Friday, January 19, 2018

In Search of Colorful Expressions by Edith Maxwell

Today, I am so pleased to have our friend Edith Maxwell (aka Maddie Day) blogging with us. Edith's new book will be out in just a few days and she's here to chat about it. Welcome, Edith!

Edith: I am delighted to be back on Jungle Reds, as always, and thanks to Jenn for hosting me. Jungle Reds is the first blog I read every morning and I love being part of the back-blog community.

Edith Maxwell
Biscuits and Slashed Browns, my fourth Country Store Mystery, comes out January 30. It’s set in southern Indiana, parts of which are really more Kentucky than Indiana. I wrote about how I came to set the series in that corner of the country right here a couple of years ago.

Here’s the new book’s blurb:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration. Robbie drops her maple-curry biscuits to crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky and murderous trap.



Two of the series’ continuing characters, Robbie’s Aunt Adele and South Lick police lieutenant Buck Bird, use colorful language when they talk. This is a cozy series, so by “colorful” I don’t mean obscenity-laden. But I try to work in fun regional expressions nearly every time one of them opens her or his mouth.

What do I mean? In one of the books Buck says, “That went faster than green grass through a goose.” And Adele says, “I’ve been up since before the rooster got his pants on.”

Other expressions include, “He was working harder than a one-armed paper hanger,” “Why, that was lower than a snake’s belly in a wheel rut,” and “About as useful as a pogo stick in quicksand.”

Aren’t those fun? I love to collect contributions. My blogmate (and a true blue New Englander) Julie Hennrikus contributed, “She was sweating like a whore in the front row of church.” My Hoosier sister Barbara Bergendorf sent along, “That guy is slicker than deer guts on a doorknob.” Another friend suggested a phrase her dad always used: “It’s as dark as a pocket!” And a Facebook friend gave me, “It’s raining harder than a blind mule pissing on a flat rock.”

Some of those might be a bit marginal for the cozy audience, but you get the picture. I love that while Adele and Buck talk real woodsy, they are each two of the smartest characters in the books. Nobody pulls the wool over their eyes. They are both so real to me now I’d like to share their pictures with you, except...oops! They’re fictional.

So readers, who has a colorful expression for me? Or tell me your favorite breakfast when you eat out, because I’m always looking for new recipes to include in the series. I’ll give a book away to one commenter.

Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. She is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau and two cats. Her web site includes all her writing, and she hopes you’ll find her here:

Facebook: Maddie Day and Edith Maxwell
Goodreads: Edith Maxwell
Pinterest: EdithMaxwell

Instagram: EdithMaxwellAuthor

103 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Congratulations on the new book, Edith . . .

    When we lived in Alabama, people were always using the expression “like white on rice,” meaning someone stayed close to [stuck on] something or that they were on top of their task . . . . The shy child clung to her mother like white on rice.

    Favorite breakfast? As long as there’s bacon, it’s all good. A good way to start the day? Warm scones with jam and cream, bacon, and coffee . . . .

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    1. Thanks, Joan! I've been meaning to have Robbie serve scones as a breakfast special. Do you have a favorite recipe?

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    2. Edith, here's one of our favorite scone recipes:

      Cranberry-Ginger Scones
      Makes 8 scones
      Preparation
      1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
      2. Soak 3/4 cup dried cranberries in hot water to plump; drain well.
      3. Combine 1-1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt.
      4. Work in 6 tablespoons butter [cut into small pieces] until dough resembles coarse crumbs.
      5. Stir in 1/2 cup milk or light cream to create a stiff dough.
      6. Mix in well-drained cranberries, 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger, 1 tablespoon grated orange peel.
      7. Pat into the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently until the dough just comes together.
      8. Pat into a 7-inch round, about ¾-inch thick; cut round into 8 wedges.
      9. Arrange wedges on the lined baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake in center of oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with cream and jam.

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  3. The expressions are certainly fun. I'm a third of the way into this book and enjoying it as always.

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  4. Congratulations on your newest book, Edith! I must admit I have not heard of many of the regional expressions you listed. I have not been to Indiana (or Kentucky) in my travels but would love to visit a country store like you portray in South Lick.

    Favourite breakfast would be pancakes with a side of crisp bacon, and lots of strong coffee.

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    1. There's a lot of support for bacon here this morning, Grace!

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  5. Congratulation on the book, Edith! Looking forward to reading it. I've heard a lot of the expressions you mention, but they are country and I'm a country girl. Wracking my brain to think of more and drawing a blank. You know they will come tumbling into the brain the second I hit publish.

    Favorite breakfasts - Eggs, grits, bacon, and those shredded crisp hash browns. Yum. Strong coffee too, please.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kait. When you do think of some phrases, just shoot me an email at edith at edithmaxwell dot com! Love me some grits...

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  6. OK, I'm still absorbing 'deer guts on the doorknob'...ick! Once I described someone as 'long in the tooth' to a friend from New England and she said, 'huh?'. My grandmother from the Panhandle of Texas used to say that a lot. It meant someone 'older'. Do teeth keep growing longer? Ha!

    Breakfast out - well, first of all, coffee, good coffee. I like eggs, bacon (crisp) and biscuits. Waffles are great too. Or some amazing breakfast tacos - we've got a lot of those here in Central Texas.

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    1. I think rodent teeth actually do keep growing, Kay! I'd die for a breakfast taco about now, or huevos rancheros. Those are hard to come by in New England.

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    2. Definitely rodent teeth grow--our guinea pigs sometimes had a problem with their teeth getting too long!

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    3. I also had it explained to me that "long in the tooth" referred to horses -- they tend toward periodontal disease, so the gums recede from the teeth, making the teeth appear longer as the horse ages. I never verified if it was true, but it sounds good!

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    4. Now I have not only 'deer guts', but 'rodent teeth' in my mind. Horse teeth - that's better.

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    5. Susan, I also learned that the expression refers to horses. When prospective buyers would evaluate a horse, they would always examine the teeth to verify their general age.

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  7. No Kay teeth do not grow longer but gums do recede ...That's heard here in New England too. My favorite breakfast is a full Irish.

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  8. Hmm favourite breakfast - probably poached egg on wholemeal toast :D and I am looking forward to reading this one!

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  9. Congrats on the new book, Edith! This series is on my TBR list, and with those great expressions, I may have to bump it up a few notches! Sorry I don't have any good ones to contribute.

    For breakfast, I'll have eggs Benedict, home fries, and a good cup of tea, please. Or as Gram said, you can't go wrong with an Irish breakfast, but I really prefer it in Ireland or the British Isles. Not quite the same over here!

    Jenn and Rhys, I forgot to say this yesterday, but kudos on the well-deserved awards! *clapping*

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    1. Thanks, Mary. Ditto on the clapping for Jenn and Rhys!

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    2. Congrats, MaryC! You're the winner of Edith's giveaway: You can write to her at edith at edithmaxwell dot com and send your snail mail address so she can mail your book!

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  10. Good morning Edith! I've actually heard "one armed paper hanger" in real life...in northernmost NY state! Might just be "country" not necessarily southern. How about something will happen "if the good lord is willing and the creek don't rise?" I love to eat breakfast out and my favorite is more rare than one would think- a great omelette. I do love grits though, and any kind of pancake. Favorite New England treat is cranberry pancakes.

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    1. You might be right about the country, Triss. Ooh, I've never had cranberry pancakes. I'll use that in my next Cape Cod mystery! Or Robbie can do a New England special in the store.

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    2. Triss, my upstate NY grandmother used to say "God willing and the creek don't rise," too!

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    3. My mother often said, "God willin' and the crik don't rise," too, though I thought she always said it ironically.

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    4. Taking note! And Barb - your mom, ironic? Somehow that doesn't surprise me...

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  11. Subtle as a fart in an elevator, busier than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest, and armed for bear.

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    1. (snort) I wonder if I can get away with that first one in a cozy - oh heck, why not?!

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  12. It's enough to make you want to be born southern. I have a resource book I often refer to: Whistlin' Dixie--Southern expressions. And a Youtube series that's loaded with juicy language: Sh%t Southern Women Say. I'm not very good at makin' stuff up.

    My last book is set in the south, and I discovered once I got started I had to be careful not to load my characters down with too many cutesy expressions. But a favorite: Don't worry about the mule, just load the wagon
    Sage advice.

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    1. Looks like I'll have to order that book, Hallie. I am careful to have only two or three characters be the ones with the extreme expressions. Love that last one!

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    2. That's a folksier way of saying "don't put the cart before the horse", maybe?

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    3. Actually that's not how I read it... more like focus on what you can control and try not to worry about what's out of our control.

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  13. I don’t eat it very often but I like pork roll and egg on a hard roll.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

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  14. My favorite so far is "dark as a pocket." I lived in east Tennessee for a while and married into a very southern family. Our landlord used to come over in his pickup and sit outside the house honking until we came out to chat. One of his great expressions was : "Makes a man scratch his head where it don't itch."

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  15. Some of my family is full of expressions like that, but can I think of one right now? Nope!
    I like runny eggs, toast, biscuits and gravy, and fried potatoes...not hash browns, not cut in chunks...sliced potatoes fried til a few are crispy. And of course, BACON! It's funny. I think an egg sounds good. But then after I fix it, meh. But if my son fixes it, or I'm eating out, yum!! Don't know why? ��

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    1. I like the sound of those potatoes, Ann. As I told Kait earlier, when you do think of some phrases, just shoot me an email at edith at edithmaxwell dot com!

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  16. For breakfast, I like French toast with sliced bananas, crispy bacon, orange-pineapple juice. If it's cold, I like hot chocolate. That kind of meal really cranks my tractor.

    I haven't visited South Lick; is it just below French Lick?

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    1. Just a bit north of French Lick, actually, Jim. The town is fictional, but there's a real South Lick Creek in Brown County, and a South Lick Creek Road - that's where I got the name.

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    2. Now if you want some good BBQ, come to the Austin, TX area and visit the Salt Lick. Excellent BBQ. Just saying...don't know if they have breakfast tacos.

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    3. So much good food, so little time...

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  17. My Gram used to say “She talks so much her tongue must be hinged in the middle and wags at both ends.” Yes, she was talking about me — I had a lot to say!

    For fave breakfast, I’ll go with peach filled crepes with whipped cream on top, crispy bacon on the side, and endless coffee.

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    1. That's a good one, Jenn. And peach filled crepes? Oh my...

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  18. There's a big country store in Evansville, Indiana, along the Ohio, that once hosted an "herb festival" which got itself listed in Better Homes & Gardens. I actually drove all that way from Cincinnati, only to find an herb sale outside the store. It was as big a letdown as not finding a prize in the Crackers Jacks.

    My favorite breakfast depends on where I am. In Europe, it's a pain du chocolat and cappuccino. When we go out for a rare morning meal it's either an avocado and bacon omelet or eggs Benedict. I might change that order if I see maple curry biscuits on the menu, though!

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    1. Ooh, this California girl wants an avocado and bacon omelet right now!

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    2. Oh, I do, too! Avocado and bacon. YUM!

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    3. Go to First Watch. There's is divine!

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    4. Next time I'm in the Midwest.So First Watch is in Cinncinnati? (Ai! I canNOT spell that word - all those double letters...).

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  19. Being a WV hillbilly we have a few expressions of our own but we understand each other no problem. We never give directions in miles we tell you how long it takes to get there and a side road is a holler.. So many of our ways and speech is unique to ue.

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  20. Congratulations to Rhys for her Edgar nomination for Farleigh Field, and to Hallie for her Mary Higgins Clark nom!

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  21. I have many more colorful expressions from my northern New York grandmother than the one who was born and raised in Alabama! Some of my favorites: "She doesn't have the brains God gave geese," "In good season," as in, "We'll get there in good season" or "You'll be done in good season." It means to finish not just in a timely fashion, but with a bit to spare.

    My grandmother Greuling never swore (not that I ever heard, at least) but she would say, "That Gee-Dee oil truck didn't come today!" She would also, in extremis, upgrade from "Darned fool," to "Jackass!"

    One of my favorites, said when grandchildren complained about getting caught in the rain: "You're not made of sugar. You won't melt." I've used that one with my own kids!

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    1. Those are wonderful, Julia! I heard my own mother say Damnation exactly twice - and she was really steamed (at me in ninth grade, who deserved it...).

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  22. Congratulations on your soon-to-be-born newest, Edith. I look forward to it.

    And kudos to the Reds with Edgar nominations, Rhys and Hallie!

    Edith, I grew up in NW Missouri, and I can think of a few of these expressions.
    1. Haven't laughed so hard since the pigs ate up my little brother. (my favorite)
    2. Raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock
    3. It's a frog stomper out there. (heavy rain)
    4. Slicker than snot on a doorknob.
    5. Best part of him ran down his daddy's leg.
    6. Weak as maiden's water.
    7. Pure as the driven snow, driven over and over and over.
    8. Fell off the roof (menstruation reference)
    9. My red headed cousin come to visit (see above)
    10. Makes a difference whose bull was gored, which my very proper grandmother cleaned up to "whose cow was bored." Because ladies didn't say "bull" or "gored".
    11. Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies glow. Another from my grandmother.


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    1. Oops, forgot my favorite breakfast. It's a tie between French toast and poached eggs. But that's at home. When we eat out, I often choose Eggs Benedict, in this country. In France it is cafe au lait and a croissant with strawberry jam. Never anything chocolate tho.

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    2. These are great, Ann! "Best part of him ran down his daddy's leg." Yikes. ;^)

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  23. I don't know how colorful it is, but my grandfather used to say, "The chances of that are slim and none - and Slim just left town." I actually just used it in my book.

    Mary/Liz

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  24. My mom always used to say--nutty as a fruitcake. Which isn't unique or original, but when I was little I had no idea what it meant. :-)

    Best breakfast. Hmm. Thinking about that. xoxo

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    1. I guess you didn't have fruitcake in the house during the holidays!

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  25. Oh, I love these! My grandfather had so many; wish I could think of them all. But one was "darker than the inside of a cow." An expression I heard my mother use was "get a wiggle on." I never heard that anywhere else until just recently on a BBC program. Interesting. When I've used the word "skedaddle" my teenage granddaughter thought I was making up words.

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  26. A friend’s mother avoided stronger cursing with “dimity, damity, dust”. My grandmother’s variation on Julia’s sugar and not melt: “Neither salt nor sugar. You won’t melt.” So many of these phrases are wonderful memories of my mother and grandmother. Thank you, Edith.
    And hooray for the new book!

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  27. Congrats on the new book, Edith! One of my favorite phrases is "like a screen door on a submarine." And favorite breakfast is French toast with a side of bacon. Yum!

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    1. Ingrid, is that "It leaks like a...?"

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    2. You might say, "that idea went over like a screen door on a submarine."

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  28. Oh, so funny. I love these expressions and they do bring back memories. Although I'm sure neither my mother or my grandmother said "snot," I say "colder than snot" which must come from somewhere in my Texas roots! My mother just said, "You won't melt," and my grandmother said, "Skedaddle." I hadn't thought of that one in years!

    Favorite breakfast? Depends on where. In France, cafe au lait and chocolate croissant. In England, other than the occasional "full English", toast, tea, and a soft-boiled egg. The splurge at home; whole wheat French toast made with eggs, milk, orange juice, a dash of cream and a dash of orange liqueur, served with bacon, real maple syrup, and fresh blueberries cooked in a dab of butter until the juice starts to run. Yum.

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  29. "Fine as frog hair" . As useless as tits on a boar hog. Well dip me in butter and call me a biscuit.

    Speaking of.. biscuits in honey with a good spinach omelette with good strong coffee.

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    1. I love "fine as frog hair." Am recording! I don't think I can use tits on a boar hog in a cozy. I've used a different version of the last one: Butter my butt and call me a biscuit...but yours is cleaner.

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  30. My mother used to say someone was older than dirt!
    Libby Dodd

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  31. Great expressions! I've heard 75% of them and still use them! Here's a few for you:
    I didn't just "fall off the turnip truck."
    I haven't seen them in a "month of Sundays."
    Well, I caught myself lookin'
    New book a must read.

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    1. Thanks, Mahala! I used month of Sundays in book six (which I am polishing now). When would you use, "I caught myself lookin'?

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  32. Here in Texas, where the ranches run big, I've heard people say, "He's all hat and no cattle," or "all show and no go." "That dog won't hunt," is popular when discussing ideas that won't work. When someone claims not to be a fool she might say, "I was born at night, but it wasn't LAST night." A variation on that theme is, "I didn't just fall off the turnip truck," or even "I've been around the block a time or two." "This ain't my first rodeo" is another variation.

    As for breakfast, while I love all the French toast and pancakes mentioned above, if I have to grab something on the go I hit Whataburger for a bacon, egg, and cheese taquito, which is just scrambled egg, crisp bacon, and a bit of American cheese wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla.

    Congratulations on the new book, Edith! I hope it sells zillions!

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    1. Thanks, Gigi. I had used All hat and no cattle in the current book but this morning I saw the copyeditor had researched it (I LOVE the vision of a New York copyeditor checking on the meaning of a saying like that one) and I'd not used it quite right. ;^)

      And a breakfast taquito sounds yummy.

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    2. I like "all sizzle and no steak!"

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  33. Mom didn't cuss but when extremely exasperated with us kids she'd say Dingbustit! That was serious. I'm fixin' to precedes whatever you're about to do. A heavy rain is a frog gagger. Things don't fall over. They tump over. If you're complimenting someone on his resembling one of his parents you say your daddy (or mom) faded on you. These are all Texan or Southern. Up in Minnesota I picked up spendy, as in something costs too much. Love that one.

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  34. Edith, congrats on the new book. I confess that I haven't read your work before, but I'm off to the bookstore to pick up Book 1 so that I can get in on all the sayings and murders.

    There's nothing too complicated about what I like to eat for breakfast when I go out to eat at a sit down place.

    I like to get the "big breakfast" which consists of 2 eggs (scrambled), 2 slices (cut into fours) of wheat toast with apple jelly, a heaping helping of home fries, 2 (very big) blueberry pancakes with lots of VERMONT maple syrup, and a healthy and crispy serving of that ambrosia of the gods known as bacon. Oh, and orange juice.

    And then for second breakfast...I'm kidding...

    If I'm on the run, I usually just grab a ham, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich from Dunkin Donuts.

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    1. Thanks, Jay. Hope you enjoy my stories! My police lieutenant Buck Bird usually has that big a breakfast -plus biscuits and gravy. ;^)

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  35. Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it's hard to go back to sleep.

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  36. You can put kittens in the oven but that doesn’t make them biscuits.

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  37. ad a post almost finished, and my crazy computer left the page and I lost it. So, a condensed version. Edith, you are just wonderful, so sweet and so talented. I had fun sharing the jam cake recipe with you, and the picture of the one you fixed was beautiful. I meant to ask you how it tasted and if you used seedless jam. I think seedless is the way to go.

    Expressions. Some have already been said, like Gigi's "I didn't just fall off the turnip truck," "I've been around the block a time or two," and "This ain't my first rodeo." Along with those three goes the one, "I didn't just get off the banana boat" and "I've been down this road before." A couple more with a certain word in them, "He doesn't have a pot to piss in (poor)" and "They're having a pissing contest (proving superiority). Others are:
    She's pitching a hissy fit.
    She was madder than a wet hen.
    He's a snake in the grass.
    Her knickers (or panties) are in a knot.
    He's happy as if he had good sense.
    That dog won't hunt.
    The porch light's on but no one's home.
    He hasn't got the sense God gave a goose.
    He don't know sh** from shinola.
    I'm gonna jerk a knot in your tail.
    You look like you've been rode hard and put up wet.
    It's hotter than blue blazes.
    Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
    Full as a tick.
    Skinny as a telephone pole.
    Doesn't amount to a hill of beans.
    Making a mountain out of a mole hill.
    We'll be there 'til the cows come home.
    God willing and the creek don't rise.
    Hold your horses.
    Funny as all get out.
    Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

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    1. Thanks. Recording all of these, dear Kathy!

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    2. Kathy, I confess to saying every single one of those!

      You can tell we live on opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon Line!

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  38. I also want to congratulate you, Edith, on the new book, and give a shout out to Jenn, Rhys, and Hallie for their nominations!

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  39. When someone got in trouble at work because of someone else, we always said that they were thrown under the bus. I said that to my sister once and she didn't know what it meant.

    When I visit my sister we go to a restaurant that has a hashbrown omlet. It is so good! I get mine without eggs because I don't like eggs.

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    1. Thrown under the bus - I can hear that one in my head, Dianne.

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  40. A new series for me to read. That dog don't hunt in this field and how the rabbit ate the cabbage. The first means it isn't going to happen and the second means to let someone know exactly how things are.

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  41. Mary C is our winner! Mary, please email edith at edithmaxwell dot com with your mailing address, and congratulations. I wish I had a book for everyone.

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  42. I grew up in Tulsa, which has a lot of southern culture. I lived for quite a while in southern OK, though, and worked w/ a lot of other nurses who were very "country." One expression I'd never heard until then was "older than dirt." And although I generally try to sound like the educated person I am, I still revert to "I'm fixin' to" or worse, "I'm fixin' ta" at times.

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