Snake in the Henhouse


RW: In the American South, the expression “there’s a snake in the henhouse” mean someone in your group is toxic or not a good person.


RW heard the expression from her grandmother who was born and raised in rural Georgia. She doesn’t know where the expression came from, but assumes it was from farmers who lost chickens to snakes and other predators.


The American South is rich with phrases and expressions that mean something completely different than their literal definition. A common example of this is “bless your heart” which can be a genuine endearment in some parts of the south and an insult in others (in RW’s case, it was viewed as an insult). This is especially interesting because the language and region that makes up what is now known as the American South is fairly young. Despite this, it seems folk expressions are a common and necessary part of language and communication in the South.