Twanglish Lesson: Southern Cussemisms

First of all, apologies for the lack of posts over the last two days. It’s been a busy time for all of our contributors. I’d like to say the distractions involved defending a young lady’s honor, a four-barrel carburetor or a quality batch of home brew, but that just isn’t the case. (However, it did involve Elvis and lawn maintenance. Does that count?)

In keeping with our theme for the week, let’s talk a little bit about Southern cussing. More specifically, let’s talk about the Southern substitutes for cuss words, “cussemisms” if you will.

It’s difficult to say why cultures deem certain words as vulgar. Perhaps it’s due to classism, and those words originating in the slang of lower classes were seen as unfit for civilized discourse.  Others may be seen as especially defamatory, blasphemous or just plain crude. For whatever reason, it seems most civilized cultures have their own variety of “ugly words.”

Never fear. Wherever there is a societal mandate against certain words, there will always be some clever wordsmiths to concoct socially acceptable substitutes. Here are a few Southern favorites:

Lord Have Mercyinterjection:

“Lord have mercy! You should’ve seen all the rednecks buying Busch and cheese balls at the Walmarts!”

Goodness graciousinterjection:

“Goodness gracious, you look like you’ve seen a haint or a booger.”

Anyone who has ever been to Sunday School (or been raised by someone who has) knows that swearing and oaths are big no-nos. Even use of the word “swear” could be frowned upon. After all, we can’t have people walking around saying “I swear” as a simple figure of speech. Next thing you know they’ll be crafting a golden calf and calling it a logo for a steak shop. It’s a slippery slope, my friends. So good Southerners don’t swear, they…

Swannyeuphemism 1. To swear 2. To declare or state unequivocally, often preceding a statement of hyperbole:

“I swanny, that boy’s got a bigger appetite than Junior Samples.”

Apologies to anyone actually named Manetti for the following misappropriation of your surname…

Gee Manettiinterjection 1. A substitute expression for “Jesus Christ,” to prevent “taking the Lord’s name in vain:”

“Gee Manetti, Maw-Maw! Paw-Paw’s drunker than Cooter Brown!”

We would also like to apologize to any real Cooter Browns out there. We are sure you are nothing less than the model of temperance. We would also like to apologize that you were stuck with the name Cooter.

This is a short list, of course. What are some of your favorite Southern Cussemisms?

19 Responses to “Twanglish Lesson: Southern Cussemisms”

  1. its not gee manetti
    Its jimany (pronounced gym A knee)
    I have lived in the rural area near and in Birmingham Alabama all my life and never heard of gee manetti always heard jimany usually followed by SAKES ALIVE!!

    other greats are hooo doggie, lawd bless that child (usually followed by HE/she ain’t right),over yonder …a place between here and there.

    • Actually, if you search “Gee Manetti” on Google, you’ll find quite a few references to it. It’s a distinctly different but related idiom to “jiminy,” which has variations of “Jiminy Christmas” and Jiminy Cricket.” Gee Manetti may be more of a Louisiana or Gulf Coast thing. My mother was raised up and down the coast by New Orleans native mother and an Alabama father. Her family has said it for as long as I can remember. That’s one of the great things about Twanglish, it can change from state to state, sometime from county to county.

      • I grew up in Louisiana and we always said “gee manitly,” which is a variation of gee manetti. I’m also familiar with “hoo dawgie.” Wow, a whole vocabulary is coming back to me!

    • I’ve been saying geez manetti my whole life and had no clue where it came from….. Guess I added the z …..

  2. my mawmaw used to say “I swanny” all the time-thanks for bringing back those memories and to dragonstar many peeps from the same area you are from used to say Jees-mo-netti (got that from mawmaw also) so idk that is just a gulf coast thing people look at me like I have 2 heads when I say it now a days……

  3. Thank you! Now I finally understand why some folks say “I suwannee.” Never put together the “no oath” connection.

    Some of my favorites are: “I’ll be dog” which is used to convey surprise or disbelief. As in, “She wears a size 4? Well, I’ll be dog.” Another variation is “I’ll be dad gum.” Or the angry interjection “Dadgummit!” I can’t recall ever hearing “dagnabbit;” that one might be straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies. Or maybe Loony Toons.

    P.S. Love the name “cussemisms.”

    • I love “I’ll be dog!” I’ve heard that one my entire life. It’s funny how you forget some of these phrases until you just “rare back” and let the Twanglish memories wash over you.

  4. My very Southern husband always says, “I swanny,” and it just makes me laugh. I never heard it until I married him! Glad to see it just affirms his good old Southern roots.

  5. Dad Gum It. Dag Nab It. 🙂

  6. when my aunt Lolly would ask great granny peavy how she was doin today, the answer was usually,”Well I.m tolerable and you? Toward the end sometimes great granny peavy would have “the miseries”

  7. “Dog gone” (nterjection) – As a way of expressing frustration or dismay: “Well I’ll be dog gone!”
    …Or… “Dog gone-it”: “Dog gone-it, somebody’s already took the last piece of pecan pie!”
    I’m pretty sure is was a substitute for not taking the Lord’s name in vain while cursing a situation.

  8. I learned it from my long-departed Dad who grew up in Evergreen, Alabama in the 30’s and 40’s. I still say “Gee Manetti”, and wonder “Why?”. Came here after googling it.

  9. My Mom always said “geez manetti” and so I grew up saying it. I thought it was pretty normal until a friend asked me what I was saying. I had no explanation. I thought it was weird that SHE didn’t know what I meant. I’m a fan of “dang” in all its forms… “Dang it!” “Dang it all…” Also “Oh my word!” My very southern aunt always says that.


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