You’re out of your cotton picking mind was a catch phrase made up by the people who wrote the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Can’t remember which character would say it, but it sure sounds like the giant rooster Foghorn Leghorn would say. I say son, you must be out of your cotton picking mind! Foghorn Leghorn was based based on the extremely popular character Beauregard Claghorn on The Fred Allen Radio Show in the 1940’s, a parody of a blustery Southern senator the likes of which haven’t been seen since Senator Sam Ervin. Senator Claghorn would say all sorts of ridiculous things in a thick and flowery Southern accent, many of which became popular catchphrases of the day. When the Looney Tunes people turned Beauregard Claghorn into Foghorn Leghorn they kept the character exactly the same, and Mel Blanc did a dead on perfect impression of Kenny Delmar’s Senator Claghorn voice. Basically, Foghorn Leghorn was Beauregard Claghorn in a chicken suit. The people watching the Bugs Bunny cartoons between features at the movie house knew that. Everyone was in on the joke. And everyone imitated both.
Hence, you’re out of your cotton picking mind. Though eighty years later it’s probably all that remains of the voice of Claghorn/Leghorn, aside from beginning a sentence with “Son….” Of course, few people younger than Baby Boomers remember Foghorn Leghorn. No one remembers Beauregard Claghorn. So “You’re out of your cotton picking mind” stands alone, without context. As is the wont of our time, everything is parsed for meaning, today, the result of two decades of humorless semiotics courses. And suddenly “You’re out of your cotton picking mind is a racist epitet. A line dashed off in a cartoon studio. Cotton picking was never an adjective before a giant cartoon chicken said it to a cartoon rabbit. You can a legacy of oppression in the oddest places, apparently. Imagine Bugs Bunny’s surprise.
That’s all folks.