17 Phrases Only Southerners Understand

The Southern vocabulary can be pretty confusing and sometimes amusing to people from other parts of the US. As entertaining as it may seem, these charming and mystifying phrases are as rich in culture; check out these 17 phrases only Southerners understand, and you’ll see what we mean!

Bless Your Heart

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One popular Southern phrase is ‘Bless Your Heart’, a confusing phrase due to its multiple use cases. It could either mean a polite expression of pity or disbelief or, depending on its context, genuine sympathy. Context is everything, and only a Southerner would know the difference.

Fixin’ To

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If you ever hear a Southerner say they’re “fixin’ to” do something, it means they will get started on it, but don’t hold your breath. It is a simple way of saying that either it could take minutes, an hour, or a year.

Sweet Tea

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Despite tea originating in Asia, the South has its own variety—sweet tea. Traditional Southern-style sweet tea is made in boiling water with tons of sugar, similar to iced tea. If you are ever interested in trying your hand at this symbol of hospitality, Southern Breeze has many recipes.

Over Yonder

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A phrase that may sound like something straight out of any fantasy movie, “Over yonder”, is a way of pointing out the direction or location of something. However, distance confusingly doesn’t apply to these directions. ‘Over yonder’ could either be just down the road or many miles down the road.

Madder Than a Wet Hen

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If you hear someone being described as “madder than a wet hen,” you should stay far away from them. This phrase describes someone who is either angry or frustrated, so steering clear is the best thing to do to give them time to calm down.

Gussied Up

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When you get all dressed up to look nicer than you would on a normal day, it’s known as getting “gussied up” to the Southerners. Southern Living explains that this phrase would typically be used when dressing smartly for a church service, wedding, or other special occasion.

Well, Butter My Backside and Call Me a Biscuit

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In the South, if you told your grandma about something you achieved and were proud of, she would likely respond, “Well, butter my backside and call me a biscuit.” Obviously, this has nothing to do with biscuits; it’s an expression of positive surprise, enthusiasm, and pride!

Hush Your Mouth

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Have you ever heard your grandmother say, “Hush your mouth”? If not, you’re clearly not from the South. This expression isn’t about silencing someone, though; it’s actually used to express disbelief, similar to saying, “No way!?”. For example, a southern person may say it if they saw someone cutting in line to enter church.


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What we know as a shopping cart in most parts of the world is amusingly known to Southerners as “buggies.” This is just one of many examples where it feels like Southerners choose new words for things for no apparent reason other than that they sound fun!

Full as a Tick

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For the rest of the world, “I’m stuffed” means a person has had enough food, but in the South, they like to add their usual quirkiness. Instead, they say, “I’m full as a tick.” It’s not exactly the most glamorous expression, but we can’t fault them for their accuracy!

Cut the Lights

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To cut something often means to stop it, so it may not surprise you that instead of saying, “Turn off the lights”, Southerners would say, “Cut the lights.” However, this isn’t as logical as it first seems because they will also say “Cut on the lights” to turn the lights back on… confusing!

Well, I S’wanee

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“Well, I swear” is a common phrase in the US, but Southerners have their own version of this: “Well, I s’wanee.” This phrase appears to refer to the Southern geographical location of the Suwannee River, but we’re not too sure why they chose this!


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In the South, if you “tump” something, it means you have accidentally spilled, tipped over, or turned over something, such as beans or sweet tea. This word is a combination of “dump” and “tip” and is particularly commonly heard in Texas.

Sweet as a Peach

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“Sweet as a peach” is a high compliment to give in the South, originating from the idea of the South being rich for its peaches. Places like South Carolina and Georgia have more peaches than any other states, so to them, there is nothing sweeter or prettier than a peach on a summer day.

“‘Til the Cows Come Home”

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Cows aren’t exactly famous for being fast, so when a Southerner uses the phrase “till the cows come home”, you know that someone or something is going to take a while. Serving Up Southern illustrates this phrase with the perfect example, “They’ll be arguing about this til the cows come home.”

Carry On

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To carry on is a common phrase around the world, meaning to continue with something, but Southerners use it differently. Instead, it means to make a spectacle or fuss about something. For example, you might hear it being used in the following way: “Stop a-carryin’ on, I can’t hear myself think!”

“If the Creek Don’t Rise”

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Finally, you’ll often hear the phrase “If the creek don’t rise” in Southern parts of the US, essentially meaning, “As long as nothing goes wrong.” For example, if you were driving to meet your friend but were worried about traffic, you might tell them, “I’ll see you at five if the creek don’t rise.”

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