13 Poke-Easy Regional Idioms to Describe Lazy People


Those lazy, hazy days of summer aren't too far off, and hopefully you’ll be lolling like a slug at the pool, on the beach, or wherever warm days might take you. But even if you’re feeling lazy, your vocabulary doesn’t have to be. We’ve worked with the editors at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to come up with 13 regional idioms to describe the idle, indifferent, and lackadaisical.


In Hawaii and pretending to be sick to get out of work? You might get called molowa, moloa, or moloha from the Hawaiian word moloā.


In Louisiana and Alabama African-American vernacular, the lazy and indifferent are don’t-care-ish and don’t-care-ified: “She’s so don’t-care-ish about work lately. She’s just phoning it in.”


A slowcome is slow to come: a lethargic person or someone who’s always late. Found in Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, variations include slowcome-pokum and slocum-pocum. Pokum comes from poke, meaning “to dawdle.”


A poke-easy is a South Midland term that means a slow or lazy person or animal, or someone who’s easygoing. From a response to an article in Smithsonian magazine: “A man who was ‘poke-easy’ might be essentially competent, but took so long to do his work that he was a thorn in the flesh to the more brisk workers.”


“You bone loafer!” you might say to someone sleeping on the job. This term is found in the Ozarks, which is made up of northwestern Arkansas, northeastern Oklahoma, and southwestern Missouri. Bone idle and bone lazy are South Midland sayings. All come from the idea, says an 1825 quote in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), of being so lazy or idle that the laziness or idleness seems "to have penetrated the very bones."


A do-less does little. He lacks energy and is shiftless and lethargic. Common in the South Midland states, the word might simply be a combination of "do" and "less," but in some instances might be influenced by the Scots dowless, without strength or energy, feeble.


In New England, if you’ve got sprawl, you’ve got energy, initiative, and spunk. Therefore, those without sprawl or who are sprawlless are lazy. A quote from Cape Cod, Massachusetts: “He ain’t got no more sprawl to him ’n day-old kitten!” Why does sprawl mean energy? The word comes sproil, an English dialectical meaning “strength, energy; power of quick motion, spring, activity, agility.”


In the Midland states, especially Indiana, work-brittle means eager to work or industrious. However, in the Appalachian region, the term was reinterpreted to mean the opposite: disinclined to work or lazy. How brittle figures into the former meaning is uncertain. As for the latter, to rephrase a quote from DARE, someone who’s work-brittle might be broken by even a little work.


Sooner is another word with opposite meanings. In Wisconsin, Kentucky, and South Carolina, a sooner or sooner man is someone who’s quick, clever, and enterprising—in other words, someone who gets things done sooner rather than later. The term can also be used ironically in Wisconsin, as well as North Carolina, referring to a lazy, good-for-nothing person.


In Maine it’s said that someone who bottoms chairs for a living is lazy, presumably because one’s bottom is perpetually in the chair.


To sozzle means to laze around or perform a task in a sloppy way. By extension, to be sozzling means to be lazy or shiftless. The word is mainly found in New England. A quote from 1848 describes the term as “used by housekeepers in certain parts of Connecticut," as in the phrase, "This woman sozzles up her work.”

An earlier meaning of sozzle, according to the OED, is “a sloppy spoon-meat or medicine.” What the heck is spoon-meat? It’s a liquidy food meant to be eaten with a spoon, as for babies or invalids. The lazy sense of sozzle might have to do with the perceived idleness of the ill.


If you're in Alabama and have a strong inclination to idleness, you can say you’ve got the big lazies. This term has a sole quote in DARE from 1898, but we say it should be brought back right quick.


Now you can add Lawrence or lazy Lawrence to your repertoire of slacker nicknames. Found in scattered regions including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Ozarks, Lawrence is also used as a personification of laziness and sometimes in reference to “the shimmering of the air observed on hot days,” according to DARE.

According to the OED, the origin of Lawrence meaning lazy might simply come from the alliteration of the two words. Another theory is that it has to do with St. Lawrence Day on August 10, typically the throes of the dog days of summer and presumably when people are feeling especially snoozy.