Southern Insults 101: Things Your Mama Taught You

Though Scarlett O’Hara is the kind of woman many Southern girls aspire to be, there were times even she struggled with the proper Southern insults. It’s a tricky business coming up with just the right cutting line. In a fight with Ashley Wilkes, she bursts out, “I can’t think of anything bad enough to call you!” Now, that’s just plain lazy on her part. There are always options for name-calling.

Later, when she’s insulted by Rhett Butler, she does her level best to hit him where it hurts, “Sir, you are no gentleman.” That probably would have been enough to cut your average fellow, but Rhett was an above average guy who quickly returned fire, “And you, Miss, are no lady.”

Fortunately, time goes on and Southerners have become more creative with their swearing. I don’t mean four-letter words, although used properly, those can pack a punch. There are certain times when letting something fly is terribly liberating. But any fool who made it through a middle school locker room can use those words. Southerners are possessed of what I like to call, “nice meanness.” If you wrote the words anyone used down on paper, it would look just fine. But delivered with the right inflection, they are devastating.

Bless your heart

If your children make it past third grade and do not yet understand that this is the lead-in to some of the most vile insults, they are not going far in life. If you attach some version of this phrase to even the most dreadful of insults, it’s totally fine to say.

Bless his heart, he is dumb as a sack of rocks. 

Bless her heart, she has no fashion sense at all. 

Adding “cotton-picking” or “pea-picking” to the phrase is typically a double insult.

Bless your cotton-picking heart, you really have no idea how this works, do you?

God love ‘em

This is used similarly to “bless your heart.” It softens the blow on harsh statements.

God love him, he’s a little slow on the uptake. 

She is dressed like a $10 Memphis whore, God love her. 

I’ll pray for you

This is often used after someone makes a totally insane assertion or is about to make a terrible decision.

Them: I’ve decided to quit my job to pursue a career as a trapeze performer.

You: I’ll pray for you. 

How nice for you

This response is usually prompted when someone makes a claim to be higher than his actual station in life or expresses interest in something no one else can fathom why that’s exciting.

Him: I have the largest earthworm collection west of the Mississippi.

You: How nice for you.

Her: I’m a writer. I’ve kept a journal every day since second grade.

You: How nice for you. 


If you can’t say something nice, use words that say nothing at all.

That sweater sure is memorable. 

That’s an interesting way to decorate your home. 

You know, I would have never thought to color my hair quite that shade. You’re so creative. 

That movie sure was different. 

Thank you for Sharing

There’s always that guy. The one who gives WAY too much personal information when you’ve only just met one another or the gal who gives details far beyond what you need to hear while eating.

Him: You know, they said that rash was incurable, but what do they know. I haven’t had any itching…you know…down there…since I started seeing the psychic.

You: Well…thank you for sharing. 

I’m Just Sayin'…

This particular phrase is used quite often by mamas trying to talk their children out of poor decisions.

I realize dying your hair purple before a job interview seems like a way to stand out from the crowd. I’m just sayin… I’m not sure this company is looking for employees with Easter egg colored hair. 

Of course, if none of these insults are appropriate for the particular situation you’re in, never fear. The icy cold, unflinching stare is enough to make any mortal rethink the idea that the South is a warm climate.


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