Call me

Southern dialect abounds with colorful expressions, most rooted in rural life and relationships. Some, like “bless her heart,” sound benign but have a darker edge to them (she’s an idiot, but lovably so).

Others, like “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while,” and “Even a blind mule doesn’t trip over the same rock twice” have a bit of flexibility in them, such that other animals can be substituted for the usual ones, or they’ll overcome a different kind of obstacle. Regardless, the point will be similar to “Even a broken watch is right twice a day.”

What interests us here are the expressions that allow for wider substitutions, such that a basic pattern exists and the speaker can alter them on the fly for the level of force and humor desired. Of these, let’s look at:

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit!

sebiscuit

This earthy interjection expresses surprise or astonishment. The same action can be performed with “Well I’ll be!” This elides the verb, which is understood to be “switched,” “struck dumb,” “a monkey’s uncle,” or something of the sort.

The longer form has spawned a range of variants in the form of “[verb] my [body part] and call me [noun or proper noun].”

A search of Web comments and discussions readily turns up:

  • Well butter my butt and call me toast.
  • Well smack my ass and call me Sally.

The name is subject to immediate substitution, e.g.:

  • Smack my ass and call me Judy!
  • Smack my ass and call me Susan.
  • Well slap my ass and call me Clementine.
  • Well, slap my ass and call me Sandy.

Intensification is possible:

  • Stick a banana up my ass and call me Susie!
  • Tickle my anus and call me Samantha.

Some opt to change the gender from female to male, perhaps more useful for female speakers:

  • Slap my ass and call me Charlie.
  • Well sit on my face and call me Bernard!

The pattern readily allows other nouns in place of a name:

  • Slap my ass and call me a hypocrite.
  • Smack my ass and call me a newborn.
  • Slap my ass and call me a donkey.
  • Kick my ass and call me crazy.

It’s also possible to tone the phrase down a bit by getting away from all the butt-business:

  • Paint me green and call me a cucumber.
  • Slap me with bread and call me a sandwich.
  • Pin my tail and call me a donkey.
  • Fry me in butter and call me a catfish.
  • Saddle my back and call me a horse!
  • Well knock me down and steal my teeth!

It has been suggested that this may not be a pattern unique to the American South, as an episode of Blackadder contains the following line:

You twist and turn like a twisty turny thing. I say you’re a weedy pigeon, Blackadder, and you can call me Susan if it isn’t so.

A close reading, however, puts paid to the idea. Lord Melchett’s meaning here could be substituted with “and damn me if.” But the pattern under examination is a speech act designed to work in two parts: 1) setting the scene, and 2) finishing with a paraprosdokian to elicit in the listener the same surprise or astonishment as experienced by the speaker.

16 thoughts on “Call me

    • kathrynplayer12 February 28, 2015 / 7:09 pm

      Gggrrrh! Didn’t finish! Love that photo, would be a great alternative marketing slogan for the ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ margarine. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jet September 21, 2016 / 11:35 am

      The original term
      Slap my ass and call me Sally has been in my backpack of wisdom for Generations.
      Let me break it down gently
      Image this…
      A place you’re never going to see, unless you have blood Relative, or like to travel and tourism.
      Scotland
      Imagine this…
      Running from the British. ..all you have is a Donkey

      AkA..
      An Ass
      Mule same animal basically
      Greater footage but slow
      And you have a favorite horse
      Name… you guessed it
      SALLY

      WHEN YOU SPANK A,DONKEY ON THE BUTTON,
      THEY LAY DOWN
      SO YOUR ESCAPE.
      drum roll here … is your trusted faster transportation
      SALLY

      I HOPE THIS was helpful.

      NAMASTE!

      Like

  1. Karen Mulholland February 28, 2015 / 9:58 pm

    Worth noting that the passive-voice Southernism “Well, I’ll be —” sometimes gets elaborated in a similar way. A classic Texas variant is “Well, I’ll be dipped in shit and rolled in dirt.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Y March 1, 2015 / 5:59 am

      Oh, that explains it! I recall “I’ll be dipped in dogshit” from a Freak Brothers cartoon. Their creator, Gilbert Shelton, is a Texan.

      Like

    • Mededitor March 1, 2015 / 6:56 pm

      Yes I’ve heard that. Often truncated to “We’ll I’ll be dipped.” The listener can decide what the substance is.

      Like

  2. John Cowan February 28, 2015 / 10:00 pm

    My wife, who was born in North Carolina in 1943 and lived there for 18 years, says “bless your heart” often (in her usage, always) has no negative vibe at all: it is an expression of sympathy/pity for someone who’s had troubles, especially those not of their own making.

    Liked by 1 person

    • datatater March 1, 2015 / 12:39 pm

      I agree about ‘bless YOUR heart’, but what I hear here in Atlanta and environs is the ‘bless HER heart’ usually following something completely snarky, which in turn is usually following a boiler-plate caveat : “I don’t mean to be mean, but that girl is a flat-out TRAMP, bless her heart.” Sandwiching the real comment between these two ‘nice’ phrases apparently allows the speaker to believe that she (it’s ALWAYS she) would never say a bad word about anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mpls_Transplant March 1, 2015 / 1:29 pm

        Boiler plate caveat, ha. So true on the “I don’t mean to be mean but…”

        Like

      • datatater March 1, 2015 / 3:07 pm

        After I wrote that, I realized I didn’t have it quite right…”I don’t mean to be ugly, but…”

        Like

      • John Cowan March 12, 2015 / 12:46 am

        My wife says there’s no difference in her usage between “your” and “his/her/their”. It may be a matter of generations or just of personality. When she criticizes someone, it’s usually directly, which is one reason she moved to New York!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. gh0stpupp3t February 28, 2015 / 10:15 pm

    LOL Tickle my anus and call me Samantha. I shan’t tickle your bum but my name is Sam and that is that. LOL

    Like

  4. Bambi February 28, 2015 / 10:37 pm

    Well stuff me in a turkey and call me thankful!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Mededitor March 1, 2015 / 12:22 am

    Exactly. Any number of variations are possible. Once you know the pattern, you can go crazy.

    Like

  6. malicea4thought March 12, 2015 / 3:24 pm

    I think I’m going to use “Well, verb my body part and call me a proper noun!” from now on. Like a MadLibs swear.

    Liked by 1 person

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