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11 Idioms for Exhausted from Across the United States

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Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean your language has to be. With some help from our friends at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), we’ve come up with 11 “tired” regional idioms for the next time you’re feeling all-gone, dragged out, done in, or just plain dusted.


A phrase that means totally done in or hanging by a thread. Variations include all in but one’s shoelaces and all in but one’s bootstraps. This term is chiefly used in the North with quotes in DARE from Wisconsin, Vermont, Illinois, New York, and Washington.


This North Central and Upper Midwest expression means “to fail, grow weak or tired, come to nothing.” DARE notes that the “pooh” part might be a corruption of poop. Poop (out), meaning to break down or stop working, originated in the late 1920s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The sense of “to tire, exhaust” is from about 1931. The earliest quote in DARE of pooh out is from 1930 when the saying started as college slang and was particularly “common at Oberlin.”


While to wig out means to freak out or get overly excited, to be wagged out or waggy is the opposite. This phrase is especially used in Maine and Massachusetts. A quote from 1877 says it means to be tired or worn out, “as if finished wagging.” A quote from 1968 suggests that waggy is more akin to feeling “mental or physical distress, agitation, discomfort, or illness,” and is similar to streaked, a term used chiefly in New England.

More weary out combos include beat out (especially used in New England), given out (used in the South and South Midland), pegged out (with quotes from Maine, Vermont, Arkansas, and Maryland), and puckered out, which is an alteration of tuckered out.


The next time you’re stiff, unable to move, or just plain exhausted, you can say you’re coopered up. A 1959 quote from Vermont History says the term is “from the days of barrel making or coopering.”

Other enervated idioms that use “up” include gone up, with quotes from Illinois, Iowa, Georgia, New York, and the Mississippi Valley, and janted up, with a quote from Kentucky.


Ausgespielt is the past participle of the German ausspielen, “to play out, play to the end.” In addition to meaning “very tired,” it might refer to something “finished” or “broken,” whether literally (“The potatoes are _____” or “My sewing machine is _____”) or figuratively (“If a man loses interest in a girl and stops seeing her,” the relationship is ausgespielt), according to quotes in DARE.


If you've got a touch of the blahs, you could say you’re feeling shabby. This term you might hear in the South is Scots in origin, says DARE, while shabby—meaning dingy, worn, or faded—might come from the German schäbig, meaning, you guessed it, "shabby."


You could also say you’re feeling goopy, another term for general ickiness. It could also refer to something sticky or smeared, or weather that’s unpleasant. Another meaning for the word goopy, according to the OED, is stupid or “fatuously amorous.”


Limber doesn’t just mean flexible. In the South and South Midland, it might mean limp, weak, and exhausted, and is often used in the phrase limber as a dishrag.


You might get flaxed out from flaxing around. To flax (out) means to become tired or weary, while flax (around) means to hurry and bustle. Flax (out) has quotes from New England and Ohio, and flax (around) is chiefly used in the North and especially New England.


White-eyed, meaning exhausted or worn out, might mainly be heard in the Appalachians. A quote from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English says the phrase “began as a description of one who became faint from fieldwork in the sun and gets pale around the eyes and mouth.”


Feeling indisposed? Out of sorts? Exhausted? You could say you’re feeling like you were sent for and couldn’t come. Used especially in the South and South Midland states, one 1993 quote likened the phrase to “what younger people nowadays call ‘a bad hair day.’”

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ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Big Questions
Why Does Japan Have Blue Traffic Lights Instead of Green?
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ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In Japan, a game of Red Light, Green Light might be more like Red Light, Blue Light. Because of a linguistic quirk of Japanese, some of the country’s street lights feature "go" signals that are distinctly more blue than green, as Atlas Obscura alerts us, making the country an outlier in international road design.

Different languages refer to colors very differently. For instance, some languages, like Russian and Japanese, have different words for light blue and dark blue, treating them as two distinct colors. And some languages lump colors English speakers see as distinct together under the same umbrella, using the same word for green and blue, for instance. Again, Japanese is one of those languages. While there are now separate terms for blue and green, in Old Japanese, the word ao was used for both colors—what English-speaking scholars label grue.

In modern Japanese, ao refers to blue, while the word midori means green, but you can see the overlap culturally, including at traffic intersections. Officially, the “go” color in traffic lights is called ao, even though traffic lights used to be a regular green, Reader’s Digest says. This posed a linguistic conundrum: How can bureaucrats call the lights ao in official literature if they're really midori?

Since it was written in 1968, dozens of countries around the world have signed the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, an international treaty aimed at standardizing traffic signals. Japan hasn’t signed (neither has the U.S.), but the country has nevertheless moved toward more internationalized signals.

They ended up splitting the difference between international law and linguists' outcry. Since 1973, the Japanese government has decreed that traffic lights should be green—but that they be the bluest shade of green. They can still qualify as ao, but they're also green enough to mean go to foreigners. But, as Atlas Obscura points out, when drivers take their licensing test, they have to go through a vision test that includes the ability to distinguish between red, yellow, and blue—not green.

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Using Words Like 'Really' A Lot Could Mean You're Really Stressed
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Are you feeling really exhausted? Or have you noticed that it's incredibly hot out today?

If you recognize the adverbs above as appearing frequently in your own speech, it could be a sign that you're stressed. At least, those are the findings in a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As Nature reports, researchers found that peppering our speech with "function words" is a pretty accurate indicator of our anxiety levels.

Function words differ from verbs and nouns in that they don't mean much on their own and mostly serve to clarify the words around them. Included in this group are pronouns, adverbs, and adjectives. A team of American researchers suspected that people use these words more frequently when they're stressed, so to test their hypothesis, they hooked up recording devices to 143 volunteers.

After transcribing and analyzing audio clips recorded periodically over the course of two days, the researchers compared subjects' speech patterns to the gene expressions of certain white blood cells in their bodies that are susceptible to stress. They found that people exhibiting the biological symptoms of stress talked less overall, but when they did speak up they were more likely to use words like really and incredibly.

They also preferred the pronouns me and mine over them and their, possibly indicating their self-absorbed world view when under pressure. The appearance of these trends predicted stress in the volunteers' genes more accurately than their own self-assessments. As study co-author Matthias Mehl told Nature, this could be a reason for doctors to "listen beyond the content" of the symptoms their patients report and pay greater attention "to the way it is expressed" in the future.

One reason function words are such a great indicator of stress is that we often insert them into our sentences unconsciously, while our choice of words like nouns and verbs is more deliberate. Anxiety isn't the only thing that influences our speech without us realizing it. Hearing ideas we agree with also has a way of shaping our syntax.

[h/t Nature]


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