Bless Your Heart (And Other Southern Phrases)
As a transplant to this area, I find the charm and language here in the South puts a smile on my face on a regular basis. It took me a while to acclimate and, sometimes, to decipher as some of the accents can be a bit on the heavy side. One thing I learned rather quickly is not all that is said is as it seems. Here are some of the most commonly used Southern sayings. If you’re like me, they will bring some joy to your day.
Bless Your Heart
Perhaps the most common phrase distinct to the South is “bless your heart”. When I first relocated here, I heard it directed at me a lot more often than I care to admit. Although sometimes uttered with the sweetest of intent, more times than not, it’s the Southern way of politely dismissing you. Try to pay attention to the delivery. If there is a subtle shake of the head, chances are the person using this phrase isn’t actually being kind.
Yes Ma’am (Sir)
Although not a true Southern phrase, you’re likely to hear the words, “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes, sir” more often than anywhere else when vacationing in Myrtle Beach. Seems these phrases are the only way to answer a question in the south. This also took some getting used to on my part as these terms were generally relegated to those individuals much older than me. (Think of the often used retort, “My mom is ma’am”.)
Aren’t You Precious
While this often sounds like a question, it is really a statement used to compliment something considered cute or sweet. It is typically intended as an interjection and usually used in reference to a child’s behavior. The term can also be used as a sarcastic expression of endearment for someone you don’t like.
Give Me Some Sugar
While this phrase may bring to mind the passing of the sugar bowl, this phrase means “give me a kiss!” or, in some instances, a hug. Most often, this term is used by grandma when she sees her children or grandchildren. You’ll also hear this uttered in a flirtatious way between a couple.
Get Me a Buggy
This one took some getting used to. I remember hearing this for the first time from an older woman speaking to her husband in the grocery store. Her arms were full and she looked at her husband and sighed, “Get me a buggy, will you?” It probably took me a full 20 seconds to realize she was asking for a grocery cart!
As a Maryland transplant, I can attest to the fact that “y’all” is not unique to the south. This phrase is quite common in Baltimore too. “Y’all” just sounds better in the south! And, it has many more meanings here than up north. Although this word typically describes a group of people being spoken to; it can also be directed towards a group or even an individual that is inherently part of a group (whether or not the group is present). To add to the confusion, some people add, ‘all’ before the word y’all (“All y’all!”) If you visit us here in Myrtle Beach, you are bound to hear this phrase more than once during your visit.
Here are a few more, less common Southern phrases:
Fixin’ To – as in “I’m fixin’ to eat supper.” This phrase is as Southern as sweet tea.
It Doesn’t Amount to a Hill of Beans – In the South, a hill of beans isn’t worth much. That means whatever you’re talking about is worth very little.
Over Yonder – “Over yonder” is a distant direction—any direction. This phrase is usually accompanied by a gesture indicating north, south, east, or west.
She was Madder Than a Wet Hen – If you’ve ever seen a wet hen, you know how mad they are.
I Reckon – “I reckon” takes the place of a variety of other phrases such as: I guess, I suppose, I think, and I imagine.
Hush Your Mouth – Kinder than “shut up” you’ll likely hear this phrase when you are too loud for the setting (picture children in church on a Sunday morning).
Too Big for His Britches – This one is most definitely an insult and is generally used to refer to someone that thinks they are better than everyone else.