You Know You’re from the South if You Know What These Words Mean

"We're fixin' to go muddin', y'all!"

You Know You’re from the South if You Know What These Words Mean
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From our obsession with sweet tea to our no-rush mindset, there are some things about the South and Southern people that—bless their hearts—the rest of the country just can’t understand. And few things make that contrast quite as clear as differences in vocabulary.

If you’re a fellow Southerner, you probably won’t bat an eye at these phrases. However, your friends to the North and the West might be left scratching their heads. So read on, y’all! And if you hail from the Midwest, you’ll definitely want to peruse these Words Only Midwesterners Know!

Shopping Cart in the Middle of a Parking Lot {Free Acts of Kindness}


1
Buggy

Those precious Yanks might think “buggies” are irrelevant for anyone who doesn’t have a baby or use a horse for transportation. Not so in the South, though! This is just another word for a shopping cart.

Example: “Fill the buggy up with some chicken and dumplins.”

For more funny regionalisms, learn the 30 Words That Have Different Meanings Throughout the U.S.

woman on phone

2
Fixin’

In the rest of the country, you won’t hear too much about “fixin’” unless there’s something broken in need of repair. But in Dixie Land, “fixin’ to do something” means getting ready to do it. Leave the G off or you might sound too big for your britches.

Example: “She’s got her buggy and she’s fixin’ to go stock up for dinner.” 

You should also make sure you stop using the 50 Words That Instantly Age You.

child beauty pageant winner

3
Druthers

Southern Belles know that this means preference or choice, coming from the words “would rather.” It’s mostly used in the phrase “if I had my druthers,” meaning “if I had it my way.”

Example: “If I had my druthers, we’d be fixin’ to eat cake for dinner.”

Cash stack

4
High cotton

Back in the height of the plantation days, high cotton meant more cotton, and more cotton meant more money. These days, if your friend is living in high cotton, he’s been enjoying a good deal of wealth or success.

Example: “I reckon he’s living in high cotton after getting that fancy degree.”

two little girls hug each other

5
Bubba and Sissy

Oh, you thought “brother” and “sister” conveyed an appropriate level of endearment? You must not be from around here. In the South, it’s “bubba” and “sissy.”

Example: “Sissy says we’re going to her house for the holidays.” 

christmas traditions

6
Hoecake

This isn’t an insult (but it sure sounds like one). The rest of the country is missing out on this tasty Southern dish. Hoecakes look like pancakes but taste like dense cornbread. Serve it up with greens and corn. Mm-mmm good!

Example: “Help yourself to the hoecakes on the table.” 

broken glass

7
Catawampus

This word sounds like something that belongs in Harry Potter, but catawampus (sometimes spelled cattywampus) is a fixture in everyday Southern speech. It describes something that’s askew, awry, or diagonal, as in “we tried setting it up straight, but it ended up catawampus.”

Example: “That’s a right cattywampus you got yourself into.”

Coins on Table Money Facts

8
Piddling

Sure, this could mean puttering around, but Southerners also like to use it as an adjective, meaning something small or trivial (in a bad way). Hopefully, you get something more than a piddling raise from your company this year!

Example: “Quit piddling around and help me set the table!” 

southern slang

9
June bug

Outside of the South, you probably won’t hear much about these brownish beetles, but in the southeastern U.S., you’ll spot these massive creepy crawlies on warm spring nights.

Example: “Watch where you sit; the porch is covered in June bugs this time of year.” 

men's health concerns over 40

10
Commode

There’s a fancy ring to the word, but don’t be too impressed if a Southern friend is taking a trip to the commode. It’s just another word for toilet.

Example: “Would y’all excuse me while I hit the commode?” 

Man Shrugging Shoulders at Work

11
Doohickey

This word might sound funny, but you won’t be laughing once you see how versatile it is. Calling something a “doohickey” means you forget what the item is actually called. The word is synonymous with the phrases “thing-a-ma-jig” and “whatsit.”

Example: “Do me a favor and pass me the doohicky over there.” 

southern slang

12
Hush up!

If you’ve ever wanted to tell someone to shush without resorting to the harsh “shut up,” take a cue from the Southerner’s playbook and use the phrase “hush up!” It may sound polite, but it gets the job done.

Example: “Y’all better hush up in church this Sunday.”

Tired Business Man

13
Plumb

The ‘b’ at the end of this word should clue you in that we aren’t talking about the fruit. South of the Mason-Dixon, plumb means “completely, totally.”

Example: “I’m plumb tired after this long day.”

southern slang

14
Hoppin’ John

This isn’t just a nickname for someone’s crazy neighbor. It’s also a dish made of black-eyed peas and rice. Eat it on New Year’s and it’s said to bring good luck—the beans symbolize a hefty pile of coins coming your way. You might also hear it referred to as Carolina peas and rice.

Example: “Nana gave me her favorite Hoppin’ John recipe before she passed away.” 

15
Washeteria

This word means just what it sounds like: A place to do your washing. Most of the country would call it a self-service Laundromat, but “washeteria” has a nice ring to it. Washeteria started as a chain of Laundromats in Texas and then took off as a synonym for Laundromat itself.

Example: “I’m heading to the washeteria to get the mud off these clothes.” 

And for more on great language, see these 30 Words That Will Make You Sound Smarter.

child having tantrum

16
Hissy

Quit throwing a hissy! Just because this slang word doesn’t always end with “fit” in the South doesn’t make it any less of a tantrum.

Example: “He’s getting hissy because we didn’t stop for food.” 

For more on the English language, see these 40 Words That Will Instantly Reveal Your Age.

southern slang

17
Mudding

Country folk know exactly what it means to go mudding: Gathering friends in a pickup or SUV and going off-roading. This particular activity involves racing through terrains that are—you guessed it—muddy, like wet fields and lake beds, so the vehicle gets totally caked with dirt.

Example: “Hop in the truck, we’re going mudding.”

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