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Column: Mama power and Cooter Brown
by Lauretta Hannon
May 15, 2014 01:23 PM | 5357 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lauretta Hannon
Lauretta Hannon
Q: My daughter and her husband wanted to come to my house to watch football, and they would be bringing beer with them. I have an alcoholic son, so I asked her not to bring any alcohol over. Her in-laws invited them to their house, and they also requested no alcohol. She was pretty peeved with both households and said the alcoholics have to refrain from drinking when they are in social settings and at restaurants anyway. I was more concerned about the uncomfortable situation it would cause. My husband agrees with her. I see both sides. What do you think?

A: I say it’s time to reclaim your maternal authority. Declare a state of Mama Law. Explain that your rules prevail within the jurisdiction of your home. If your daughter doesn’t like it, she can always invite everyone to join her at a restaurant to view the next game. Your request is reasonable, and her response shows a lack of consideration.

I grew up around boozers. I remember the nauseating tension and dread created when alcohol was about to make an appearance. You have every right to preserve the peace under your own roof. In matters like these, Mama IS The Law.

Q: Can you get a “divorce” from family members or are you married forever?

A: You’re always going to be family, but you can certainly make yourself disappear from someone’s life. I recommend “divorces” only in cases where the family member is so toxic that serious harm is being done. Think long and hard before disconnecting. Sometimes it’s healthy to take “vacations” from worrisome family rather than a complete break.

Q: I’m new to the South and recently heard someone say, “He was drunker than Cooter Brown.” Who exactly is this Cooter Brown?

A: Like many Southerners, I am well-acquainted with Mr. Brown. With all the debauchery in my bloodline, I thought he might be an ancient uncle. But for the sake of my readers I did extensive Internet research (translation: three minutes on Wikipedia).

Here’s what that source says: “Cooter Brown is a name used in metaphors and similes for drunkenness. ... 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. Ever since, colloquial and proverbial ratings of drunkenness have been benchmarked against the legendary drinker. ...”

In my travels to promote my memoir, I am often asked, “What is it about the South that is so special?” Part of the answer is in our language. It’s lyrical, alive and as richly seasoned as slow-cooked collards. With much of our vernacular fading away, I’m glad that we’ve at least kept Cooter kickin’ for more than 148 years.

I hope you will be a good Southern transplant and use the phrase “drunker than Cooter Brown” regularly. Start learning these expressions as well: “mash the button,” “crack the window,” “fixin’ to,” “Co-Cola,” “stove-up,” “might could” and “bless your heart.” Gradually move on to more advanced Southernisms such as: "he’s as ugly as homemade sin,” “that dog won’t hunt” and “she was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

You can ask Southern friends for others. They will appreciate your interest and take you in like a country cousin come to town. But be warned: if you disrespect them you’ll be treated more like a distant cousin come to borrow money.

Send your questions to

Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at

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