The Good, the Bad and the Greasy

Writer Audrey McDonald Atkins explains that, down south, “greasy” is one slick word.

Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins

One of my favorite words is greasy. It must be pronounced gree’ – zee, with long drawn out e’s and a definite z. Not gree’ – see. Say it with me: Greeee-zy.

Greasy comes up a lot in my life. During these last vestiges of a hot and humid summer, which has, as it often does in Alabama, faded into a hot and humid fall, every time I look in the mirror one word springs to mind — greasy. Forehead, nose, chin. All greasy. No amount of Cornsilk face powder can ensure a matte appearance. No amount of witch hazel can combat the shine. No dainty, paper facial blotter can absorb the oil. Alabama humidity will rear its shiny head in victory every time. 

Face greasy is bad greasy. And there’s more where that came from. A black smear on your starched, white blouse — bad greasy. Hair that looks like it’s wet when it’s not — bad greasy. Behavior that is more than a little shady — bad greasy. The orange solids circling the top of a can of tamales — bad greasy.

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Then there is ugly greasy. Runoff from sprawling suburban parking lots into our local rivers and streams — ugly greasy. A rainbow of oil concealing tar balls below the surf that wash up on Alabama’s white sand beaches, or any other shoreline for that matter — ugly greasy. If it coats the local flora and fauna in dark brown muck — even uglier greasy.

But greasy isn’t all bad all the time. For instance, if your cast iron skillet is protected from rust with a layer of Crisco, that’s good greasy. (According to the television commercial that featured Loretta Lynn, Crisco will do you proud “ever time.”) If your biscuit has a little butter oozing out the side and into a puddle of sorghum syrup — good greasy. If your fried egg is lacy and blindfolded from a hot bath in bacon drippings just like my Mama makes them — good, good greasy. That yumminess you lick off your fingers after a Sunday dinner of Mamaw’s fried chicken — good greasy every day of the week.

Then there’s poetic greasy. There is no other word that will appeal to a reader’s intellect, emotion, and reason in quite the same way. While it is rare to find a verse that incorporates this weighty word, I remember fondly a poem from my childhood, one that we recited often, theatrically, with the dignity it demanded.

Yo mama
and yo daddy
and yo great great greasy granny
with the holes in her panties
with a big behind
like Frankenstein
going beep beep beep
down Sesame Street.

Take it greasy, y’all.

Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog

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