I keep a list. Written in pen on paper. Plus, I have a spreadsheet. Once I started collecting the Southern sayings, I couldn’t stop! My little list that started out with a couple of phrases scribbled on a piece of scratch paper has since grown to at least 400 colloquialisms, and I’m trying to figure out how to organize them.
One thing I’ve noticed is that cats come up a lot. A whole lot. I haven’t done a scientific comparison between the number of dog sayings versus the number of cat sayings, but I’ll bet you a dollar the cats have it in the bag. I’ve written about idioms featuring our feline friends before, but since then I’ve added a few more to my ever-growing list. Here they are:
He’s sitting in the catbird seat. He’s in the most advantageous, desirable, and coveted position possible. And this saying just doesn’t refer to a physical place, although it can. It can also refer to a state of being. Say you got a big promotion at work that comes with a fancy company car, four weeks vacation, and stock options. Now you’re in the catbird seat. Oh, and it turns out that a catbird is really a bird and not a cat, but I’m leaving it here because I always thought it was the prime position the cat was in to capture the bird.
She moves like two bobcats in a burlap sack. Back before bootylicious, it was bobcats. And they were mad and writhing around in a sack. And not just any sack. A burlap sack. Ain’t no lycra that can contain a bobcat.
There’s enough blue to make a pair of cat’s pants. Now I don’t know about you, but my cat Flash doesn’t wear pants. At least not when I’m looking. That’s why I had to do a little bit of research on this one which led me to a similar saying: “There’s enough blue to mend a pair of Dutchman’s breeches.” That saying comes from a maritime superstition which dictated that if, during a spate of bad weather, you saw two patches of blue sky that were big enough to patch the extra wide-legged pants of a Dutch sailor, the next day would be fair. Naturally, over time, some Southerner had to bring a cat into the picture.
He’s the cat’s ass. Now you may think that this is not a very flattering thing to think of yourself or someone else, but quite the contrary. This one is along the same lines as “cat’s pajamas” which is a good thing. The cat’s ass is someone who’s held in high esteem, admired, respected. You can also throw a little shade and say something like, “That Rufus! He just thinks he’s the cat’s ass.”
Useless as a white string hanging out of a cat’s ass. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. All I want to know is if the color of the string is really integral to the saying. I mean, is a pink string or a green string any more useful than a white one if found in the same way? Pretty much anything of any color, shape, or size that’s emerging from a kitty’s boo-tay is useless to me.
That ain’t enough to stick up a cat’s ass. Once again, pretty self explanatory given the small size of cats in general. And what I have to say about this one ain’t enough to…well, you know…
(What in the world is this fixation with the cat’s hindquarters? Moving on…)
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. My Baw used to say this all the time! It means that there’s usually more than one way to accomplish the task at hand. It’s a good mindset to have when presented with obstacles and one that has served me well. Interestingly, this phrase may have come from the practice of actually skinning cats to make women’s coats in the late 1800s. There is also speculation that the “cat” referred to is actually short for “catfish” which don’t have scales, and, therefore, must be skinned.
There you have it. Seven catch phrases you can start using today. And when you do, you’ll be talking Southern purr-fectly.