Essential South: Southern Slang

Typography

A PRIMER ON A FEW TERMS Y’ALL NEED TO KNOW

We’re no linguists, but you could definitely make a case that there are two kinds of American English: the highly descriptive yet ultimately boring Yankee variety, and the infinitely creative and boundlessly colorful Southern strain. Our corner of the South has been kind enough to welcome its share of Yankee-speaking Northerners, so as a public service we present the following basics of Southern slang:

Bless your heart: A somewhat sympathetic—but mostly insincere—condolence that also manages to convey to the recipient that they are, in fact, a dingbat. Example: “You used Hellmann’s instead of Duke’s in the potato salad? Oh, bless your heart.” 

Citified: Anything that’s overly sophisticated or simply born, conceived of or created on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line. Example: “Lookit Mr. L.L. Bean with his citified hunting camo.”

Dressing: Bread crumbs, seasoning and celery baked inside a turkey; what Yankees call “stuffing.” This term also indicates salad dressing, which isn’t at all confusing at Thanksgiving. Example: “Would you mind passing the dressing? No, not that dressing. The dressing. Oh, bless your heart.”

Fat as a tick: To be overstuffed. The natural state of being following a dinner at Mama’s. Example: “After all that dressing and dressing, I’m fat as a tick.”

Fixin’ tah: To be in the midst of preparations toward action. Example: “I’m fixin’ tah go to the Sandbar. How are we set for beer?”

Golly: A highly flexible interjection indicating disbelief. Curiously, this word can be extended to indicate varying degrees of disbelief. Example: “You really caught a catfish that big? Golly. With your bare hands? Gollllllllly.” It’s all in the Ls.

Good ol’ boy: Often used as pejorative when discussing politicians, but considered a badge of honor in almost every other context. Example: “Everyone thinks the mayor’s part of the good ol’ boy network, but he’s just a good ol’ boy.”

Idjit: One who works in politics. Example: “I can’t believe I voted for that idjit. He doesn’t have the sense God gave a mule.”

“I was born at night, but not last night”: I am not a fool. Example: When somebody ate the fried chicken for the church picnic and the only person home tries to deny it, say, “I was born at night, but not last night.”

Might could: Might. Also could. Example: “Y’all hungry? I might could eat.”

“My back teeth are floatin’ ”: Having an urgent need to find either a commode or a tree in a private spot. Example: “You gonna be in there long? I’ve had three SweetWaters and I gotta go so bad that my back teeth are floatin.’ ”

To hear him crow: The reason the sun rises, according to conceited people. Example: “He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.”