13 Ways to Say You're "Mad as Hell" Across the U.S.
By Angela Tung
Running out of ways to say you’re feeling vexed? You’re in luck. We’ve teamed up with our trusty pals at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to liven up your livid language. From the Big Easy and New England to the Appalachians and Hawaii, here are 13 regional idioms for “angry.”
PO’d in the Bayou? You can say you’re fâché, which translates from French as “angry.”
2. HAVE A BLOOD RUSH
Another Louisiana term. According to the wonderfully titled Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales, “He’s havin’ a blood rush” means “He’s getting angry.”
This Hawaiian term meaning angry or to become angry is also spelled hou-hou. “No Hu Hu” is a popular song, according to a quote in DARE, and has “appeared on road repair signs” to mean “Pardon the inconvenience.” According to Pidgin to Da Max, an illustrated dictionary of Hawaiian “pidgin” words, the haole or non-native Hawaiian phrase “Relax. Don’t get upset” might be translated in pidgin as “No huhu, brah.”
4. JUMP SALTY
African American vernacular meaning “to get angry,” or to respond “in an extreme or unexpected manner.” Despite its awesomeness, jump salty seems to have died out in the 1970s. From James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk (1974): “He warned me if I didn’t take my hands off him we might never get uptown and then my Daddy might jump salty.”
5. BURN THUNDERWOOD
If you’re raging in Georgia, you might say you’re burning thunderwood. Thunderwood is another name for poison sumac, known for its angry, itchy oil.
6. GET ONE'S CHIN OUT
Nettled in Nevada? You could say you’ve gotten your chin out.
7. ALL HORNS AND RATTLES
This wrathful Western term refers to cattle’s horns and snakes’ rattles, according to DARE. As Western Words: A Dictionary of the Old West puts it regarding someone in an all-horns-and-rattles mood, “Maybe don’t say nothin’, but it ain’t safe to ask questions.”
8. ON THE PECK
Another Western saying, on the peck means irritable, angry, or ready to fight. Peck probably comes from the sense to nag or scold. According to some of the quotes in DARE, on the peck also refers specifically to a bad-tempered cow.
9. CHEW FIRE
Those feeling cross in Kentucky may say they’re chewing fire. The term is a blend of the aggressive idioms “chew nails” (as in a hammer and nails) and “breathe fire.” While the latter means to express oneself angrily, the former, according to DARE, refers to “a very mean person”—in other words, someone “mean enough to chew nails.” Other “mean” sayings involving masticating hardware include “chew twenty-penny nails,” “chew nails and spit rust,” and “chew nails and spit submarines.”
10. CHEW ONE'S BIT(S)
Those storming in the South and South Midland might be chewing their bits. This could be related to the horsey idiom, champing or chomping at the bit. To chew one’s bit also means “to argue or talk too much or too loud,” according to DARE.
11. HAVE KITTENS
This Northern phrase similar to have a cow means to lose one’s composure or become agitated or angry. Variations include get kittens, have a kitten, and pass kittens. A cat fit is a “burst of joy or (more often) anger.”
12. BUST A HAME STRING
To bust a hame string—where hame string is an alteration of hamstring—means “to make a sudden great effort,” with a transferred meaning of “to become excessively angry.” Usage is scattered throughout the U.S. with DARE quotes from the Appalachians, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and New Mexico.
13. FEATHER WHITE
This New England term refers to both an angry sea and an angry person. Maine Lingo: A Wicked-Good Guide to Yankee Vernacular says that a “wind-whipped sea, all whitecaps, is said to be feather white,” and hence, “some degree of agitation in a person: ‘He came all feather white to give me a piece of his mind!’”