Southern Words and Phrases

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P Bluebonnet

This last weekend, fellow filly, Linda Broday and I went to the movies to see the Hank Williams Story I Saw the Light.  It is a great movie, but after I got home I realized just how many Texisums and truly southern figurative speech and words were used.  I thought it’d be fun to share some phrases and words we all use in this part of the country that wasn’t even used in the movie, but are normal for us.  While you read this, if you’d like, please jot down some of your favorite terms be it from around this part of the country or your neck of the woods.  I am giving away a Bath and Body Works gift certificate to a reader who leaves a comment with a special jargon and its explanation.

In extrapolating information that I’ve gathered over the years, I came across an explanation of a Dictionary imagemuch used southern term that is wrong … in my opinion.  I’m paraphrasing part of this.  The term is Y’all and the writer’s point was “It must, must MUST always refer to more than one person.”  Oh man, how wrong can a non-Texan be.  Okay, here’s the way us Texan’s use it.

You all does not necessarily “must refer” to more than one person; but it is both singular and plural, as well as plural possessive. Y’all come back, you hear.  First off “you hear” isn’t a question … it’s a statement.  Agreed Y’all can refer to one or more; however, all you all is definitely the proper way to address a group of people.

A true Texan knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit.  And, a term I use verballyOutline of Texas with Horseman so much that it’s been banned by my critique partners, is catawampus.

A truly southern phrase is “Bless your heart”.

Coke in my day could be a root beer, Dr. Pepper or 7Up.  It still is.

Rode hard and put away wet, is a fairly normal negative comment, especially if it’s about a person.

One I use a lot is “ugly as the north end of a southbound horse”.

Everyone, I think, uses “tooth and toe”, but I’ve always heard and used “tooth and toenail”.

I think this is probably a pretty much regularly used term, “that dog won’t hunt” meaning it ain’t gonna happen”.

I believe “happier than a pig in slop” may not be a true Texasium, but it’s used a lot.

Quote on HorseHere’s just a short list:

Dumber than dirt.  Dumb as a stump.

Snowball’s chance in hell.

Ugly as the day is long.

And, the most important, all Texans younger than the person they are speaking with always use the words “ma’am and sir”.

Okay, I’m fixin’ to get the fixin’s out of the frig, so I can fix some supper for my darling hubby and me.

What is your favorite slang word for phrase?



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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

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20 thoughts on “Southern Words and Phrases”

  1. I can’t really think of any phrases or words that I really use very often (that aren’t bad words). But I can say this younger generation uses those shortened words and some new words that just make me crazy.

    • Hi Janine, glad you stopped by. Man, am I ever with you on the younger generation’s usage of words/phrases. I have grands in collage, high school, junior high, and grade school, so I get it with all of the new phrases. The younger ones pick them up from the older. My youngest daughter, oldest granddaughter and I were on a trip several years ago and I noticed my daughter reading what looked like a dictionary. As it ended up, she had an Urban Dictionary, so she could look up some of the words without asking Em. I think we’ve got a lot of them figured out … but not all for sure. Thanks for dropping by. Hugs, Phyliss

  2. We use “hairy conniption” a lot. I have no clue where the hairy part came from but that is all I have known! My dad always called people, and us kids when misbehaving, “hanyaks”. Actually, I don’t even know how to spell it – hon-yock? Either way, it’s a normal word around here. 😉

    • Hi Susan P. Glad to hear from you. It’s funny how a word is added to another word in families. Like my “tooth and toenail”. I like hairy conniption! Could it be honyock? I found it in my Slang Dictionary that I can’t do without. It has an explanation plus tells you when the word first was recognized. Helps in writing, so you don’t use a slang word that hadn’t come around yet. LOL Have a great Tuesday, Susan. Hugs, Phyliss

  3. I have more than one. Lagniappe – a little something extra. Shababa-something really really cute, usually very feminine and tiny. “Isn’t that nice” said with an exaggerated southern drawl, means you really don’t care for it and are being sarcastic about it being nice. The word aint is used in place if am not. I ain’t writing nothing else. Period.

    • Hi Geralyn, your post made me laugh. I loved it. I have a character in the book I’m writing who I can definitely see her using Shababa and of course “Isn’t that nice” … Southern Belle standing on the porch of her family’s big southern mansion comes to mind. Great word! Thanks for giving us a new word, plus of course ain’t! Ain’t gonna argue with you that we cain’t do without it. Hugs, Phyliss

  4. Phyliss, great post! Yes, that Hank Williams movie is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. It shows how truly gifted artists suffer in ways we never imagine. So sad that he died at age 29! No telling what he could’ve accomplished had he lived. And sooooo much good music that brought back memories of me sneaking into my grandpa’s room (he was bed fast) and listening to those songs on his old radio. I had to have been around 6 years old. But I still remember the gripping power of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Hey, Good Lookin’.

    Some of my phrases are: “Didn’t have any more sense than a piss-ant” and “I could’ve been talking to a fence post, no more attention than he paid me.”

    • Hi Miss Linda. I’m glad there wasn’t anybody else sitting on our row at the movies because I think I was tapping my foot, hands and rocking back and forth with the wonderful music, particularly when Hank Williams and the band were on stage. Great movie for any of you western music lovers! I, too, can remember hearing him on the radio, particularly in the car. I know I’ve heard you say the first phrase and I’m bettin’ that you’ve said the other one about me, after we’ve hung up from talkin’! LOL You’re a little more refined than I am and can hold back on your ol’ time slang, but I sure can’t. Thanks for stopping by, fellow Filly. Love you, P

    • Hi my friend, Tanya. I’ve used dumber than dirt myself! Hope you have a great week and I’m coming out to California in May for graduation, so hope we’ll be able to get together with my west coast Fillies. Hugs to you, Phyliss

  5. Although I live in PA, my dad was from MS and the one thing that stuck was you all. I think I’m the only one in our family that picked that phrase up lol.

  6. Hi Miss Catslady. Good to hear from you. Yep, southern verbiage seems to crop up in a family that has anybody from the south. Daddy was from Ohio and Mama from Louisiana, so you can just imagine what our family life was like. “You all” is probably the #1 phrase used in this part of the country. Keep up the good work of using it. Big hugs, Phyliss

  7. Love your post, Phyllis! One I use a great deal is ” They don’t know me from Adam’s house cat!” Also, I’ a “ya’ll and gonna ” gal, as well.

  8. Hi Melanie. Your post made me laugh and thanks for the compliment. I promise I’ve never heard “They don’t know me from Adam’s house cat?” Love it. Yep, ya’ll and gonna gal is fairly typical here. Have a great afternoon. Hugs, Phyliss

  9. I am always saying I am going to have to lick my calf over again. Which mean I am going to have to do it again.

  10. Hi Quilt Lady, thanks for coming by and reading my blog. I agree with you on your saying, I’ve used and heard that term many, many times … especially when I was growing up and I didn’t mop the floor like Mama liked. Pretty sure I’ve used it with my grown girls, too! Have a great rest of the week. Hugs, Phyliss

  11. I’m late to the party but wanted to say I too enjoyed your post. My mom grew up in Oklahoma and Texas so all those phrases you listed were familiar to me. And though my dad was a Northerner, he too loved country music so I grew up with Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and many others. In my young adult years I went rock, of course, but now retired I’m back to country all the way. My mom had “pulled me back” with Alan Jackson, and I got her hooked on Toby Keith. My favorite Texan musician is Lee Roy Parnell–wish he was still releasing records. Radney Foster too. I just hope the Willie Nelson, George Strait, or Bob Wills fans don’t gang up on me.

    Anyway, thanks for a fun post.

  12. Well Y’all, this has been so much fun “I hope to Shout!” Some of these phrases are like my

    friend & I say about each other: “We’ve been friends so long we go back to DIRT!” My

    grandkids all fall on the floor when I throw out ” Well, cry in the bucket!” It is

    amazing to me hearing all the differences we have & yet, how it brings us back to our

    common roots. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri,those are the the home states we hale from. Oh yeah, we slipped in a granddad from “Oh My” Rhode Island ! 🙂

  13. Forgot to add my phrases… how about:
    Fit to be tied.
    A heap of trouble.
    Can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
    Sittin’ in high cotton.
    Knee high to a grasshopper.
    You’uns and young’uns.
    Come give me some sugar. (a kiss)
    Livin’ high on the hog.
    Goin’ to hell in a handbasket.
    All hat and no cattle.
    Looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.
    Or–hit with an ugly stick.
    Over yonder.
    Tuckered out.
    Ain’t my first rodeo.
    Too big for your britches.
    All git out.

  14. Funny idioms! When my husband goes outside in the frigid temps during winter and comes back in, he always says, “It’s ‘colder than a well diggers butt’ out there!”

    He had to do a lot of digging dirt (on construction sites) in the winter months when he was growing up and heard his dad and uncle say that. 🙂

    My children are big sci-fi fans and picked one up from a show called Firefly. They say something is ‘shiny’ to mean it’s good or valuable; ‘cool’.

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