Wise Words: Appalachian Sayings and Idioms

As you all know, we at TL&TB all share our Appalachian roots. As such, we’ve grown up hearing sayings and idioms about nearly every single aspect of life. If there’s an issue you have, there’s most certainly some wise words to accompany it. I love hearing these sayings and I thought I’d use this week’s post to share some of them with you. I employed the help of my Dad to think of some of them that I hadn’t thought of. He was able to rattle them off like a champ.  Here’s a short list we’ve compiled. There are many many more.

It’s raining cats and dogs. – This simply means, it’s raining hard!


It’s raining cats and dogs!

Knee high to a grasshopper. – This is used when someone or something is short. “That baby is knee high to a grasshopper.”

A penny saved is a penny earned. – This is to encourage folks to be frugal. Keep the money you have instead of spending it, and then you win.

Ain’t no hill for a climber – This just means it’s not a big deal for someone with experience.

No need to buy the cow when you can get your milk for free. – This one doesn’t need much of an explanation. I’ll let you form your own conclusions.  (Dad said I shouldn’t include this one. I’m doing it anyway.)

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. – Don’t count something as a sure thing until you are certain of it.

There’s a fox in the hen house. – Someone is somewhere they don’t need to be.

Don’t do in the dark what you don’t want brought out in the light. – If you don’t want people to know of the things you do, then you better not do them.

Pretty is as pretty does. – Beauty comes from within.

Slap both eyes into one. – This is a threat one would use when they are seriously angry. “I’m gonna slap both your eyes into one.”

I’ll give you what for. – To give someone “what for” means that you’re going to tell them just what you think.

Why would he want satin when he’s got lace at home. – Again, this one speaks for itself. Why would a man want a cheap woman when he’s got a classy one at home?

Gittin’ too big for your britches. – This means that you’re starting to think too highly of yourself.

I don’t care if it hair lips granny. – I don’t care who it offends.

Rode hard and put up wet. – This simply means you’re as exhausted and uncomfortable as a horse that’s been rode all day and put in the stall wet.

Fit to be tied. – This means you are angry. “She came in past curfew and Mama was fit to be tied.”

A little birdie told me. – This is the phrase one uses when they’ve been told some juicy gossip but don’t want to say who told them.


A little birdie told me….

You can’t help a bird from flying over your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair. – This means, you can’t keep problems from happening, but you can help how you react to them.

Ain’t got a pot to pee in. – This is a phrase used when you’re describing how poor someone is. “They’re so poor they ain’t got a pot to pee in.”

The pot calling the kettle black. – Accusing someone of something you’re also guilty of.

Jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. – Someone went from one bad situation right into another.

Thick as fleas on a dog’s back. – This is used when there is a lot of something. “The crowd in the supermarket was thick as fleas on a dog’s back.”

Better laugh to keep from crying. – This means it’s best to find the bright side of a bad situation.

Weak as a kitten. – This is a phrase people sometimes use when they’re sick and have no energy. “The flu has left me weak as a kitten.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. – It’s better to have the certainty of what you do have than the possibility of what you might have.


A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

All is well that ends well. – A good outcome is all that matters.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. – This means it’s easier to keep something from happening in the first place than to fix it after it’s already happened.

As the twig is bent so shall the tree grow. – The direction you point something /someone in is the direction it will go.

Beggars can’t be choosers. – If you’re in need, you must take what you can get.

Charity begins at home. – One must first take care of everything at home before he can help others.

Everything that glitters is not gold. – This means that just because something looks good doesn’t necessarily mean it is.

Every tub must stand on its own bottom. – This means that every person is their own independent being.

Haste makes waste. – Slow down and do it right the first time.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. – You don’t want to make a good woman angry.

Honesty is the best policy. – This one speaks for itself. It simply means it’s always best to tell the truth.

Let your conscious be your guide. – This means to follow your heart and do what you believe is best.

Rob Peter to pay Paul. – This just means you’re taking away from one pot to fill another.

Speech is silver, silence is gold. – It’s better to keep quiet sometimes.

To the victor belongs the spoils. – When you’re on top, you have the responsibility of all that is below you.

I enjoyed walking down memory lane and thinking of these old sayings. I also enjoyed the ones I hadn’t thought of that my Dad reminded me of. There were even some that he shared that I had never heard. I love hearing them and applying them into conversation when possible.   One thing that is for sure, these old sayings still apply today. For all of life’s situations there is sure to be an old saying to accompany it.


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