19 Phrases That Southerners Say All the Time

Written By Babatunde Sanni

Southerners have a way of saying things that could leave every other person confused sometimes. If you spend some time south of the Mason-Dixon line or live with someone from there, here are 19 things to expect to hear every day.

Bless Your Heart

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The all-time popular “bless your heart” is a phrase southerners use to show genuine affection for you or, sarcastically, to portray condescension. Depending on the tone and context, Urban Dictionary says it can even be used to call someone an idiot without trying to sound too harsh.

Fixin’ To

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“I’m fixin’ to go to the store,” they might say, and you just wonder what that means exactly. Well, “fixin’ to” is the Southerners’ way of saying they’re getting ready for something, and it’s commonly used as a more laid-back approach to getting tasks done. It indicates that there’s no urgency in the preparation.


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Taken from Southern Living, “a contraction of “you” and “all” is what forms “y’all” when addressing or referencing two or more people.” “Y’all” is the Southerners’ favorite term for addressing a group of people, and it is used in both casual and formal settings. “Are y’all going to use it?” a southerner may ask.

Hold Your Horses

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As Collins Dictionary shares, “Hold your horses” is a playful command to be patient, especially when making important decisions. It’s a reminder to take things easy and not rush, embodying the relaxed pace often associated with Southern living. Now, you understand when a Southerner says, “Hold your horses; this may not be good.”

Might Could

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“I might could help you with that project later on” may seem confusing, but Southerners don’t mind using it any chance they get. The phrase simply means possibly or maybe, and hence, “might could” is used to express uncertainty or potential. It’s a redundancy that emphasizes hesitation or contemplation.

Over Yonder

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According to Yahoo, “over yonder” is a way the southerners describe a distant but unspecified location. It could be used to point out something across the room or across town, and the phrase evokes a sense of familiarity and direction without needing precise details, fitting well with Southern colloquial speech.

Hush Up

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“Hush up” is a polite yet firm way to tell someone to be quiet. Carrying a gentler tone, it’s commonly used among southerners in place of the harsher phrase “shut up,” and you more especially see it used by parents with children, trying to maintain decorum while correcting behavior.

Like A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Describing someone who is nervous or jumpy “like a cat on a hot tin roof” paints a vivid picture. It’s a colorful way to convey anxiety or restlessness, demonstrating the Southern knack for using imagery in everyday language. You may hear someone say, “He was like a cat on a hot tin roof during the meeting,” for instance.

I Reckon

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“I reckon” is a phrase used to express belief or assumption. It’s akin to saying “I guess” or “I suppose,” and Southerners use it to show agreement or consideration, reflecting a thoughtful and reflective communication style. Hence, “I reckon we’ll have to leave early to beat the traffic” means you expect to leave somewhere early.

Mad as a Wet Hen

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“She was mad as a wet hen after hearing the news” is almost self-explanatory, thinking of it. When someone is extremely angry, they might be described as “mad as a wet hen,” and the phrase is used to conjure up a vivid image of a hen that’s been rained on.

Ain’t That the Truth?

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Used to agree with a statement, “Ain’t that the truth,” affirms the accuracy or honesty of what’s been said. “He’s always late, ain’t that the truth?” someone might comment, and you understand that it’s a straightforward expression of concurrence or general agreement that someone does come late to work or school.

Full as a Tick

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Describing someone who has eaten a lot, “full as a tick,” vividly conveys the feeling of being stuffed after a meal. It’s an apt metaphor, especially in a region known for its hearty cuisine and love of good food. So the next time you hear a Southerner say, “After Thanksgiving dinner, I was full as a tick,” you know just what he or she means.

Too Big for His Britches

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Hearing “he’s getting too big for his britches with that attitude ” can leave you wondering. But not to worry, someone being “too big for his britches” only simply means that this person is acting overly confident or arrogant. Often used in criticism, this phrase suggests that the person is taking on more than they should or behaving beyond their status.

If the Creek Don’t Rise

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This phrase, often added to “God willing,” is equivalent to the phrase “assuming nothing goes wrong.” It reflects the unpredictable nature of life and the need to remain flexible, and it’s often used by Southerners when talking about plans that depend on circumstances beyond their control.

Goodness Gracious

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An exclamation of surprise or shock, “goodness gracious,” is a mild and polite way to express strong feelings. It’s often used in various situations, both good and bad, where something unexpected or unwanted happens. And for instance, you may hear someone exclaim, “Goodness gracious, look at the time!” when running late.

Sweet as Pie

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Someone who is “sweet as pie,” as you may have guessed, is someone who is exceptionally kind or pleasant. The phrase evokes warmth and genuine affection, and it’s a high compliment in the South, where hospitality and friendliness are highly valued. “Our new neighbor is just as sweet as pie,” you may hear a Southerner say.

Hissy Fit

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Throwing a “hissy fit” simply means having a temper tantrum, and for instance, you may hear someone say, “She threw a hissy fit when she didn’t get her way.” It’s used to describe someone who is overreacting or being dramatically upset, and it also carries a humorous connotation, softening the judgment of the person’s behavior.

Well, I Declare

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An expression of surprise or disbelief, “Well, I declare” is often used in reaction to unexpected news. It’s a polite and old-fashioned way to show astonishment, fitting well with Southern’s sometimes exaggerated manners. In a conversation about yourself, for instance, you may hear someone say, “Well, I declare, I never knew that about you!”

Gone to Pot

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When something has deteriorated or fallen into disrepair, it’s said to have “gone to pot.” For instance, when talking about a tattered garden, one may say, “That garden has really gone to pot since last year.” The phrase suggests a decline from a better state, commonly used to describe neglected items or situations.

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