Southern Words

In writing I’ve come to learn that there are certain words that just don’t translate. My very first editor was a New Yorker and oh boy was that a learning experience. Sometimes it was like we spoke two different languages. She just did not get my Texisms. I’d like to share a two of my favorite Texisms’s with you.

The first one is “aaaaant”.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, It’s a safe bet that you aren’t southern.  “aaaant” is a sound we southerners make at kids, dogs, spouses–well anyone really–when we want them to cease what they are doing, or about to do, immediately.  For example: My dog Odin and I are out in the front yard. Odin starts for the street.  I yell, “aaaaant!” And he stops dead in his tracks.  It works like that every time and in nearly every occasion.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t at lease pause when they hear “aaaant”.

The next one and probably the one I use the most is Ya’ll. It is short for You all.  I’ve seen it spelled Y’all and Ya’ll. I’ve used both. Which is correct?  I’m not sure. I’ve seen arguments for both. Some say Y’all is correct because it’s a contraction and the ‘ replaces the ou in you. If that is the case what’s up with won’t? Unless, I’m mistaken won’t stands for will not.  Sure the ‘ replaces the o in not, but wo? Where did the wo come from? I find it humorous that this is a debate at all because it’s not proper English. Personally, I think it’s about sound. And most people say it with a ya at the beginning.  But it really doesn’t matter to me. Ya’ll or y’all it’s the same word and it’s a cool word. So much easier than saying you all.  I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t come out of my mouth, I trip over it every time and it still comes out ya’ll rather than you all.

And last but not least…Yonder.  I had no clue that yonder was a southernism until a fellow Texan moved to New York and came back to visit.  She apparently tried to give directions to someone and they looked at her like she’d sprouted another head and asked her is yonder was a street.  Yonder for those that don’t know is over there aways.  yonder is usually accompanied with a head tilt, or a motion of the hand or even a pointed finger.  It’s over yonder.

What other southern words can you think of?



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13 Responses to Southern Words

  1. Terri says:

    Don’t know about southern but we have some local words that just don’t translate out of the county. The county being St Mary’s county, MD, first county in the state of Md and therefore THE county.

    Going to the park means you are headed to Lexington Park. Every other county or state park is called by name.

    7th district is a rural area of the county and is the 7th district on the tax roles and voting district. Everyone local knows that 7th district is the northwestern part of the county. Lots of watermen and farmers are in 7th district.

    And as those of us that are from the county know, we are part of the south. Period. We were federally occupied to try to keep our boats from crossing the river (Potomac) to support our close neighbors in VA. We had much more in common with them than we did the folks up in Baltimore. So, ya’ll and annnt make perfect sense to me.

  2. LOL I can speak to this topic, being a New Yorker myself. One of my muses is a southerner and the differences in speech is pretty amusing to me at times.

    One of my favorites, which is definitely a down south word is ‘fixin’. Not used as in “I’m fixing the broken lawnmower at my repair shop”, which is how a northerner would use that word, but more to denote intent as in “I’m fixin’ to go shopping today.”

    Another is ‘shortly’. Shortly to a southerner can apparently mean anything from 5 minutes to 5 hours, so when he says “I’m fixin’ to call you shortly” I have learned to NOT expect a call within a New York minute.

    Oh, and where I say “I’m going to have my picture taken” he’ll say “I’m getting my picture made”. Then there’s the “soda” vs. “pop” thing. And “Hero” or “Hoagie” or “Sub” or “Wedge” all denoting large sandwiches but very regional.

    I have other issues with phrasing as well. My writing is very American (writing about US military men and cowboys will do that) but my editor was raised and lives abroad. So terms that I think are universally recognized are not, such as ‘rocking chair porch’. I can picture it. Hell, my house has one, but 2 editors questioned it so I finally had to give in on that one and just delete that whole phrase from the book.

    Great blog! Interesting topic.
    Cat Johnson

  3. Heather says:

    Lol. this post was so written for me. ‘Aaaant’ I have always used, it’s so natuarl that I constantly say it to my son when he’s about to do something bad. I feel horrible cause even to my ears it sounds like something you say to a dog but I can’t change something I’ve been doing my entire life.

    ‘Yall’ is another that I’ve been using since I could talk, along with ‘younder.’ My sister hates going to town with me (the closest city where we live is bout 45 mins away), I wear my boots and camo hat and talk with my country accent with my country words. She came from the country and don’t mind headin to the river for some fishing but she’s all high heels, nice slacks and proper nouns lol.

    I’ve got a couple that hasn’t been mentioned: tarnation (this became my ‘cuss word replacement’ when my son was born and it’s worked out pretty well), heck (another ‘cuss word replacement’) and my favorite hankering.

    This has been alot of fun, thanks for letting me join in 🙂

  4. wyndwhisper says:

    yonder is not just a southernism,we use it in the west also. another southernism we use in the west is holler(not as in a loud noise but as in the holler is a place). i lived in the south for a little while and i think my favorite southernism is “bless your heart”.women in the south , the only place i’ve heard this,say this with super sweetness when they mean just the oppisite and it is just hilarious. the first time i heard my friend say it was right after i moved there and she was talking about someone that had pissedher off and she kept saying “bless her heart “after every sentence and there was so much sugar dripping off of it that i almost got cavities from it. LOL

  5. StacieDM says:

    I was born and raised in Oklahoma and I grew up saying all of those phrases. I also said fixin’ instead of getting ready to. For example: I’m fixin’ to leave for the store.

    I still say bless your heart, y’all, holler, hankerin’ etc.

  6. J.L. Langley says:

    OH! those are good ones! How in the world did I forget about “fixin'” ? I use that one daily. Someone mentioned one on another blog I did several years ago that I’d forgotten about. “Tumped.” As in: Bubba tumped me out of my chair.

  7. Marie Tuhart says:

    The “soda” vs. “pop” thing always got to me when I was traveling through the South. Most other words were easy for me to figure out. The only thing that really bugged me was when people called San Francisco, Frisco. For a native of the city, we never use Frisco.

  8. Nancy S says:

    My grandson is an “onrey(ornery) lil dickens”. I believe that is a 3 for 1. Don’t you just hate skeeters? I could use some hooch or maybe a mason jar of shine about now. My car is ailin so I need to get someone to carry me to town. I’m sure I will think of more phrases as the day goes on rather I want to or not.

    • J.L. Langley says:

      OOOh those are good ones!!! skeeters. I still say it! I thought of another one… worsh instead of wash. I have to make a concerted effort not to say worsh. I’ve tried so hard to sound more “educated” and worsh is one of those words I have to try not say. Every once in awhile it slips out anyway. 🙂

  9. Wanda Miller says:

    You should hear Ya’ll with a British accent.So funny

  10. Jen B. says:

    I don’t know if it is common across the South but my mother calls a garden hose a hose pipe. She swears that it’s a common thing! Y’all!

    • J.L. Langley says:

      I’ve never heard that one. But it could be a regional thing. There are a lot of regional dialects even in the south

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