Who is Cooter Brown?

March 16, 2012

We Southerners talk differently than other people. I’m not talking about Southern accents. I’m talking about Southern words and expressions. They are different from words other people use. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

Other people go over to their neighbors’ and friends’ houses and see them. Southerners visit. Other people look ugly. Southerners look marvelous, but we can act ugly. When Southerners say somebody “showed their butt,” we don’t mean it literally. We mean they made an ass of themselves. Other people get drunk as a skunk. But some Southerners get drunk as Cooter Brown.

Who is Cooter Brown?

The Urban Dictionary says “Cooter Brown is a name used in metaphors and similes for drunkenness, mostly in the southern United States. Cooter Brown supposedly lived on the line which divided the North and South during the American Civil War, making him eligible for military draft by either side. He had family on both sides of the line, so he did not want to fight in the war. He decided to get drunk and stay drunk for the duration of the war so that he would be seen as useless for military purposes and would not be drafted. Inebriety has been measured against Cooter Brown’s extended binge ever since by use of the metaphors ”as drunk as Cooter Brown’ or ‘drunker than Cooter Brown.'”

Wikipedia has a similar story — and another version. This other version says that “”Cooter Brown was a biracial man (Half Cherokee, Half Black) who lived in south Louisiana on a small plot of land given to him by an old Cajun fur trapper. Cooter lived alone in the old Cajun’s shack. When the civil war broke out, Cooter didn’t want to choose sides, because he didn’t know who might win. He didn’t like people much and was fearful of either side. Because of this, Cooter, who was a heavy drinker anyway, began drinking all the time. Cooter always dressed like an Indian so as to confirm the fact that he was an Indian and not a Negro. And as such, he was a free man. Whenever soldiers (Yanks or Rebels) showed-up in the area they would always find him drunk. Oftentimes he’d offer the soldiers a drink. Word began to spread about the crazy, drunken Indian named Cooter Brown. By the time the war ended, Cooter couldn’t stop drinking if he had wanted to. One night his shack caught fire and burned completely to the ground. When locals investigated the burned site the next day there was nothing that remained of Cooter’s body. They surmised that old Cooter had so much alcohol in him that he had just burned up. Since then Cooter Brown has been synonymous with inebriety.”

Do you have a favorite Southernism that you’d like to see posted on this blog? If you do, send it to me and I’ll post the best ones in “Southernisms,” Part Two.


3 Responses to “Who is Cooter Brown?”

  1. Dale Short Says:

    Jane: If I may say, “Drunker than Cooter Brown” may be the finest of Southern sayings. I will sleep on the question and offer my thoughts on same tomorrow–or at least until my supply of Seagram’s runs out. 🙂


  2. Venetia Smith Says:

    “She’s so useless.. She couldn’t fight her way outta a wet paper sack”


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