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Talk Southern to Me

I'm unashamedly Southern. I'll admit, I was embarrassed as a youngster when we would travel north and folks would make fun of my accent. Not any more! I twang and slur with pride, because it's a dead giveaway that I was raised in the Deep South. I've always been fascinated by common Southern phrases that make absolutely no sense to the rest of the population. How many of these are in your vocabulary? Have you ever thought about what they mean? Walk with me down this Southern lingo road, it will definitely make you laugh when you realize how silly many of these phrases sound to non-southerners. This little glossary can also be used as a tool for new neighbors from other parts. Print this out and attach it to your welcome casserole!


"Y'all" - the only pronoun needed. Ever.

"Coke" - any soft drink (my youngest used to call Sprite - "green coke", Diet Coke - "white coke", etc to differentiate)

"Fixin" - getting ready to do something

"Gussied up" - dressed up fancy

"Cattywampus" - messed up or askew

"Grinnin like a possum" - mischievous or satisfied grin. (Do possums grin, and what would make them grin?)

"Buggy" - a shopping cart

"That dills my pickle" - it frustrates me. (There is no sexual connotation intended in this phrase by the way, get your mind outta the gutter!)

"Bless your heart" - This one is tricky. It can truly mean sympathy, but also a back handed, 'you're just plain crazy'. "Poor little thing" can also serve these two purposes as well.

"Mind your Manners" - be on your best behavior

"Mind your Ps and Qs" - Mind your manners and act right. (What are Ps and Qs? Do those letters actually stand for something?)

"Pick your switch" - you are in trouble. You must go to a bush outside and pull off a branch and will be spanked on the bottom, usually by a grandmother.

" I'm gonna jerk a knot in your tail" - the warning before you're told to pick your switch. It's time to straighten up and act right.

"Can't carry a tune in a bucket" - tone deaf and cannot sing well.

"a-lick" - a small amount or nothing at all

"Raise a ruckus" - getting out of control. It's about to get loud.

"Hotter n' blue blazes" - super hot, like the middle of a flame. You'll hear this every single summer.

"Plum crazy" - super crazy, not just the normal kind.

"Down yonder" - anywhere but where you are

"Pitch a hissy fit" - this is worse than a three year old tantrum, and adults can be guilty of it as well. This is usually the female variety.

"Duck fit" - the same thing as a hissy fit, but of the male variety

"About to fly off the handle" - a hissy or duck fit is coming. (does anyone know what type of handle this is referring to?)

"Have a hankerin" - to have a desire or notion for something

"He's livin' in high cotton" - wealthy, or at least he thinks he is

"Runnin' like a chicken with its head cut off" - very busy, often to the point of being stressed out (I've never seen a chicken with its head cut off, how do they run?)

"Full as a tick" - you've eaten way too much and are feeling it. (very common after soul food eatin')

"That takes the cake" - the most remarkable or foolish, depending on the subject

"He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow" - he likes himself way too much or he talks too much

"Highfalutin" - uppity, snob (probably acts like the phrase before this one)

"Lord willin and the creek don't rise" - if at all possible

"Til the cows come home" - this is going to take awhile. Better sit a spell.

"Doohickey, Thingamajig, Whatchamacallit" - these replace whatever word we can't think of

"Pinch a penny six ways to Sunday" - very frugal or careful with money

"Poor as a church mouse" - very poor, probably because they didn't pinch any pennies

"Chewed up and spit out"/"rode hard and put up wet" - you have had a really rough day and are exhausted

"Skirt is so short I could see her religion" - mini skirt that is too short. (Time to get out the ruler or use the finger rule, she's growing out of her clothes.)

"That gets my goose" - it frustrates, aggravates or confuses someone

"That dog won't hunt" - that idea is most likely not going to work

"The porch light's on, but nobody's home" - the person did something stupid, or they do not have a high IQ

"Well, slap my momma!" - Not literally! This is actually an exclamation to something really good or surprising. We honor and respect our mommas down here.

"Doesn't mount to a hill of beans" - it's not very important. (this is a measurement that no one actually knows. I've never seen a hill of beans, have you?)

"Carry me" - provide transportation

"Quit bein' ugly" - this is referring to bad behavior, not looks

"Sho nuff" - words of agreement

"As all get out" - an elevated degree of anything

"Worn slap out" - they are very tired

"What's that got to do with the price of rice in China" - something has no relevance. ( why rice?)

"Hold your horses" - calm down or be patient. (If this doesn't happen, be prepared for a hissy fit.)

"Hush yo mouth" - time to be quiet, or a reaction to something unbelievable or juicy gossip

"You're too big for your britches" - you think very highly of yourself, filled with pride

"Barking up the wrong tree" - asking something of someone or trying something that is just not going to happen

"Close the door, you're lettin' all the air out" - referring to the cool air from the air conditioner, not oxygen in general

"Kick you where the sun don't shine" - you're about to get hurt. (Usually used by elementary aged girls to annoying boys)

"Rainin' cats and dogs" - it's storming

"The bottoms about to fall out" - it's about to rain cats and dogs

"Cut off the lights" or "Cut the AC down" - to turn lights off or change the thermostat. (this doesn't require scissors or a knife)

"Just a tad" - a little bit

"Crack that window" - open it just a tad (do not break it)

"Goan"/ "Gonna"- going to, similar to fixin'

"Didn't just fall off the turnip truck"- not completely stupid or uninformed

"I wasn't born in a barn"- not completely uncivilized. (Southerners are not generally born in barns, we have hospitals.)

"An em" - and them, usually referring to the rest of the family ("your momma an em)

"Y'all come back now" - Goodbye. (You might be welcome again, but this is not a firm invitation)


I'm sure there are more! Please add your favorites at bethroperstewart.com



Southern and sassy baby, and proud of it!


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