Here's a collection of wisdom from the American South, gleaned from American
Negro Folklore by J. Mason Brewer (Quadrangle/New York Times,
1968). I aimed for clarity over authenticity by translating the book's rendition of vernacular into an
approximation of standard English while trying to retain some of the flavor. They are not arranged in any particular order. -- Lyle
- A pullet can't roost too high for an owl.
- All the buzzards will come to the mule's funeral.
- Never shake hands with a crawfish.
- Satan ain't so scared of long sermons.
- The mule that chews up his own collar is fixing for a sore
- Don't fling away the empty wallet.
- A sharp axe is better than big muscle.
- Setting hens don't hanker after fresh eggs.
- The mosquito says grace too loud for his own good before getting
ready to eat.
- Those who know too much sleep under the hopper.
- You can't tell much about a chicken pie until you get through the
- Watch out when you're getting all you want. Fattened hogs ain't
- Pigs don't know what a pen's for.
- The angleworms aren't anxious for the fish to bite.
- Don't blame the cow when the milk gets sour.
- You can hide the fire, but what'll you do with the smoke?
- Loading a wagon with hay ain't the quickest way to get religion.
- A mule can be tame at one end and wild at the other.
- Rheumatism and happiness both get bigger if you keep telling
folks about them.
- A pig has enough arithmetic to take the shortest cut through a
- Stump water won't cure the gripes.
- The rabbit thinks experience costs too much if you get it from a
- A crooked cornstalk can still have a straight ear.
- Don't take too big a start to jump a ditch.
- What you can learn by boxing with a left-hander costs more than
- You'll lose your grip if you put too much spit on your hands.
- The north wind knows all the cracks in the house.
- The otter would have more peace if his clothes weren't so fine.
- Don't try to rake up the family secrets of every sausage you eat.
- The partridge that makes a nest in a wheat field won't be
pestered by her children.
- A rabbit knows a fox track same as a hound does.
- Folks on the rich bottomland stop bragging when the river rises.
- When it takes half a hoecake to catch a catfish, let him alone.
- A crow is a first-rate hand to thin corn.
- Never climb an oak tree after chinkapins.
- Satan loads his cannons with big watermelons.
- If you buy a rainbow, don't pay cash for it.
- Always drink pure water. Many get drunk from breaking this rule.
- The hawk would like to get a job in the chicken yard keeping away
- There's not much difference between a Hornet and a Yellow Jacket
if they're in your clothes.
- The cotton patch doesn't care which way you vote.
- It doesn't take a prophet to predict bad luck.
- A soreback mule is a poor hand at guessing the weight of a sack
- Someone who pets a live catfish isn't crowded with brains.
- A bull without horns can still do some right sharp pushing.
- It's easy to get off a bucking mule.
- The rabbit is too honest to steal grapes, and the fox is too
honest to steal cabbage.
- You might as well die with the chills as with the fever.
- You can sow in my field, but the crop will come up in yours, and
you won't know how it got there.
- What you don't have in your head, you have to have in your feet.
- Better gravy than no grease at all.
- Lazy folks' stomachs don't get tired.
- Save the pacing mare for Sunday.
- It don't rain every time the pig squeals.
- Crow and corn can't grow in the same field.
- Rails split before breakfast will season the dinner.
- The jay-bird doesn't rob his own nest.
- Meat fried before day won't last until night.
- A blind horse doesn't fall when he follows the bit.
- A blacksnake knows the way to the hen's nest.
- If you have to eat dirt, eat clean dirt.
- The terrapin walks fast enough to go visiting.
- Corn makes more at the mill than it does in the crib.
- Good Luck says, "Open your mouth and shut your eyes."
- The rooster makes more racket than the hen that laid the egg.
- A one-eyed mule can't be handled on the blind side.
- Liquor talks mighty loud when it gets loose from the jug.
- Tomorrow may be the carriage-driver's day for ploughing.
- Between the bug and the bee martin, it ain't hard to tell which
will get caught.
- Trouble is seasoning. 'Simmons ain't good until they're
- A full purse ain't half as good as an empty one is bad.
- Soft ground tells a heap of tales.
- Don't trade off a coonskin before you catch the coon.
- Don't spoil Saturday night by counting the time to Monday morning.
- A good farmer stays acquainted with daybreak.
- Never trust a man too far who stays mad through Christmas week.
- The mule doesn't pull so well with a mortgage on his back.
- Crabgrass lines the path to the poorhouse.
- Ground sparrows see the snowstorm way off yonder.
- A hole in your britches lets in a heap of uneasiness.
- Grubbing roots softens a straw bed.
- The distance to the next milepost depends on the mud in the road.
- Turnip tops don't tell you the size of the turnips.
- An old sow knows enough about figures to count her pigs.
- A sleepy fisherman totes a light load home.
- The devil has no particular objection to Christmas.
- The bullfrog never makes a mistake when he starts singing.
- Trying to understand some folks is like guessing at the direction
of a rat hole underground.
- Some people's honesty is regulated by the spunk of the yard-dog.
- The Black Gum laughs at the Red Oak when the woodcutter comes
- You can't hurry up good times by waiting for them.
- Many good cotton stalks get chopped up by associating with weeds.
- Tomorrow's ash-cake is better than last Sunday's pudding.
- The man that always takes the shortest road to a dollar generally
takes the longest road away from it.
- All of the justice in the world isn't fastened up in the
- A blind mule ain't afraid of darkness.
- The dinner bell's always in tune.
- The woodpile doesn't grow much on frosty nights.
- Some smart folks can't tell a rotten rail without sitting on it.
TO BRANDY SNIFTER HOME PAGE