Things We Say in the South that Drive People Crazy

I was born in New Jersey. Although I didn’t even live there a year, I’ve been told, on several occasions, I have a “Northern Accent” and cute things like “they took the girl out of Jersey but couldn’t take the Jersey out of the girl.” I have also been accused of told that I drive like a Yankee (no turn signals, gestures, etc).

That being said, there are some things we others say here in the South that tend to drive everyone not from here crazy. Here is a sampling:

“I’m fixin’ to”

“Bless your heart”

“I might could”

“But for” (or as my college writing professor Sarah Messer used to write it on people’s workshop pieces “butt 4”)

“Are you puny?” (Puny means sick. When my brother, the largest child ever born on the Eastern seaboard (not really, but close), was two and sick, my Dad took him to the doctor who asked, “Michael are you puny today?” My father looked at the doctor like he had two heads. This kid? Puny?)

We “cut” the lights off.

We use “buggys” at the grocery store.

We call people we don’t know “honey” and “shug.”

If we pass you on the road, even if we’ve never seen you before we wave. (okay, so that’s not something we say, it’s something we do, but it still drives folks crazy.)

Addressing all adults as “sir” and “ma’am” regardless of age.

And that’s a small sampling. Feel free to share more in the comments section.

What motivated this post was a post this week from Jimmy Akin at NCR about referring to the Pope as Pope Ratzinger or Pope Wojtyla and his feeling, initially, that it was a crude and disrespectful way to address the Pope. Upon further investigation, he found that is was actually a very common tradition in Europe and considered more respectful there and that it even appears in Vatican writing. I came away thinking, well, it’s not my way, but I don’t find it disrespectful.

Where I live in the South is a hotbed for Northern transplants. Particularly retirees. I find quite a few of them in the position where the constantly criticize the way things are done in the South and the speaking patterns etc. My general response to this is: go back where you like it better. But, I think it bears saying that just because someone speaks in a different way or might have more courses for dinner or serve greens on the table at every meal doesn’t mean they are wrong or better or worse. Just different. There are things I like better in the South and things I like better in the North. But neither one is better or worse than the other necessarily. So, if you’ve moved to a new area and feel like an alien landing from outer space, just try to get used to the way things are done. If you spend all your time bemoaning what you miss, you will find yourself missing out on some great new experiences and people.


3 thoughts on “Things We Say in the South that Drive People Crazy

  1. Kristin, I think that waving to passing motorist thing isn’t southern, but country. I’ve lived in several eastern states and in California, always suburban or urban locations. It was when I moved to rural NW Pennsylvania that I first saw the waving thing. And do it now myself. But here’s the Western PA language thing that drives me nuts: instead of “This car needs fixing” or “needs TO BE fixed”, everyone says “the car needs fixed” ,”the lawn needs raked”, etc. Even highly educated people do this, and I’ve seen it on local government documents.

  2. I’m a native NYer, grew up in South Florida, studied in NC and TX and now live in MD. Once in a while I will say “wata” for “water” and hear the NYer. I’m partial to “y’all” and “Howdy” so sometimes you hear the Texan (and misspelling “Y’all” is one of my greatest pet peeves!). I learned to drive in South Florida and so, from a state very flat, I have a tendency to drive fast, even through a downpour. Now in MD, I miss my TexMex and think most MDers don’t know how to drive (their obsession with backing into a parking spot ought to be a matter of scientific study!) or communicate.

    I don’t think there is a whole lot different groups do that I find offensive but there is one, which you mention. I take no objection if an elderly woman calls me “baby” or “honey” or “sugar” but as they are actually terms of endearment, I really don’t like people I don’t know taking such a casual and personal approach to me. I also take great offense if people take such levity with my name and begin giving me, or my husband or my children, nicknames they don’t have or haven’t said they could use. In high school I had a teacher who always like to call me Katie or Kathleen when taking attendance even though the roll said Katherine and I had repeatedly corrected her. I’ve NEVER gone by either of those. Some days I really didn’t hear her since it wasn’t my name. Some days I just knew she meant me but refused to answer. (My mom would wonder why she got calls from the school reporting my absence.) I found it very disrespectful and it heightened my sensitivity to it.

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