So . . . You Think You Speak Southern?

By Gary Wright

the quiet life sized for porchscene

Whut I jist said, is whut I jist said!

In New Orleans, there are three seasons: hurricane season, political season, and football season. In certain areas around New Orleans, one doesn’t say “hello,” “hi,” or “how are you?” Instead, the universal greeting is “who dat?” That term is similar to the Hawaiian ‘aloha,’ which means just about anything the speaker wants it to mean. Bass-ackwards is a minced oath meant for the genteel folks, which I think you can figure out, meaning something very obviously and completely incorrect.

Commonly, in the Southern United States, reference to the plural of you is ‘you all’ or for the laziest of us, its common contraction, ‘y’all.’ As if ‘y’all,’ meaning everyone, isn’t enough, then ‘all y’all’ will definitely cover everyone within hearing distance. That term is sort of an overkill, not to be confused with a road kill, which we will take up next semester.

“Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” is a southern expression used upon learning something astonishing, usually something positive. Nobody has the slightest idea where it came from, but it’s so cute, we just use it. Now, ain’t that precious?


“To crawfish,” means to backpedal or to get out of some job or responsibility, just like the old crawdad, himself, who is forever walking backwards. Many say that he motivates that way because he doesn’t care where he’s going. He just wants to see where he’s been.

Big ‘ol – means big old—as in the real thing. There are two types of’em. There’s a big ‘ol good’en, then there’s a good ‘ol big’en.”

“Chillun,” sometimes said as “chilred,” is a Southern affectionate term for children.  A “Chile” is an offspring, a particularly sweet ‘chile’ is a “honey chile;” which is singular of “chillun.”

“Me-maw and Pea-paw” is the perennial term for grandmother and grandfather in the south. Over in No Hope County, Alabama, they may be pronounced “Ma-maw and Pa-paw,” ‘course that’d be referring pretty much to us white trash types, who mostly populate that county.

“Goobers or goober peas” are peanuts. They are sometimes used to refer to a simpleton-type person, especially someone from up north or one who doesn’t vote like the rest of us. (Y’all know who you are, right?) That term comes from the Gullah people of the Carolinas coastal area. Its origin is from the African Bantu word ‘nguba’ for peanut.

“Pecker-wood,” is a converted form of the national bird of No Hope County, the Wood Pecker. It refers to another Southerner, especially one who is ignorant or bigoted, or both.

A Woodshed is the place to which a recalcitrant youth is taken for a meeting with the ‘board’ of education. Neither the woodshed nor the ‘board of education’ are hardly used anymore, and has caused a serious decline in the quality of our chilluns.

A wood-pile, on the other hand, is a place you don’t want to go at all. But, since nobody burns wood anymore, we’ll just stay away from that whole subject for now. Stay with me on some of the terms, honey-chile. It’s so easy to get flusterated if you’re not thinking straight.

Yankee! – There really is no such thing as a yankee; to most of us, there are just pure-dee ‘ol damn yankees. That term usually means anybody from north of No Hope County, with a few exceptions from Virginia, like Robert E. Lee and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.

“Fixin” means much more than repairing. It means getting ready to do something, as in: “I was fixin’ to fix dinner,” as opposed to actually doing it, as in “I was fixin’ dinner.”

A parlor used to be a fancy sitting room in a house on the correct side of the railroad tracks, as opposed to t‘other side of the tracks. Now, it means a whole host of places where a God-fearing Southerners shouldn’t oughta be, least-wise while you’re still alive, such as beer parlor, betting parlor, funeral parlor, massage parlor and sich.

The term Yellow Dog comes from the Carolinas, where most common dogs were yellow in color; therefore, considered worthless. This gave rise to ‘Yellow Dog democrat,’ meaning that you’d rather vote for a common, worthless dog, just as long as the dog belongs to the democrat party.

Cut the lights off – means to extinguish the lights. This makes a lot of sense because you do, indeed, stop the flow of electricity to the light, causing it to go out. However, we Southerners have taken it one step further, so we can ‘cut the light on’ again. I don’t pretend to know perzactly how we can ’cut something on,’ but, I reckon if you can cut it on, then you can do the opposite and cut it off, and vice versa. And, Buddy, I ain’t jist whistling’ Dixie ’bout that.

Bare light bulb



The crayfish illustration is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to

Lightbulb photo is licensed under CC By 4.0—linked to

Cabin photo by Deborah Fagan Carpenter


4 thoughts on “So . . . You Think You Speak Southern?

  1. Joe Goodell

    Ms D’br’ ‘n’ Mr Gar’ : bril’nt bit o’ rit’n on Southrin speech. I been toy’n wi’ th’ idee ‘f do’n one on “Fix’n To” all by it se’f. Be’n fairly short, as tis so’s not t’ bore folks. Y’all think that ‘d go ov’r ok f’r a PorchScene bit, I’ll sen’ it along.

    ps : foto top o’ this page, my kinda porch scene !

  2. I delighted in this story..It took me back to my memories of visiting my grandparents in small town Alabama..I called my Mom’s parents Mamaw and Papoo!
    Thanks for sharing your words!

    1. Thanks for continuing to read us Jan!

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