I’ve had a lot of requests for a Southern Dictionary.

Yes, we’re polite. We’re always sweet and nice. We smile at everyone and call strangers sweetie, honey, and sugar pie.

But we don’t always mean it. Any of it.

I thought everyone knew that the phrase “Bless Your Heart” equated to giving someone the finger, but apparently a lot of you did not.

So although I would like to have time to compile an entire Southern Dictionary for you, the thought overwhelms me and is best left to the professionals.

(Professionals like my friend Andrew at Okra Cola, who spent several years defining some of the most important southern expressions, like, for instance, “I looked all over hell and half of Georgia for that!”)

However, I do plan on sharing select subsets of Southernisms with you from time to time.

Today’s lesson is related in particular to the situation in which parents sometimes find themselves – when their children have certain traits that they themselves do not possess.

Family Eyes 2

To recap quickly:

  • Southerners are friendly.
  • Southerners talk too much.
  • Southerners talk to strangers.
  • Southerners talk too much to strangers.
  • Southerners don’t mean exactly what they say.

So with that context, let’s begin.

When a woman is alone with her son, she might hear this uttered from a stranger’s mouth:

“Oh darlin’ – he must look jes’ like your husband!!”


The translation of this statement is, “I’m giving you the chance to jump in here and tell me that he does indeed belong to you. If you don’t, I’m going to start checking area Amber Alerts right here on my phone.”

When you’re with your husband and one of your children, you might catch a stranger looking closely at you, your husband, then your child.

“Heavens to Betsy!! Where did he get those pur-dee blue aaaaz?”

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The translation of this question is, “Hey Dad, have you considered a paternity test?  Because I would if I were you.”

If your other child walks up right while the stranger is examining the first piece of evidence, they’re likely to utter an exclamation and “I do declare!! They BOTH have blue eyes?? How on God’s Green Earth did THAT happen??”


The translation of this question is, “Now I KNOW you don’t think I’m that stupid. Go ahead. Tell me your deepest secrets. We all do it. ‘Fess up – where did you get these kids?”

Another stranger might try a different phrasing, such as:

“Sugah, do their Grandparents have blue eyes?”


The translation of this question is, “I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here. Work with me.”

If you have a child that has particularly Bertie-Botts-Every-Flavor Eyes, you might hear,

“I swannee!!  Exactly what color are her eyes?”


Which translates into, “Dang. Those are some weird eyes.”

The questioning can go on for hours.

“Dimples! They have dimples too? I don’t see dimples on either of you two!”



“And her curls!! Where does she get those?”


“Now let’s chat about that blond hair, honey. Did you have blond hair as a baby? No? Well how about that husband of yours, then?”


When if they were really honest, they’d just go ahead and say,

“Honey. Darlin’. Sugah. If you think that I believe for one bloomin’ second that these little dumplins belong to you two, then you’re about as ignernt as a chicken walkin’ right into a pot pie. Bless your heart.”

36 thoughts on “Southern Genetics.

  1. Does the milkman visit your house? That’s what is said in my family when a child doesn’t look like the parent’s.

    Well, they may have blue eyes, but Ali is a dead ringer for you when you were little so you just need to carry a picture around in your wallet. And I can def see Chris in Noah. They are the perfect combination of both of you!

    1. Yes, and now that her hair has gotten straighter and she’s gotten older, she gets, more often than not, “My goodness! You look just like your Mom!!”

      “…but where did you get the blue eyes?”

  2. It’s like all thoughts of how genetics work and that adoption exists go out the window when people are being nosy. I don’t feel like my daughter looks THAT different from me, but I had a woman at Wal-Mart (I know, I know) tell me “Oh, she MUST look just like her daddy.” Even though she is biologically both mine and my husband’s I really wanted to say “Oh, I don’t know what her daddy looks like.” or something to that effect.

    Anywho, I think both your kiddos are gorgeous. And I love the “weird” eyes :)

  3. Well if your father would walk up, that sure would add some “Southern charm” to the talk because Noah looks just like him (even though I am starting to see more of Chris as Noah gets older). Just imagine the looks and/or Southern comments you would get then:).

  4. Do these people not know about blue eyes being a recessive gene? My dad’s eyes are brown, my mom’s are hazel and my brother and I both have blue eyes.

    Also, I lived in Manhattan for a semester and Kentucky for two years. I determined that southerners can say “have a nice day” and mean “f— you” and New Yorkers can say “f— you” and mean “have a nice day”.

  5. I am the only one in my immediate family with blue eyes and curly hair. Luckily I know that blue eyes is a recessive gene and 2 of my grandparents had them. But since I don’t really look like either of my parents I imagine my parents might have heard the same comments. I know when I go to family reunions no matter which side I am always told you must look like the other parent’s side. While my sister is told she is the spitting image of which ever family we are at.

  6. Oh my you just made my week. I think the neighbors must have thought I was going nuts since I was laughing so hard while I read your post. Wow your daughter has amazing eyes. Both of your children are beautiful. My sister in law has that type of reaction when she is out with her kids (she has olive skin tone and brown hair, two of her sons are blonde and pale white) someone even dared to ask if she was the nanny!

  7. My parents heard a lot of those. :-) One of my brothers was born with random blue eyes. Grandpa used to joke “Now about those blue eyes…” and my mom would say “Dad, we don’t have a milkman and the mailman is Asian.” LOL

  8. Yeah, my oldest is very blonde and i always get the, “Does he look like your husband?” or “Where on earth did he get that pretty blonde hair?”.

    maybe they all got switched in the nursery at the hospital… and BOTH of your’s ironically came from the same set of blue-eyed-dimply-cheeked parents

    Also, i never equated “bless your heart” with giving someone the finger, but I was told that i could replace (in my head) “bless your heart” with “you stupid idiot”. same thing i suppose! I love alabama (not the weather)

  9. I can’t wait for my son’s hair to turn brown. “Oh, we were both blonde as babies,” gets really old after the zillionth time. And don’t even get me started on his dark brown eyes. Can’t we just agree that the child is cute and be done with the evaluation?

  10. Lol, these sound JUST like my moms side of the family where “bless her heart” means boy is she an idiot. So funny. We get tons of questions about Bug’s curly hair. I’m glad Boo looks like me. It’s funny though that people expect kids to look exactly like the parents. :)

  11. You can be the opposite end of the spectrum too. My youngest is adopted from Ukraine and I get that he looks like me all the time. I can’t decide if people think they are being nice (if they know he’s adopted) or if it’s just because we are both blonde and wear glasses. He also has what I’ve heard refered to as “Russian” eyes – dark dark gray which is odd here in the land of Scandanavian and German descent.

    My elder does favor his father but the genetic dice were rolled and some stray genes got in there, he doesn’t look anything like me.

  12. MY husband and I have a beautiful toddler with the most unique red-brown hair ever. People always comment on it. We both have dark brown (nearly black) hair, so it was kind of a surprise. We have a 4-month-old who’s hair fell out over the first couple months after birth and her “new” hair has that familiar reddish tint to it. Who would have thought?

    P.S. You know that your daughter has gorgeous eyes – who cares what anyone else says? People are infamous for saying/asking stupid things.

  13. Being a half southerner ( dad is from Alabama) I can totally picture a response of: “Oh, bless your heart, you are too kind!” ;)

    Everyone we meet always says that my boys MUST look like their dads until they see him. Then the comments begin.

  14. I never thought that “bless your heart” was equal to giving the finger. I’ve thought you could say whatever you wanted to about somebody and then make it “okay” by saying “bless her heart” after it. Like “Sally has the ugliest nose, bless her heart.” But, I do use the phrase sincerely and often.

  15. OH MY GOODNESS! We are going through this too, because our baby has red hair and hazel eyes. My husband has blonde hair blue eyes and I have brown hair brown eyes. The number of people that have come up to me asking if I am babysitting is AMAZING! Glad I’m not the only one.

  16. oh that is too funny! mine both have blond hair and blue eyes like me, but it never fails…when i’m with one or the other and no hubby for the moment, “oh he must look jes like yer huuuusband.” maybe bc they are boys? i dont know. but i also get the “oh they are so big for their age(s) because you are so tiny.” 5 foot nothing isn;t that tiny, people… ok maybe it is…

  17. People are so generous with their opinions. :) When I was little my mom was alone at the mall with me (blonde/blue eyes), my brother (redhead/brown eyes) and my cousin (really dark hair and eyes) and a stranger asked her if we all had the same daddy. She stumbled and walked off, but wished she a snarky comeback about not really being sure about the daddies with these three or the ten at home.

    Questions and comments like this drive me crazy. Who looks like their baby pictures as an adult? I mean really, you’ve got roughly 30 years on these kids. Give them time and I’ll bet one day they will be saying that Ali is your sister and Chris and Noah are carbon copies.

  18. People don’t make comments about my kids coloring, but they do comment about their height. I am 5’9″ and my husband is 6’2″. So neither of us is short. But when they see my almost 6 ft daughter (oh how she longs for that last half inch!) they say, where did she get her height from? Seriously? It gets me so riled up every time. I need a good come back, but haven’t thought of one yet that won’t get me in more trouble.

  19. I have 2 sisters and a brother and we all have blue eyes ( dad had blue, moms is brown) and I know about blue eyes being recessive and all that but I want someone to tell me is blonde hair dominant or brown? Out of us four kids I’m the only one with brown hair, my siblings all have blonde and if my brother grows any facial hair its red like my dads!
    My mom says I used to get so upset when people would comment on how cute my blonde/blue eyed sisters were but ignore me ( my hair has always been brown)!

  20. i love it! i’d enjoy visiting the south. although, i didn’t know that the hospitality was put on. i don’t suppose it’s all that bad though. have you seen any Tim Hawkins comedy? he’s from the south and brings in his accent sometimes. he’s so funny. do you really tell sick people to go sick on the pot? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMm9570-Vns
    your kids eyes are gorgeous though! they’re all around beautiful!

  21. Strangers in Northern states just outright ask you if you have adopted and also offer birth control advice……at leas Southern strangers hide nosiness in oblique questions!

  22. My kids look so much like my side of the family that people wonder if my hubby is either A. related to me or B. forgot to provide DNA that day. :)

    LOVED the recap though! May have to borrow that.

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