We all have those unique phrases we heard growing up--phrases that we haven't heard since we moved away from home. As I get older, they keep popping out of my mouth! My children grew up hearing them but my husband still looks at me like a cow looks at a new gate. I would call them Southernisms, though I'm sure some are also used in other parts of the country. I don't know the source of all of them, but they remind me of my Southern upbringing.
The South is known for using the word "y'all". This is a legitimate contraction that you all should add to your vocabulary. (See what I did there?)
"Supper" is a word that needs a little explaining. You see, we have breakfast, lunch, and supper each day but on Sundays we have Sunday dinner after morning services. That's an extra nice meal-- like supper at lunchtime. We also have Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner which could be any hour of the afternoon or evening. Dinner is a special supper, but not necessarily at night. Catch my drift?
Also, the word "mess" is a very versatile Southern word. It comes in handy on many occasions. "Look at this mess!" Things out of order.
"You are a mess!" You look horrible, or your life is out of control. It could also be a term of endearment, like after a child says something clever.
"Don't mess with me!" Seriously. A threat.
"Are you messin' with me?" Pulling my leg.
"A mess of collards" is a lot of them.
Oh, by the way, please don't confuse being Southern with being stupid. I'm not the sharpest saw in the shed, but I've got enough education, common sense, and culture to know what to say and how to say it, and the South is populated with many others who could say the same. Television likes to typify Southerners as stupid, maybe because that's more fun. The South has a rich culture of charm and hospitality. There are intellectuals and their counterparts in every part of the world. There are also the God-fearing folk and their counterparts, each contributing to the culture. Some Southern phrases thankfully didn't make it into my vocabulary since my parents were the God-fearing type.
Several phrases that I recognize from my upbringing come directly from the Bible. Here are a few examples:
"I reckon" Romans 8:18
"You all" Romans 15:33
"What ails you?" Psalm 114:5
"Yonder" Matthew 26:36
"Lo and behold". Each word is used separately many times in the Bible but used together in this phrase.
Rather than write out the Southernisms dictionary-style, I thought you could catch the meanings by the context if I wrote you a story. This story is not true,, especially the parts about collard greens, my yelling in the store--I mean, my yelling at all 🙂, and my son sassing me and getting away with it. Some of the rest of it may or may not be slightly closer to truth.
Here I illustrate the Southernism "telling you a story", which means telling you a lie. With your permission...
The other day, I went to the grocery store and took Capers and Evy. I swanee they were in kahoots against me from the start. First they fought over pushing the buggy. I said that Capers could push it since he needed practice driving before he gets his permit. It wasn't long before he, Evy, and the buggy were nowhere to be found. Lo and behold, here he came batting the ball around the corner with Evy IN the buggy! I said, "We haven't been here long and y'all already have me bent out of shape. Stop messin' around!" and with that I took over pushing the buggy. I shopped a few peaceful moments when I realized that I hadn't seen hide nor hair of the kids for a good ten minutes. Then Evy came up behind me and said that Capers wanted me on the next aisle. I told her that I'd be there directly and I continued to enjoy a few more moments of stress-free shopping. When I got there, I found stuff knocked off the shelves and Capers playing in a house he had built with packs of paper towels. I said, "I declare to my goodness, what ails you, Son? You can string and strow worse than anybody I've ever seen. Pick up this mess and stick everything back where it goes." He said to me, "This is MY house and and I'll put it back when I want to!" I looked at him with smoke coming out of my ears and said, "YOUR HOUSE MY FOOT! You have gotten too big for your britches! This 'house' doesn't matter a hill of beans! You are somethin' else! I don't reckon that I've ever seen a child be so ugly to his momma!" At that moment, some highfalootin lady standing nearby got TICKLED at us! I was so ill that I was at the end of my rope.
I managed to get the rest of the groceries including a mess of collards that I wanted to make for supper. As I approached the check-out with my little angels, I saw that the clerk was a man. A scary looking man. I mean to to tell you he had a Duck Dynasty beard, he was 7 feet tall, and each eye looked a different direction. He was one.booger.bear. I said, "Look standing yonder. If you don't quit acting up, he's going to get you!" Guess what. I had to die if he wasn't the nicest man you ever met. He said he was a member of the philharmonic. I wasn't so sure about that but at least he occupied the kids and gave me a little break. As we left the store, I saw that it was comin' up a cloud and, wouldn't you know, the bottom fell out before we got to the van. When I pulled into the garage, I cut off the van and took the groceries in. It was then that I realized that I didn't have the mess of collards--the very thing we went to the store to get. I wondered if that check-out clerk tried to hoodoo me on purpose. No wonder he was putting on airs. I probably just left the collards back at the store...along with my sanity.
I hope this exercise has helped you to understand your Southern friends. Maybe you would like to use some of our colorful phrases yourself.
I've got to scoot.
Y'all 🐝be good.