Birmingham, Alabama—I’m eating a hamburger at a bar. The men on stools beside me are shouting over each other. There are seven of them, all wearing nice suits.
They are from New Jersey.
Our bartender’s name is Mandy. The New Jersey men are asking Mandy about various Southern expressions.
Mandy knows a thing or two about regional dialect. She has a thick accent, deep lines on her face, and she’s got more country expressions than Carter has liver pills.
Mandy comes from Sylacauga, which is home to such American treasures as: Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle); Bill Todd (world’s lowest gospel-singing bass voice); and Ann Hodges (first woman in U.S. history to be struck by a nine-pound meteorite while taking a nap).
“Is it true?” New Jersey asks Mandy. “That you Southerners say ‘bless your heart’ to stupid people?”
Well, yes and no.
“Bless your heart” was once a common phrase uttered by anyone from Granny to Andy Griffith. But somewhere along life’s way, it got ruined by People Magazine, chain-email jokes, and Paula Deen.
“Yeah, we say it,” Mandy points out. “But most of the time, I’d rather say something like: ‘Ain’t he precious?’”
Which, when translated literally, means: “That poor man must’ve been exposed to lead paint during infancy.”
Many expressions in the South involve the weather. Here, we hold deep affection for the heat index.
One New Jersey man shouts: “I know a country expression about the weather: ‘SWEATING LIKE A HOG IN CHURCH!’”
Mandy rolls her eyes.
“Nope,” Mandy points out. “That ain’t how it goes. It goes: ‘Sweat’n like a WHORE in church.”
The New Jerseyans laugh hysterically.
Thus, Mandy teaches these men various regional expressions, free of charge. They listen and marvel at how many different ways a Sylacaugian like her can say something as simple as: “It’s hot outside.”
—“It’s hotter’n Hades.” A…