Who Burnt Your Cornbread?

Who burnt your cornbread?

The question stopped me mid-rant. What was my 8yr old son talking about? I was telling my husband about some terrible series of unfortunate events that unfolded and how it ruined my whole day when my son sauntered in- in the middle of grown folks talking mind you- and asked me “Who burnt your cornbread?” He said it with, as my grandma would say “sass”. It was such an off-topic question that it snatched my full attention and he got the full effect of my laser focus. He did not flinch.

“What did you say?”

“Who burnt your cornbread?”

“What are you talking about? I’m telling daddy about my bad day. What does that have to do with cornbread?”

“Yeah I know, I could hear you all the way down the hall. That’s how I knew somebody done burnt yo’ cornbread.” (Imagine this last part said with some head swagger and double the sass.)

I got it now. Back in my day the catchphrase was “who pissed in your cornflakes?” but since no one eats cereal anymore- but they still eat cornbread because that will NEVER go out of style- the general sentiment has lived on, even if it has morphed slightly with southern flavor.

This realization quickly evolved into me wanting to learn more, so let me share the wealth of my knowledge.

Common usage and translation:

  • Who burnt your cornbread? / What are you so mad about?
  • He burnt your cornbread! / HA HA he got the last word- this is typically reserved for something hilarious

As a family, this has infiltrated our inside jokes and is always entertaining and useful; especially if someone is cranky for no reason. Even now, as I think back on the first time I heard that phrase, I can’t remember what I was so mad about, but I can remember being snapped out of anger and into a reverse teachable moment. So when you find yourself pissed and ranting like I was, reflect back on my story and imagine me asking with full sass “Who burnt your cornbread?” and then consider my second deeper philosophical question “Why did you let them in your kitchen?”