If you are looking for some funny Southern words or sayings, then you are in the right place. The American South — the states south of the Mason-Dixon line that divides the USA into horizontal halves — has a culture, humor and slang all its own. Discover some uniquely Southern words and phrases that portray a special kind of wisdom found only in the South.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What you see as a weird pronunciation, someone else just might perceive as a charming Southern drawl.
- aint - the sister of one’s mother or father (I need to go visit my aint.)
- caint - can’t (I caint do that.)
- fitt’in - fixing to, about to (I’m fitt’in to buy one.)
- fitty - fifty (Can I borrow fitty cents?)
- i’moan - I am going to (I’moan go to that game.)
- i’munna - also I am going to (I’munna go to that game.)
- ‘n em - and them (I’m goin’ to the game with Bob ‘n em.)
- paints - could refer to actual paint or to pants (Wait a minute! Give me time to pull on my paints.)
- tars - tires with a southern drawl (I need to get some new tars for my car.)
Southerners who speak with a drawl have a tendency to drop the last letter when pronouncing words that end in “g.” This leads to fixin’, goin’ and other similar pronunciations.
It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. These Southern slang words just don’t work ‘less spoken with a southern drawl.
- ain't got no - don’t have any (I ain’t got no money ‘til payday).
- buggy - shopping cart (Bring in a buggy from the parking lot.)
- darn tootin’ - for sure, certainly, sure is (Will I take the job? Darn tootin’ I will!)
- down to the - going somewhere, regardless of direction (I’m going down to the church.)
- drawers - apparel with leg holes, such as pants, jeans, underwear (I just need to pull on my drawers. Then I’ll be ready to go.)
- fixin’ - about to (I’m fixin’ to start cooking dinner.)
- kin - the state of being related to someone (I have to invite Annie. She’s kin.)
- kinfolk - people to whom one is related (The Smiths are my kinfolk.)
- knee high - small child (I’ve known her since she was knee high.)
- ‘less - unless (I can’t go to the party ‘less I finish my chores.)
- muddin’ - pastime that involves doing wheelies in a four-wheel drive vehicle through the mud, off-road (Let’s go muddin’ this weekend.)
- slap out - all out; had some but don’t have any more (I am slap out of vinegar, so I can’t make any more pickles.)
- turkey shoot - a shooting contest that involves shooting at a target; the prize is a frozen turkey (I’m gonna try my luck at the turkey shoot next Saturday.)
- unthaw - to thaw (Take that meat out of the freezer and let it unthaw.)
Check out some quaint Southernisms that portray a special kind of wisdom only found in the South. You’re sure to hear some of these any time you venture below the Mason-Dixon line.
- about as much use as - indicates something is the opposite of useful (A pair of size 5 jeans is about as much use to me as a Barbie doll bathing suit.)
- fit to split - laughing excitedly, extremely hard laughter. (That was so funny; I’m fit to split.)
- good riddance to bad rubbish - glad that’s over; glad that person is leaving (Billy broke up with you? I never liked him anyway. Good riddance to bad rubbish!)
- have a mind to/have half a mind to - to be inclined to do something. (I’ve got half a mind to go in there and tell him what I think of him.)
- hit the bushes - to go to the bathroom when there isn’t an actual bathroom nearby, such as when fishing or camping (Make sure nobody comes back here; I’ve got to hit the bushes.)
- knee high to a grasshopper - a very young child (His family lived next door when he was knee high to a grasshopper.)
- like a nail in the head - useless, no reason for (He needs another dog like he needs a nail in the head.)
- mad as a mule chewing bumblebees - very angry; thoroughly ticked off (I am so angry! What she did made me mad as a mule chewing bumblebees.)
- plum tuckered out - very tired (I am plum tuckered out after that long drive.)
- puts flies on me - descriptor for something or someone that is off-putting (I don’t like that girl. She puts flies on me.)
- puttin’ on the dog - taking things to a high level, going all out (It’s sure to be a great party They are really puttin’ on the dog.)
- like something the cat dragged in - disheveled, in bad shape. (She stayed out all night partying, so now she looks like something the cat dragged in.)
- that dog won't hunt - an idea or plan that isn’t going to work (Good try, son, but that dog won't hunt.)
- useful as a trap door on a canoe - useless, unhelpful. (That new sequined dress of hers is about as useful as a trap door on a canoe.)
There are so many different ways to refer to people in the Southern vernacular that these terms deserve their own category. You’ll need these vocabulary words to understand who Southerners are talking about.
- bubba - could mean brother; could mean any male person (Hey bubba, what’s up?)
- honey/sweetie/baby - could be anyone (gender neutral); could be a term of endearment or a condescending insult, it’s all in the tone, you see. (Come here sweetie, let me look at you.)
- mawmaw/memaw - grandmother (My mawmaw loves me the most.)
- missy - could be someone named Missy (maybe short for Melissa); could be any female person (Look here missy, mind your own business.)
- papaw/pepaw - grandmother (My pepaw taught me to shoot.)
- sissy - could be someone named Sissy (maybe short for Cecila); could be one’s sister (I love my sissy.)
- my old lady - one’s wife or long-term female partner, not derogatory (My old lady makes the best cornbread.)
- my old man - one’s husband or long-term male partner, not derogatory (My old man cleaned out the garage.)
- the old lady - one’s mother, not derogatory (The old lady took great care of us when we were kids.)
- the old man - one’s father, not derogatory (The old man was pretty strict.)
- we’uns - us; multiple people, including the speaker (We’uns love to get together for Sunday dinner.)
- ya’ll - multiple people, not including the speaker (Ya’ll go wherever you like.)
Southerners can have strong feelings about lots of subjects, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that their slang features a number of creative ways to express the opposing emotions of anger and happiness.
- angry as a swarm of hornets - seriously angry (He made her angry as a swarm of hornets.)
- fit to be tied - furious (What she said made me so mad. I’m fit to be tied.)
- happy as a tick on a fat dog - satisfied, comfy. (I like my job. I’m as happy as a tick on a fat dog.)
- happier than a pig in slop - overcome with happiness; wallowing in joy (I am happier than a pig in slop with my test results.)
- happier than a tornado in a trailer park - very happy, satisfied (She loves playing basketball. She’s just happier than a tornado in a trailer park.)
- madder than a swarm of bees - extremely angry. (I had never seen her so upset before. She was madder than a swarm of bees.)
Ain’t nobody can voice a put-down like a Southerner. Check out some common Southern slang slams and snide remarks.
- ain’t got a pot to piss in - broke, someone with no money or means (Annie told you she’s paying you $1,000 for that? She ain't got a pot to piss in.)
- ain’t that special - something that is anything but special (Sequined underwear? Now, ain't that special?)
- could start an argument in an empty house - argumentative, difficult person (Don’t tell Terry you disagree. He could start an argument in an empty house.)
- could talk the bark off an oak tree - someone who talks constantly and will not shut up (Please don’t invite Sue Ellen. She is so chatty she could talk the bark off an oak tree.)
- high mind and a low behind - people who aren’t rich act like they are wealthy (I know what I can afford, unlike some people who’ve got a high mind and a low behind.)
- the engine's runnin' but nobody's drivin'- foolish or clueless person; not very smart (Well, I wouldn’t take advice from him. You know, the engine’s runnin’ but nobody’s drivin’)
- the lights are on, but ain’t nobody home - describes someone who isn’t very smart (I wouldn’t borrow her notes to study. You know, the lights are on, but ain’t nobody home.)
- one fry short of a Happy Meal - clueless, crazy or both of the above (Don’t go anywhere alone with Tom. You know, he’s one fry short of a Happy Meal.)
- wouldn't know the truth if it slapped her upside the face - person who is a chronic liar or one who is very naive (Don’t believe a word she says. That girl wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped her upside the face.)
The South is known for tasty vittles often referred to as soul food. If you’re looking for something that’ll stick to your ribs, you just can’t beat a locally owned roadside diner in the Heart of Dixie.
Before you visit the South, make sure you learn the proper terminology for meals and other food-related scenarios.
- co-cola - Coca Cola brand soft drink; otherwise known as Coke
- coke - any kind of soft drink; not necessarily a Coke
- lunch - a cold midday meal
- dinner - a hot midday meal
- make groceries - go to the grocery store; mostly used in Louisiana
- meat and three - a main dish meat served with three sides of your choice
- the pig - Piggly Wiggly; popular Southern Supermarket
Southerners have some interesting phrases to use to discuss eating food, something that seems to happen an awful lot in the South. Whether someone has eaten too much or is ready to dine, Southerners definitely enjoy chatting about food.
- ‘bout to starve - seriously hungry (When will dinner be read? I’m ‘bout to starve)
- full as a tick - very full from overeating; refers to a tick, as in the bug that carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever (I couldn’t eat another bite. I’m as full as a tick.)
- three squares - three square meals per day (He’s got a good appetite. He eats three squares every day.)
- tide me over - a snack to fight off between meal hunger (I’m looking for a little snack to tide me over.)
- fixing to pop - feeling to fill after eating too much (I ate so much at supper, I was fixing to pop.)
If you’re visiting the South and you’re not familiar with Southern cuisine, it’s probably a good idea to verify exactly what is in any food dish you’re offered if you’re not certain.
- chicken fried - not to be confused with fried chicken; a style of coating meat in a heavy batter before deep frying it; usually chicken fried chicken (not a typo) or chicken fried steak
- chitterlings/chitlins - battered and fried pig intestines
- Conecuh - refers to Conecuh brand smoked sausage, made in Conecuh County, Alabama
- hash - chopped and fried potatoes in some parts of the South; questionable combination of organ meats in South Carolina
- hoecakes - pancakes made with cornmeal instead of flour
- hushpuppies - deep fried cornmeal batter; sometimes has corn kernels or green onions mixed in
- icebox pie - any dessert prepared in a pie crust that has to be kept refrigerated
- Miracle Whip - brand of white condiment that every Southerner will tell you is not mayonnaise (no matter what else you do, do not try to pass it off as mayo.)
- ‘nanner pudding - banana pudding made with sliced bananas, vanilla wafers and vanilla pudding; usually topped with whipped cream
- okry - okra with a Southern twang; usually breaded in cornmeal and fried; often be stewed with tomatoes or featured in gumbo
Southerners certainly have a way with words. It's no coincidence that the American South has produced some of America's greatest authors, including Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame. Even John Grisham (The Firm, The Pelican Brief) grew up steeped in the unique dialect and rhythm of the South.
While Southern terminology has spread and is often used in other regions now, many words and phrases reflect the region's unique spirit. For more colloquial terms associated with the South, check out this collection of hillbilly slang. For even more insight into how Southerners sometimes talk, explore redneck slang terminology.