Author Tamela Hancock Murray

What Does That Mean?

Some time ago, I was writing a story and used a variation of the sentence, “He wished he could be a fly on the wall when they had that conversation.” This puzzled my critique partner, who didn’t know it meant. She had never heard the expression “fly on the wall” before and didn’t know it meant the character could be an unobtrusive observer. I decided to change the sentence for fear others wouldn’t understand, either.

I grew up in rural Virginia, and we had some unusual local expressions. Consider:

ugly as homemade soap

screaming bloody murder

grumpy as an old sitting hen

bleeding like a killing hog

slow as molasses on a December morning

Grandma was slow, but she was old (used in chastising a young person)

doesn’t know any more than a Yank in Georgia

high as a Georgia pine. (This expression was popular before drugs reached rural areas, so it meant drunk. Or it can mean a high price. Much to the chagrin of my teenager, today I still might say, “Wow, that caviar is high as a Georgia pine.”)

These popular expressions have less regional flair, but are still colorful:

low man on the totem pole

You get what you pay for.

Money talks. BS walks.

Your turn:

What regional expressions did you grow up using?

Should you use regional expressions in your novels?

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