Southern Girl Academy: Southernisms

Mark Twain (author, Southerner, all-around awesome gentleman) once said “Southerners talk music!” This is true for Southern women, only more so. No matter the pitch or timbre of her voice, the sound of a Southern Girl’s speech is sweeter than Tupelo Honey.

In recent years, “Southern” seems to have been equated with “Redneck.” We here at the Academy aim to remedy that ugly bit of misinformation. Yes, the South is full of hicks and hillbillies and mountain men and river rats, but no Southern Girl worth her weight in cornbread talks ignorant.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

According to folks who know such, there are no less than nine different dialects that fall under the Southern American English umbrella. It may take some doing, but any fine-tuned ear can pick out a Hotlanna diphthong (look it up, y’all), a Chawlston drawl, or a Tennessee twang.

Words just sound better coming out of a Southern Girl’s mouth. They are slower and gentler than Yankee language. (One might blame the harsh Northern winters for such harsh sounds. One never knows.) There was a reason Scarlett O’Hara charmed all the men, and it wasn’t her seamstress skills.

It’s high-time for a little lesson; the Do’s and Don’ts of Southern Lexicon:

  • Do greet everyone you meet with a “Hi, y’all” and a “How’s your mama?” It’s just polite and it shows you care. Bonus points if you ask about their mama’s tomato plants or flower bed.
  • Don’t ever, and we do mean never, use the word “ain’t.” It’s lazy and ugly. Southern Girls don’t do ugly.
  • Do be certain you know the different amounts- piddlin’, fair-to-middlin’, and heaps. It helps to know distance measurements as well- right near, yonder and a far piece.
  • Don’t dare underestimate the power of uttering “Bless your heart” to keep from saying what you really feel.

Even more than the words themselves, the delivery of those words is key to understanding many Southernisms. It’s been said that a diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip. If that’s true, then Southern Girls may very well be the ultimate diplomats.

  • When faced with a particularly squishy-faced baby, a Southern Girl will exclaim, “Well isn’t he sweet!”
  • When a visitor has worn out his welcome, a Southern Girl mentions how nice it was of him to stop by- as she opens the door.
  • When a less-skilled cook burns the breakfast eggs, a Southern Girl comments that the grits were heavenly.
  • When a Southern Girl is at a loss for words (it is rare, but it does happen once in a blue moon) she simply says, “Now isn’t that somethin’.”

Southern Girls are storytellers and (almost) always tell the truth, but do so with grace and, yes, our trademark sass. Find a belle near you, talk sweet to her, and she just might teach you to master Southernisms as well.

Just don’t let anyone fool you into believing that Southern Girls are barefoot and over-all’d, no-count fools. That dog won’t hunt ‘round here.

Savannah ButlerSavannah Butler is an umpteenth generation Southern Girl. The daughter of a teacher and granddaughter of a librarian, she has had a life-long love affair with words. As a mother of three small children, sometimes the only words she hears are unintelligible shrieks. She enjoys the scent of magnolia trees, the taste of sweet tea, and the thrill of the Kentucky Derby. She lives a funny life filled with funny people, and to repay them, she blogs about it.

She currently serves as President of the Board for Southern Girl Academy

Advertisements

10 Responses

  1. When in Louisiana, it’s also proper to add “an’em” to “How’s your mama?”

  2. One of my favorite lines from “Sweet Home Alabama” was “Just because we talk slow doesn’t mean we’re stupid.”

    One of the most liberating and interesting things I’m learning in my History and Structure of the English Language class is that there is no one perfect English. British English isn’t better than American English, and what is spoken in the northern parts of America isn’t superior to those in the South (or vice versa). The constant change and variety of the English language have been its hallmark since its inception and are what have kept it around this long.

    A few Southernisms that always baffle non-natives: “fixin’ to” and “do what?”

  3. brillant

  4. Well. Bless your heart. 🙂

  5. Well honey, that was just lovely!

  6. Love.
    Where I’m from “God Love ‘Em’ is interchangeable with “Bless their heart”

    The term tump is used (it is the combination of tip, and dump.)

    And, Southern folk in general, know their manners. We say ma’m, sir, please and thank you.

  7. Finally! Where has this Academy been all of my life? Originally from Alabama, I’m now in an Atlanta suburb – which contrary to popular belief is NOT the South. I now have a source to point my Northern brethren towards so they can better understand what Southern “is.” Thank You!!

  8. Dearest Southern Sisters,

    Please help. I’m FROM South Carolina, raised mostly just south of the Missouri River (God was Merciful, and I thankful). However my parents divorced, and my mother was born and raised in Illinois (though she IS a lady in many ways, there is a difference to a lady and a SOUTHERN lady. However she is to be respected of course.) My Granddaddy is from Georgia (God being kind again) and has imparted in me some small mannerisms. I love your site, and the lessons you teach us all. I can’t wait for more.

    My problem however is not with myself. It’s with trying to train my yankee boyfriend to be a gentleman. He was born and raised just north of the river, and it seems to be just north enough. I’m hard pressed to just get him to open the door for me sometimes.

    Sisters… Please help. I love him dearly, but he is about to drive me batty.

    I am much appreciative,
    Miss Mary Caitlyn Green

  9. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way in
    all situations in life. Buying a car is no different!
    That means you need to read advice from experts, as detailed below, to ensure that when you shop for that car, you really
    know what you’re doing and how to get the best deal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: