Things are a little different down South. Nobody would really deny that. The southern United States has its own distinctive traditions, food, and accents, making it one of the most fascinating regions in the country. Of course, to go along with all of the other quirks and differences in the South, there’s a whole world of Southern dialect and phrases that Yankees and other Americans simply have no idea about.
Sure, all of y’all know about how often Southerners use y’all, but do you know the particular nuances of “bless your heart?” It’s a loaded phrase you’ll only hear in the South, and it’s not the only thing only people from the South say.
If something is worth talking about in the South, it’s as good as all get out. “That movie was funny as all get out,” would mean you need to grab a tub of popcorn and head to the theater ASAP.
“Bless your heart” (or, alternatively, “bless his heart” or “bless her heart”) showcases that perfect balance between the Southern charm the region is known for and the snide confidence Southerners can often have. Sure, “bless your heart” can be delivered directly to someone’s face with sympathy and sincerity, but it can also be used with pity or with the intention of being condescending or patronizing someone. Oftentimes, it’s a bit of both.
Many people around the country know this phrase, but very few use it — with the exception of Southerners. Simply put: Britches are pants. Common uses of the term include the sayings “He’s too big for his britches” (he’s too cocky, overly confident, etc.) or some variation of “You can get glad in the same britches you got mad in” (you’ll have to learn to live with it). Of course, britches can be substituted for pants in any situation.
When you walk in to a grocery store in the South, don’t forget to grab your buggy. In the South, it’s the word for what most Americans call a shopping cart.
If this word sounds like it’s straight out of a Dr. Seuss story, well, it would fit. “Cattywampus” and related phrases like “caddywonked” and “skewampus” are terms for something that’s crooked, sideways, unconventional, or askew.
Fizzy water is soda in much of the country, “pop” in the Midwest, and “tonic” in parts of New England, but it’s “coke” in parts of the South, perhaps thanks to Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta. Even if you want Sprite or root beer or Dr. Pepper, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for them by saying you want a coke. You’ll then be asked, “What kind of coke do you want?”
While the commode may sound like the fancy captain’s quarters on a cruise ship, it’s really just another word for the toilet. You’re more likely to hear a Southerner say this phrase than restroom or potty. However, a Southern belle may still call the bathroom the powder room.
This small freshwater crustacean has a lot of different names. Crawfish, crayfish, crawdaddy, and crawdad will all be heard around the country, but the South prefers the latter. They are boiled and eaten like other crustaceans, or can be used as bait, especially if you’re fishing for catfish, walleye, trout, bass, or pike.
“Cut” is used in place of the word “turn” in phrases like “turn the volume down” or “turn that light off.” So if you ever wondered where the phrase cut the lights comes from, look no further than the South.
“Done” is not just the past tense of the word “did,” because it can also be inserted into phrases in order to emphasize the past tense. Example: “Your mama done baked the best pie ever.” If you really want to fancy-up your phrasing, insert “done” before “gone.” Once you say that, you done gone made yourself sound like a true Southerner.
“Fixin’” (almost always said without the final “g”) is used to say you’re about to do something, preparing to do something, or want to do something. Like, “I’m fixin’ to head down to Bojangles’ for some biscuits.”
Because Southern terminology is generally so casual, Southerners have had to invent their own terminology to express fanciness. So when you dress up for an occasion, a Southerner might say you’re “gussied up.” However, it can also be used to refer to someone who is overly dressed up. As in, “Southern girls sure do get gussied up for college football games.”
Want someone to give you a call when you’re down South? Just ask them to holler at ya. “Give me a holler when you’re done with work and we’ll head on down to the bar,” is how someone may ask you to drinks in the South.
The phrase simply means someone is young, but it is almost always used in the past tense. As in, “I haven’t seen you since your fifth birthday party. You were knee high to a grasshopper.”
“Mash” is used in place of the verb “press,” often used when talking about a button. “Can you mash floor five for me?”
It sounds a bit weird to see these two words used back to back, but Southerners will pair them when saying they may be willing/able to do something. As in, “I might could go hunting with you this weekend.”
You’ll occasionally hear this one outside of the South, possibly in rural areas out west, but it’s nevertheless a decidedly Southern term. It’s a different way, simply put, of saying guess. “I reckon I could fry up some chicken tonight for the picnic,” is a proper Southern phrase.
Yes, similes and metaphors exist outside of English class, especially in the South. There are an endless number of these Southern colloquialisms, but here are a few good ones: “Finer than a frog’s hair split three ways.” “Dumb as a bag of hammers.” “Tougher than a two-dollar steak.”
There’s no shortage of Southern phrases involving tails. If a Southerner wants to say someone is really throwing a fit, they’ll say, “He’s pitching a hissy fit with a tail on it.” There are also tail phrases that warn someone to watch out, like “I’m gonna cut your tail” or “I’m gonna jerk a knot in your tail.” Additionally, someone can be “happier than a dog with two tails,” they can “haul tail” in a rush, be somewhere “in two shakes of a lamb’s tail,” or even be “nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
English’s most fatal flaw is its lack of a plural version of “you,” and some pretty weird regional slang has made up for it. In Pittsburgh, they say “yinz,” in other parts of the country, folks will say “yous,” “you all” or “you guys.” In the South, it’s all about “y’all.” Although people in other parts of the country will occasionally use this term, it’s Southern at the end of the day.
Unless someone is referring to the baseball team from New York or a guy who went to town riding on a pony, nobody outside of the South uses the term “Yankee.” If you’ve heard someone refer to a Northerner this way, it is a sure sign they grew up in the South.
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