40 Southern phrases explained

All-American Southern woman
How to speak Southern

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If you're a transplant from up north, you may find it difficult to understand the strange words and phrases uttered by your Southern neighbors. Fear not! We've got a guide to Southern vernacular written for you by a real Southerner.

The first thing you should know is that Southerners are prone to hyperbole. While this list covers some of the main phrases you'll hear, if it sounds like we might be exaggerating, we probably are, but it's just for effect. Warning: Sometimes Southerners can be crass.


Access road

Service road; the road that allows you entrance to the highway


Ain't got the good sense God gave a rock

Someone who lacks all common sense (may also use a goose or other animal instead of rock)


Bless your heart

A seemingly empathetic phrase usually uttered when the speaker believes the recipient to be sweet but misguided or stupid or, when they believe the recipient needs to grow up and deal with it; when said sarcastically, dumba**


(Too) big for your britches

To take yourself too seriously


Break bad

To raise hell, defy authority or generally go wild or break the law; when used before the preposition "on," to dominate or humiliate


Busy as a cat on a hot tin roof

Too busy attending to your own immediate needs to do anything else


Catawampus / caddywonked



Cain't never could

You never will if you don't try


(To) carry on

To continue on foolishly, usually referring to a tantrum or fit



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Comments on "40 Southern phrases explained"

JM November 27, 2013 | 9:37 AM

The explanations for "Good 'ol boy" and "Redneck" are way, way off base. A good 'ol boy is anyone who prefers a rudimentary southern lifestyle, and can often be called upon to act the part of a southern gentleman if required or prudent. It has nothing to do with preferences for "muddin'", and has existed long before said act was a fad. A redneck is more a regional term than anything. When used descriptively, it typically indicates one with an extremely southern vernacular (who may be occasionally slow witted) that tends to enjoy the more simple things in life, not commonly taking them for granted. It has nothing to do with musical preferences or keenness on bonfires. Your modern stereotypes belie the fact that most culture in the south is slowly being eroded by these would-be good 'ol boys that pick up their guitars, pander to a demographic that gives them money, and go back home to their mansions, monogrammed polos, and Jordache jeans. Yep. Real country right there.

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