is a person so despicable in ethics and manners that he’s not even counted as a human being.
“A waste of good air” — Even air that is free — at least at this time, but who knows when they’ll figure out how to charge for that like they have with water — is a bad investment on such a low life.
“Lowdown varmit” — A first cousin to a possum, skunk or raccoon, although raccoons are good for something because a few, like Ernest T., learned how to take a bath and wash food by watching them.
“White trash” — This is what the rednecks, who are generally hard-working people, call the ones who won’t work and lay up drunk most of the time.
“Good for nothin’” — Try as you might, you will never be able to figure out a purpose for these folks unless, of course, it’s contributing to the economic stability of the tobacco or beer industries. Which, as an aside, brings me to this question: Why is it that the ones who seem to be able to afford it the least smoke the most? “Good for nothin’” people come from “I-knew-even-when-he’s-a-kid-that-he’d-never-amount-to-nothin’” children.
“Sorry” — You don’t ever want your sweet mama to call you this. This is the worse cuss word in the Southern language. Southerners are raised to work by the sweat of the brow and the ache of the back, so they have little tolerance for those who won’t work. If you’re “sorry,” you’re lazy, and nothing is more vile to a Southerner than that.
“Cussed” — Substituted for a real cuss word. Many a mule has been called “cussed.” It is not a compliment.
“Fool” — The Bible says it’s the worst name a man can be called, so in the Bible Belt, that about sums it up. If a Southerner calls you a “fool,” tuck tail and run. You’ve done been dressed down within an inch of your life.
“No need to be hateful about it,” I muttered to myself after an airport encounter with rudeness.
“Hateful! Hateful?” asked a friend from New York who heard the comment. She doubled up in laughter. “What is hateful?”
A Southern cuss word, that’s what. It is our equivalent to the English “bloody.” It’s a cuss word to be used on sinks that won’t drain, hair that won’t cooperate, doors that jam, lug nuts that won’t budge and people who aren’t nice. It’s quite a handy word and one that is used often around my house.
So the next time you hear that a Southerner has been “cussing up a blue streak,” you’ll know some of the words he used.
Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for Rich's free weekly newsletter.