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Friday, March 20, 2009


The Southernisms in my part of the south came mainly from Scotch-Irish immigrants who immigrated to America for political and economic reasons. Beginning in 1750 they arrived in large numbers, many coming through the port of Philadelphia which was the largest port in the country at that time. They found that land along the coasts had already been taken so they found open areas that suited them in the uplands of the Piedmont and along the rivers and streams of the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. Continuing migration filled in the inland South.

Okay, enough history. This isn’t a history lesson. All I want to do is share a few southern expressions with you. This might be helpful if you ever visit the South because we still say some of these. However, don’t be saying too many of them. TV and newcomers have influenced the South, and diluted our regional dialect. People might think you were mocking them.

1. ya’ll This means you all and is PLURAL. How are ya’ll doing means you AND your family.
2. kin to-related to. Are you kin to Robert?
3. idnit-isn’t it. The weather is fine idnit?
4. fixin-getting ready to do something. I’m fixin to go to the store.
5. hissy fit- you lost your temper and carried on. She had a hissy fit when she found out about the car.
6. sorry-no account. He’s about as sorry as they come.
7. thang-any object I almost broke that thang.
8. thank-think I thank I left it at Joe’s house.
9. caint-can’t I caint solve this problem.
10. frazzle-fatigue, nervousness His nerves are frazzled.

Here are some expressions I’ve heard older people say, but younger people don’t use them regularly.

Poke-a sack
Holler-a small valley
Spell- a stretch of time
Study-think about it

What about the rest of you Southerners? What words would you add to the list?


  1. I liked the history lesson, Elaine! The Southernisms were great. I've also heard:

    1) Wrench - hair color rinse as in I'm going to put a wrench in my hair.
    2) Dinner - lunch
    3) Supper - dinner

  2. I have a book coming out April 16 by Red Rose Publishing, called Picking Cotton. I have included Southern sayings....

  3. Hi, KT,

    I'll be sure to pick up a copy.

  4. Interesting, are we transplanters allowed to use them?

  5. OMG! I love this... Fixin'... I had friends up north who never understood that, and I still use it! So Pttttt! Is too a word! LOL!

    Thanks for giggle before bed. :)

  6. And of course, "agin" for "against". He knocked that thar ball up agin the truck.

    "cheer" was used for "here" in a Kentucky town where I lived.

    I've also heard "war" for "wire."

    "youn'un's" or youn'ins" for "young ones" which means children.

    And don't forget the phrases either. "As the crow flies", "over yonder", "bust my britches", "hush my mouth", etc. Those were good ones. :)

  7. One of my favorite Texas expressions, and yes, we are part of the south :-) is "That dog won't hunt." It means an idea won't fly or something is not going to work.

  8. Thanks for the additions to the list everyone. Yes, Mary, you can use the words. Southerners like to share.

  9. I'm a transplant to the south, having moved from Pennsylvania to Mississippi and Tennessee. My all time favorite response to a request is, "I might could do it." You can't get much more noncommittal than that.

    And now that I've adopted some of the phrases, my northern friends laugh at me on a regular basis. But at least my neighbors understand me :)

  10. Well, I can't help but reply to this--long after you've posted. But it's near and dear to my heart. I'm peripheral South, according to my Georgian friend. That means, Texas was kinda sorta caught up in the Civil War. Okay, I suppose that means Texan soldiers only kinda sorta died during battle... LOL. Anyway, we utter all these wonderful terms, Elaine. Me, I've been worn to a frazzle all week. ;)

    Anyway, my mother lived part of her childhood in Illinois. My father lived part of his childhood in Michigan. Both families relocated to California where my parents met after my father's stint in the Navy. Daddy got a job at NASA and relocated the family here after my older brother was born. I'm the first Texan since my father's great great grandfather resided here in the early 1700s. That's even a longer story. But my point is my brother speaks pure Texan. I and my sister do not. I, however, do not say soda water as my mother does... I think my parents' background greatly affected the way my sister and I speak. Not to mention, the point when my parents "immigrated" to Texas was a time in Texas history when we had a huge influx of nuclear families relocating from their new-found mobility via college degrees around the country. Now, my step-family and inlaws are true locals. They grew up in state or in Mississipi. I guess you'd say they're more Southern. LOL

    So goes my dissertation on the Texas dialect. ;)