How to Speak Texan

Kathleen Rice Adams

Don't mess with TexasTexans speak a language all our own, leading non-Texans to look at us like we don’t have good sense. We’re not illiterate hicks, you know … well, not all of us, anyway. Truth be told, even the most educated, most cosmopolitan Texans converse in Texas-speak when we’re around other Texans.

Honestly, folks who can speak both English and Texan ought to be considered bilingual.

In an attempt to assist the unfortunate souls who’ve not had the pleasure of hearing our lyrical language — and to educate those of y’all who insist on embarrassing yourselves with really bad Texas drawls — I herewith present a few Texas-isms. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Ahmoan: I’m going to. “Need anythin’ else? Ahmoan head on out here in a bit.”

Ahohno: I don’t know.

Ahuz: I was. “You hungry? Ahuz just about to put supper on the table.” (Note: Whether or not Texans are happy to see you, if it’s mealtime they’ll invite you to eat with them.)

Aint: aunt. “Ant” is acceptable. “Awnt” is unforgivable.

All y’all: y’all, but aimed at a bigger group.

Arya: are you.

Awl: oil. Still the lifeblood of Texas’s economy.

Pumpjack in Hockley County, Texas (click image to see it in action)

Awl patch: oilfield; petrochemical industry. Every Texan has at least one relative or ancestor with some connection to the oil business.

Bar ditch: a water-diversion channel running alongside a roadway. Except after a rain, they’re usually dry.

Bidness: business. “That ain’t none of your bidness.”

Bless yore heart: This phrase isn’t exclusive to Texas, but it gets used an awful lot in the Lone Star State. The meaning depends upon the context, and there are too many possibilities to list. Among the most common are “I’m so sorry,” “you are just the sweetest thing,” “you just said the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” and “You’d best get out of my sight before I need bail money.”

Caint: can’t.

C’moanin: come on in. “I’ve been expecting y’all. C’moanin.”

Cocola: Coca Cola. If you want the brown, fizzy beverage that comes in a red can, order this.

Coke: any carbonated beverage, regardless the color, flavor, or name on the bottle.

Coon’s age: a long time. “Where you been? I ain’t seen you in a coon’s age.”

Texas Rangers monument

Monument to the Texas Rangers at the state capitol in Austin

Cotton to: like, accept, or be unoffended by. Usually used in the negative. “We don’t much cotton to folks tellin’ us barbecue from anywhere else is better’n Texas barbecue.”

Daaaaayum: the longest word in the Texas language. Foreigners just say “damn.”

Didden; dudden: didn’t; doesn’t. “My family didden want me to marry Jim Bob. Daddy still dudden like him.”

Do whut now?: Could you repeat that? Used as both an indication the speaker wasn’t paying attention and disbelief. “Somebody paid Jake $5,000 for that old pickup out in the barn.” “Do whut now?”

Fixinta: about to. “I’m fixinta run down to the store. Need anything?”

Flahrs: flowers. “Better take her some flahrs or throw your hat in first.”

Foggiest notion: clue or idea; always used in the negative. “I don’t have the foggiest notion what you’re talking about.”

Furiners: foreigners. Anybody who’s not from Texas.

God love ’im/her/’em: Like “bless your heart,” this phrase can be used in a variety of ways. The most common meaning is he/she/they need looking after, because they’re too stupid to live. “God love ’im. He ain’t never had a lick of sense.”

Growshree, growshrees: grocery, groceries. “I’d better run down to the growshree store and pick up some growshrees, or we’re gonna starve.”

Hun’ert: one hundred.

Idden: isn’t. “That idden broke so bad duck tape caint fix it.”

Isetee: iced tea, the national beverage of Texas. If you don’t want sugar in it, you’d best ask for “unsweet” and be prepared to face a scowl.

Texas longhorn

Texas longhorn with attitude

My cow: an expression of disbelief or concern. “My cow. Doesn’t he know better than to tease a rattlesnake?”

My hind leg: I don’t believe you. “You were working late, my hind leg.”

Nessary: necessary. Texans frequently omit syllables they don’t find absolutely nessary.

Ohnover: on over. “Y’all come ohnover. We’ll play cards or something.”

Pert near: almost. “That boy’s pert near as big as his daddy, idden he?”

Probly: probably. “He’s probly just confused.”

Proud of: typically indicates something is priced way too high. “A hun’ert dollars for a pair of jeans? They sure are proud of those, ain’t they?”

Rainch: ranch; used as both noun and verb. “Yep, I come from rainch stock: My granddaddy was a raincher. Some of my uncles still rainch.”

Ratback, ratnow, ratquick: right back, right now, right quick. “Ahohno what you think you’re doing with that horse, but put him ratback where you found him, ratnow, or I’ll call the law ratquick.”

Ratcheer: right here. “Clara, where’d you get off to?” “I’m ratcheer.”

Rouneer: around here. “Y’all got any duck tape rouneer?”

Spoze: suppose; supposed. “I spoze you expect me to mow the grass.” “You were spoze to mow it yesterday.”

Tuhmahruh: tomorrow. “See you tuhmahruh.”

These parts: the general vicinity, which might be the neighborhood, the state, or the entire southern U.S. “’Round these parts, we don’t cotton to folks who can’t keep their noses in their own bidness.”

Texas anole

Texas anole (NOT a gecko; NOT a chameleon)

Tickled to death: very happy. “I’m just tickled to death y’all stopped by.”

Uh-huh: although used nationwide as a general term of agreement, in Texas “uh-huh” also is an appropriate response to “thank you.”

Urmomanem: your extended family; literally, your mom and them. “How’s urmomanem?” (Warning to the unwary: Never ask a Texan about his or her mother unless you’re prepared to hear an extensive report about everybody in the family. “How’s your momma?” “Oh, she’s fine. Grandma’s rheumatism’s acting up again. Uncle Billy and Aint Leta sold the house in Boerne and moved over to Seguin to be closer to the kids. Mark ran his truck off into the bar ditch again, and Dub had to take the tractor out yonder to pull him out. Cousin Lucille’s getting married in November. Ahohno how that girl can have the nerve to wear white, but…”)

Viztin: having a conversation with; literally, visiting. “Ahuz viztin with Mable just the other day. That woman can talk the bark off a tree.”

Wooden: wouldn’t. “I wooden touch that with somebody’s else’s ten-foot pole.”

Yaint: you aren’t. “Yaint too bright, arya?”

Yawna: you want to. “Yawna go to the football game Friday night?” (Word to the wise: Football is a religion in Texas. Whatever you do, don’t admit to being an Okie — or even once having seen an Okie — during college football season. You’re liable to wind up in a crossfire during the annual Red River Shootout on the gridiron. For the record, the official tally of wins stands at UT Longhorns 61, OU Sooners 45.)

Yole: you old. “Ain’t seen you in a coon’s age, yole hound dog.”

 

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Kathleen Rice Adams
A Texan to the bone, award-winning author Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen's tales, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her at the Hole in the Web Gang's hideout, KathleenRiceAdams.com. Or, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Her Amazon author page is here.

17 Comments

  1. Thanks for the lesson. I used to have anoles in my classroom.

  2. My best friend and I always have this little joke between each other. She was born and raised in Texas (right here in the town we live in) and I have only been here 40 years (originally from New York). When we talk candy, she calls caramel carmel and I say it say it as it is spelled. She’s fun to listen to talking.

  3. I have heard some of these. I have a son and daughter-in-law who live in Texas.

  4. Kathleen, you sure started out the new year right. I’m so guilty of saying a lot of these. I don’t know when you recorded me though. We do tend to run our words together here in Texas. I’m working hard though to try to straighten up and fly right.

    Wishing you success, happiness, and good times in the new year.

  5. Either Texas-speak has drifted across the OK border or my Texas grandfather’s blood is the cause, but I understood pert near all of these. I think “bar ditch” is the only one I haven’t heard before. We just call them plain ol’ ditches in OK. Fun post!

  6. I loved reading these! I grew up on a farm here in MI and my dad used many of these. Pert near and Foggiest notion are everyday language. I’m always tickled to death to get my growshrees. Maybe MI was founded by Texans?! I have found that us Michiganders like to combine words and leave off consonants in some things like this. Our version of one hundred comes out “hunerd”. My most common is probably ahohno. Actually, it more comes out like a sound than actual saying the word, nowutimean?

  7. Laughing out loud, Tex. It’s like learning another whole language. I’ll stay Californian–dude is much easier to say and spel, and works for just about anything LOL. Happy new year, my friend xo.

  8. Lord have mercy! I have heard this all my life so the Texas slang must’ve slipped out and into Kentucky and Ohio as that is where my family is from. When I started school, I had to learn that the sink was not zinc and diarrhea and diary were not the same thing. But my family pronounced them the same way. I think they need a dictionary just for the different slang language of all of our native tongues. LOL!

  9. Good old Texas!

  10. Somewhere along the line I learned that a lot of American English from the earliest colonial days kept being used here long after the Brits stop using them. One example is “cotton to” which was used at least as early as 1648 in English parliament, believed to have come from cotton mills and so on, and all around the English Empire. My aunt once sent me an article about some places in the Appalachians where remote, more isolated communities still use many older expressions of colonial times and also an earlier English accent as well as phrases.

    The OED says a the idea of “foggiest” idea or notion first appeared in print in Charles Dickens’ book “Barnaby Ridge” in 1841. Fog and London sounds right to me, especially at that time.

    Anyway, I obviously love the origin of words and phrases. As for accents, my mom kept her Texan accent all of her 88 years, and was often recognized by other Texans visiting here in the Northeast even though she lived most of her adult life here. No matter; she was a Texan and dang proud of it!

    On a different note, I also hear “cain’t” and “ain’t” and pure Oklahoma all the time in Toby Keith’s singing. He sure makes me homesick for my Okie cousins. I think. What singer do you think sounds the most Texan? George Strait, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings? Hey, how about George Jones?

    Sorry for a-goin’ on so. I love anything about language. Thanks for the great post, Kathleen!!

    1. Uh, Barnaby Rudge is the name of Dickens’ book (not Ridge). My typing is getting worse!

  11. I am proud to say I knew almost all of these words and I’m from Indiana. I’ve lived in Illinois pert near 28 years now.

    Thanks for the dictionary to help those less fortunate folks 🙂

  12. Thank you for the interesting lesson. Some of these “words” were in use in the Northeast when I was growing up many, many years ago (my hind leg, tickled to death, coons age, these parts, foggiest notion). We live in Tennessee now and recognize some of the southernisms we have heard here – All y’all, Bless your heart, Do whut now?, coke, God love im, proud of. Hard to tell now a days if it is a local colloquial expression or if it is something heard on TV, the movies, or people they have met. Traveling through the
    South and Texas, we have heard most of these words/phrases and guessed the meaning – most of the time accurately, but not always.

  13. These are great. For us non-Americans ‘aunt’ is pronounced ‘arnt’. Similarly, can’t is pronounced carn’t. If I heard ‘aint’ out of context I’d think the speaker meant ‘am not’ as in “I ain’t gonna’. Language – you gotta love it.

  14. In Owyhee County, Idaho, it’s “pert neart.” I have to say, speech recognition has an awful time with ahmonah and cmonin, and never gets ahuz right.

  15. My mothers parents lived in texas for over 25 years now I understand what they were saying.

  16. Loved this, Kathleen. I’ve used them all. Previously, my husband and I spoke clearly and he even was a disc jockey in college and later narrated films for his employer. Now we sound as if we grew up in the boonies. Don’t reckon we’ll change now, do ya?

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