Andrew Parker

25 Southern Phrases That Northerners Will Never Understand

If the South is known for something, it’s Southern hospitality. But there’s a lot more to it because Southerners essentially have their own language that Northerners will never understand. Here are 25 words and phrases that only Southerners use.

Bless Your Heart

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If you’ve ever been in the South and heard someone say, “Bless your heart,” you might think they’re being nice. That’s usually true, but it completely depends on how the other person says it. For example, they might just think you’re being stupid, and they’re trying to be indirect about it. Either way, at least they’re being polite, even if you don’t know what to say back.

Fixin’ To

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Someone who says they’re “fixin’ to” do something means they’re about to get started on it any minute now. Of course, it could also be a threat, especially if they’re “fixin’ to sort you out,” so you might want to watch out. Either way, it’s a pretty good of the Southern approach to life, which is all about taking life as it comes.


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Is there any phrase more Southern than “y’all?” We don’t think so. It’s a Southerner’s way of rounding up the group, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re family, friends, or someone that they’ve just met. Southerners are known for their hospitality, and “y’all” is the perfect example of this.

Madder Than a Wet Hen

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When someone’s “madder than a wet hen,” you best believe they’re not just a little annoyed. They’re angry enough to blow a gasket, so you better watch out. It’s a phrase that’s got enough Southern spice to turn a normal emotion into something you can almost see exploding in front of you.

Hush Your Mouth

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If you’re talking about something and hear “hush your mouth,” that means it’s time to zip it. Someone who says this to you is telling you to keep your thoughts on the down low, which could be because it’s surprising or even a little scandalous. It might sound rude, but honestly, we’d much rather hear this than a flat-out “be quiet.”

Over Yonder

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Something “over yonder” could be a hop, skip, and a jump away, or it could be a bit further down the road. Most Southerners will use it to talk about something that’s not exactly in sight, but it’s also not too far away, either. The word actually comes from a mix of English and Dutch, as “yonder” is a version of “ginder,” which is Dutch, and “yon,” which is English.


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The next time you’re in a Southern grocery store and someone asks you to grab a buggy, they’re not actually talking about a small car but a shopping cart. It’s one of those phrases that’ll probably catch you off guard if you’ve got no idea what it means. But now you know it, those grocery store trips should be a lot simpler.


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Got something “cattywampus?” That means it’s all sideways and not sitting straight like it should be. It’s that word you use when you’re describing a room where everything’s all over the place, but somehow, that’s all part of the charm. Using the word “cattywampus” is sure to confuse any Northener, which makes the chaos just a bit more bearable.

I Reckon

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Telling people “I reckon” means you’re telling them your thoughts but with a Southern twist. It’s much better than “I think,” and it shows you’re really chewing over your words before letting them out. Sure, “reckon” might be a common English word, but saying “I reckon?” That’s something exclusively Southern.

Carry Me to the Store

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If someone asks you to “carry you to the store,” they’re not exactly asking you for a lift in their arms, but in their car instead. Why do Southerners say this? It’s a way for them to make even a simple ride feel more like an act of friendship. If only asking for all favors could be as nice as this one.


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A “frunchard” is what the rest of us would call a front yard. This isn’t just a random name, as Southerners take their front yard pretty seriously. It’s where they catch the evening breeze and wave at neighbors as they pass, usually inviting them into the house for a meal. You can almost picture yourself sitting with them, sweet tea in hand.

Quit Being Ugly

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When a Southerner says, “quit being ugly,” it’s got nothing to do with someone’s looks. They’re actually talking about someone’s actions or attitude, and they’re trying to make someone stop. If you’re spreading negativity or being plain mean, that’s what they call being “ugly.” Don’t you know that Southerners are all about being nice?

He Thinks the Sun Comes Up Just to Hear Him Crow

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This one’s for the people who’ve got enough confidence to spare and then some. Southerners will use “he thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow” to talk about someone who’s pretty darn full of themselves. Essentially, it’s a playful jab at someone who might need a little humbling now and again.

Sho Nuff

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“Sho nuff” is the Southern way of sealing the deal after someone says something. Like many Southern phrases, it’s pretty versatile because it could mean “sure enough,” and could also be a way of asking for confirmation, kinda like “really?” There are a lot of Southern phrases like this that are a mixture of words.

That Dog Won’t Hunt

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Next up is a phrase that’s as practical as it is poetic. Telling someone “that dog won’t hunt” is the Southern way of telling someone that their plan or idea has zero chance of working out. It’s a gentle way of letting someone down easily by telling them they should go back to the drawing board, but without hurting their feelings too much.

Well, I Declare

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Whether they’re confused or they’ve just got something to say, a lot of Southerners will use “Well, I declare” to share their feelings. It doesn’t really matter if they’re feeling good or if they’ve got something negative to say because it’ll work for both. After all, they couldn’t just say “I think,” could they? That’d be plain boring and not at all Southern. 

He Was Funny As All Get Out

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“He was funny as all get out” is one of the best compliments you can get from a Southerner because it means that they think you’re absolutely hilarious. They think your humor has no bounds, and you’ve got them gasping for air. Forget simply just being “funny,” because being “funny as all get out” means you’re unforgettable.

My Eyeballs Are Floating

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This phrase is one of those you’ll only understand if you use it. “My eyeballs are floating” is for those moments when you can’t hold it in any longer, and you’ve just got to go to the bathroom. It sounds strange, but it’s definitely a lot politer and way funnier than telling someone you need to pee.

Worn Slap Out

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We’ve all had one of those days where we feel really tired, but “worn slap out?” That’s for those days when you’re dragging your feet and daydreaming about sleeping from the moment you wake up. Being “worn slap out” means that every part of you, from your eyelids to your toes, feels like it’s made of lead.

Hold Your Horses

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Telling someone to “hold your horses” is a Southern version of telling them to slow down and to think about what they’re doing. It makes a lot of sense, as Southerners are all about living a slower life. Some people might think they’re being lazy, but real Southerners know they just like to go a little slower.


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When someone’s acting all “highfalutin,” they’re trying to put on a show by making themselves seem more important than they actually are. This phrase is a way for them to poke fun at someone’s superiority complex and remind them to keep it real. In the South, being humble is an absolute must.

Can’t Never Could

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“Can’t, never could” is definitely a phrase that’d make an English teacher mad, but any Southerner will tell you that it’s a genuine way to speak. It’s a way of telling someone that their negativity and doubt aren’t going to get them anywhere. A can-do attitude is something we can all benefit from, and even the research shows that it can help.

Give Him Two Nickels For a Dime, and He’ll Think He’s Rich

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“Give him two nickels for a dime and he’ll think he’s a rich” is one heck of a phrase to talk about how someone’s being way too naive or just plain dumb. But, like a lot of Southern phrases, it’s a way of doing this without being too harsh. Southerners love accepting innocent mistakes but with a little grin instead.

Too Big For His Britches

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We’ve all seen someone who struts around like they own the place and forgets their roots a bit. During those times, that’s when “too big for your britches” comes in to tell this person they’re being a little too full of themselves. It’s unclear where this phrase came from, but one thing’s certain, and that’s that this phrase is pretty darn useful.

It Makes Me Wanna Slap My Mama

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Okay, we’ll admit that “it makes me wanna slap my mama” does sound pretty shocking at first. But it actually means that you think something is so good it’s almost unbelievable, especially when it comes to food. It’s the kind of phrase you’ll only ever use in certain situations, but when you do, everyone knows you mean business.

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