USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘southernism’
Folk speech

“Full of the Dickens” – Southern Saying

“Full of the Dickens”
Full of the Dickens. My grandma used to say that – he is full of the dickens. It means you’re silly, naughty. It was from the south, I think. Honestly, I think you’re full of the dickens, really.

Background
The informant who provided this information was born and raised in Southern California, yet her mother and that following side of the family was from the Southern part of the United States – referred to by her as, “the south”. Her mother and other relatives would use a lot of southern sayings and slang, and she likes to use it when she can, because it makes her think of her family. She also jeers at the collector with the saying, continuing the tradition.

Context
The informant who provided this information is a 52-year-old Caucasian women, born and raised in Southern California. The information was collected while sitting outside her home in Palm Desert, California, on the 20th of April, 2019.

Analysis
I really enjoyed collecting this piece from my mother – it is a saying passed down through the family to her, and now to me! This transmission of folklore is both exciting and characterizing of folklore itself. I think it is really interesting to see the specific things the informant remembers and repeats from childhood – it must mean it stuck out back then as interesting, and has lasted thus far. I do not believe I am “full of the dickens”, but if she characterizes me as such, I very well may be! I think the use of this saying helps her connect back and remember her mother and grandmother, and keeping the saying alive keeps her family alive and memorializes them, in a way.

Folk speech

Chest High Waders

The informant is a second year student at the University of Southern California, studying History. He is from Chicago, IL, and he lived abroad in Rome when he was younger. At USC, he is involved with student affairs and television production.

This piece describes one of his father’s, who was raised in Texas, “Southernisms”: folk sayings that invoke themes from the American South.

“Southernisms are a commonly accepted feature of dialect. So, my dad will occasionally say things like “You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink.” Or, my favorite and the one which has stuck with me my entire life is, “Well, better get my chest high waders on cause the bullshit is flowing deep in here.” So, and I’m not sure why that started happening, uh in my family, but I do know that it’s something my grandfather used to say. Um, so what’s likely is that it was transmitted through my father to me.

And I remember the, it’s always used whenever I—I make any assertion that my dad wants to challenge. And also, one time when literally when our stump pump stopped working and our drains overflowed during like a really heavy period of flooding, so our basement flooded. So there was my dad in his chest high waders. So I said, “Hey dad!” Because I was like five or six. “You’d better get your chest high waders on because the bullshit’s flowing deep in here!” And he laughed and then told me never to say the word “bullshit” again because it was a bad word.”

So aside from you making an assertion, are there other contexts where you would say this?

“Um, okay. Um, as a—as a, uh expression of almost sorrow or disappointment. For example, the 2016 presidential election, whenever Donald Trump opens his fat cheetoh mouth. That’s immortalized for the archives, that’s good to hear, uh, whenever Donald Trump opens his fat orange mouth and says something, my immediate reaction is, “Better get the chest high waders on cause the bullshit’s flowing deep in here.””

Analysis:

This piece expression definitely relies on an understanding of ranching practices, common to Texas, in order for the expression to be fully appreciated. The audience needs to know what chest high waders are normally used for in order for the expression to achieve maximum effect; while those unfamiliar with waders can infer from context, they miss the full context.

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