Down in the South things are a little different and a lot of things are quite a bit different. That extends to the lingo much more than the quintessential "Y'all". In the South one will find warm hospitality, abiding love of football, and Forrest Gump. That is not to mention the Southern dishes one will never get sick of.

The Southerners are known for speaking with metaphors, similes, and hyperbole. They are renowned for their polite way of speaking and for being able to insult people not from the South without them even realizing it.


Background Of The Accents Of The South

The South is a large region and there are many differences depending on where one is. Today the dialects of the South are becoming increasingly rural and are often strongest in varieties of the Appalachian areas as well as with certain varieties of Texan English.

  • Southern Accents: Once Much More Diverse

There was once a great diversity of Southern dialects, these were a consequence of the mix of English speakers coming from the British Isles. In particular, the immigrants were from Southern England and were Scots-Irish.

  • Fun Fact: In English "You" Was only Plural, But Now It is Singular And Plural. "You" Is Becoming Singular, while "You All" - "Y'all" is The Plural Form

The Southern dialect trends shifted after the Civil War as Southerners increasingly moved to the Appalachian mill towns, to Texan farms, or even out of the South entirely. As time went on a newer and more unified form of Southern American English consolidated. Since the 1950s it has been in decline with younger and more urban Southerners speaking evermore with a generalized American accent.


While still widespread, it has become inconsistent in the large metropolitan city of Atlanta deep in the South.

Related: 10 Essential Stops When Road Tripping Through Southern USA

Watch Out For Sacrastic Expressions!

"Bless Your Heart"

This expression is a show of appreciation for someone who has done something nice (like when someone has brought one a coffee) or as a sympathetic phrase when someone is having a hard time with things.

But it may not always be said sincerely and it may be a soft way of insulting someone. It is offended used when the Southerner thinks the other person is stupid or misguided.

"Aren't You Precious"

Another expression that can be similar is “Aren’t You Precious”. This is a rhetorical question that compliments something or someone cute or sweet. But it in the South it can also be said sarcastically - especially if that person has just done something stupid or insulting. Watch out for being killed with kindness!

Related: Chicken Mull, Pimento, And Fried Green Tomatoes: Iconic Southern Staples You Should Be Eating


Other Southern Expressions

"Reckon" is another term often used in the South, but it is not just from the South. It is common to hear the English and particularly Australians and New Zealanders use it all the time in place of "I think". It has been known for people in Northern America to think of traveling Australians and New Zealanders as sounding a little Southern with their frequent use of the word. "I reckon" is just to mean  "I believe" or, "I think"

"If the Creek Don't Rise". One may be able to work this one out by the context. The Southerners may say "I'll be there if the creek don't rise" that is to say unless something unforeseen happens prohibiting them from doing it - like the creek rising and being unable to cross it. It's a way of saying that unless something happens like one's car breaking down, then one will be there.


  • “Over Yonder”: A Distant Direction. "Where's The Restaurant?" "It Just Over Yonder And Down That Road"
  • “‘Til the Cows Come Home”: Also Used In Other English Countries, it Means It Will Take A Long Time. In The Old Way of Farming, The Cows Would Come Home at Dusk
  • “Cattywampus”: Means Its Askew, or Crooked - a Picture on the Wall Can Be "Cattywampus"
  • “Pot Calling the Kettle Black”: Refers to When Someone Is Guilty of The Same Thing They Are Accusing someone Else Of
  • “She’s As Pretty As a Peach”: A High Compliment, And Used To Compliment A Girl
  • “I’m About to Fly Off the Handle”: An Expression That One Is So Angry One Is About to Lose Self Control
  • “Doohicky”: A "Thingymabob" "Whatamacallit" or "Doobawaki" - Something One Can't Remember The Name For
  • “Gimme Some Sugar”: Give Me Something Sweet - Like A Kiss
  • “Busy as a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: A Cat is Not Going To Stay On The Hot Tin Roof For An Instant. So Means Some Is So busy They Don't Stop For a Breather

For a fuller list of 50 expressions see Serving up The South. Alternatively, brush up on your Scottish expressions for your next trip to Bonny Wee Scotland.

Next: A Guide To The Best Southern Food In Charleston