Tag Archives: southern expression

If it ain’t pig, it ain’t BBQ

Background: The informant was born and raised in Western North Carolina. He has lived in North Carolina his whole life. The following phrase expresses a sentiment of North Carolinians surrounding a classic Southern dish: barbecue.

“If it ain’t pig, it ain’t BBQ”

I was told that for most people in North Carolina, barbecue is specifically pulled pork. It’s a very regional thing whereas other parts of the country also have barbecue, theirs is anything that’s cooked on a barbeque–could be tri tip, could be chicken, could be pulled pork, could be sausage. North Carolina also has a vinegar based barbeque sauce, where other places use mustard or ketchup based sauces.

Context of the performance: This was explained to me over FaceTime.

Thoughts: This short, fixed phrase states what is considered a truth among North Carolinians. It reveals a regional difference in a big part of the Southern culture–which is food. The phrasing suggests a binary view of barbecue that distinguishes region, and in North Carolina, you wouldn’t call something barbecue if it isn’t a form of pork, usually pulled pork. Barbecue seems to be a small way of forming an identity in North Carolina.

Southern Folk Expression

“He/she has taken a cotton onto you.”

My grandma grew up in a small town outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents were strawberry farmers and she helped take care of their farm before meeting my grandfather and moving to Long Beach, California. Whenever speaking about someone who seemed to be attracted to another person, she always uses the phrase “took a cotton to” to describe the situation, as cotton has a tendency to stick to clothing upon touching it. Since she grew up in the South, it’s not a surprise to see this expression become part of her vernacular, as cotton was one of the South’s main industries since its colonization. In speaking to my grandma, she learned the phrase by hearing her parents use it along with her friends parents when she was in elementary school, all of whom were involved in some sort of agricultural production.

I enjoy hearing my grandma say the phrase because it makes me feel more connected with my family roots in the South, despite many of the negative connotations that associate cotton growing with slavery. I’ve used the phrase a couple times here and though people understand the analogy, they tend to think of it as a random and bizarre expression since cotton farming is completely unfamiliar here in Los Angeles.