When someone is a first-time visitor to the southern region of the United States, they may be a little surprised at all of the unique slang terms they encounter. Most people in the Southern states use a combination of standard English and their own unique words and phrases. This is a look at some of the most popular Southern slang terms that only make sense in the South.
What is Southern Slang?
Southern slang is a form of American English which is characterized by its use of distinct words and phrases. It’s most common in the Southern states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. People who aren’t native to the South may not always be able to understand the slang, even if they are technically speaking English.
History of Southern Slang
Southern slang has changed over the years, as many different languages and cultural influences have mixed in the region. In the past, Southern slang was heavily influenced by African American English, as the Black population was its largest group. Over time, popular Southern slang terms have been adopted into standard use in the United States.
Types of Southern Slang
There are many different types of Southern slang, from regionalisms to expressions to colorful metaphors. Here are some of the most common Southern slang terms that you’ll only hear in the South:
This is a phrase that Southern people use to describe an activity in the future. A Southerner might say “I’m fixin’ to head to the store” to mean “I’m going to go to the store.”
This is a contraction of the phrase “all of you all” that Southern people use to refer to a group of people. It’s commonly used in combination with other phrases, such as “Hey, y’all!” or “What’re y’all doing today?”
In Southern slang, yonder is a way of referring to a vague place or location. A Southerner might point in a direction and say “That house yonder” to mean “that house over there.”
This is a greeting that Southern people use when asking “how are you?” It’s simply a combination of the words “where” and “are you at?”
This is a form of the verb “get” that Southern people use when coaxing or persuading someone to do something. A Southerner might say “Git on over here now!” to mean “Get over here now!”
Bless your heart
This is an expression that Southern people use to be polite when they disagree with someone or think they’ve done something careless. A Southerner might say “Bless your heart” with a smile on their face, even though the phrase can be interpreted as an insult.
This is a contraction of the phrase “kind of” that Southern people use when describing something that’s not quite accurate. A Southerner might say “That’s kinda cool” to mean “That’s kind of cool.”
Let me tell you what
This phrase is used to launch into an explanation, as if the speaker has authority in the conversation. A Southerner might say “Let me tell you what” before they explain something.
This is a term of endearment that Southern people use to refer to their fathers and other older men.
This phrase is a mix of the words “might” and “could” that Southern people use to express the potential for something to happen. A Southerner might say “We might could do that” to mean “We might be able to do that.”
Although some Southern slang terms have become standard in everyday American English, many more are still only used in the South. From expressions like “bless your heart” to regionalisms like “y’all”, the list of Southern slang words is long and evolving. If you’re visiting the South for the first time, you’re sure to pick up on some of these terms in no time.