Southern slang that should be approved as AP style

If the sudden switch to ‘%’ instead of ‘percent’ has rocked you down to your giblets, this post is for you—even for those residing up yonder.

Southern slang

Y’all better hold on to yer britches.

The Associated Press recently announced a slew of new changes, so now seems like an opportune time to offer a few more to our genteel Grammar Gatekeeper.

Why not? It’s worth a shot, and I do declare that Southern words and phrases should move to the front of the approval line—if for no other reason than that they are fun to say and hear.

Grab a basket of hush puppies, refresh your sweet tea or other libation that’s been soaked in a bourbon barrel, and let’s review the merits of fine Southern expressions that deserve validation.

[Editor’s note: Reading the following examples aloud in a drawl thick as molasses in January is not compulsory, but it dad-gum oughta be.]

I’s—It’s a more efficient version of “I was.”

We’ve embraced similar contractions, such as “I’d,” so why not?

“I’s gonna head into town, but my dang tractor broke.”

Yer—Saying “you are” sounds weird and takes way too much time to annunciate. Writing “you’re” looks funny. “Yer” sounds right, looks right, and doesn’t it just feel right?

“If you yell ‘Roll Tide’ in my face one more time, yer gonna git it.”

(For more on “gonna” and “git,” jes’ read on a spell.)

GonnaGonna has landed a rightful spot in the dictionary, apparently, but there’s still a stigma attached to this perfectly fine word. Let’s make it official and get it into the Stylebook, AP.

“I’m gonna mow the grass; just let me finish my Miller High Life, honey.”

Git—This is the super-utility player of Southern diction. Depending on the context in which it’s uttered—and how fired up Grandmammy is—it can mean “Go away,” “Get,” “Let’s go,” or “Move along before I git my 12-gauge.”

“Come on, Maw, let’s git before traffic starts pilin’ up.”

Y’ant to? (or y’anna?)—I bet swapping “Do you want to” with snappy alternatives “y’ant to” or “y’anna” could save up to three months’ worth of speaking time over the course of a lifespan. That’s a lot of extra hours on the lake.

“Y’anna come over for supper?”

Kiss my grits—This delightful expression, coined by Alabama native Polly Holliday in the sitcom “Alice,” is a kinder, gentler way to tell someone to shove it.

“You don’t like it? Well, you can kiss my grits.”

Britches— Can we just agree that pants should always be called britches? Please, and thank you.

“Son, did you seriously put a crawfish in brother’s britches again?”

Do hwhat?— This was my grandaddy’s go-to response when someone asked a question while the Braves were on. It’s a nicer, more concise way to say, “Sorry, I wasn’t listening. What would you like me to do?

“Do hwhat now? Oh, yep, I’ll go get that possum.” 

Turnt— This is much more exciting than “turned,” don’t you think? The Brits have made “burnt” a thing, so I think we can proceed with sanctioning the use of “turnt.”

“Sorry, officer. I didn’t realize that my custom trolling motor with a Hemi was turnt to full speed.”

Y’all— Obviously.

“Y’all hush, please. The game’s on”

Taters— P’taters is also acceptable, but only if you have time for an additional syllable. Also synonymous with “home run.”

“Hoo-boy, Willie walloped a big ol’ tater last inning.”

Highfalutin—There’s fancy, there’s pretentious—and then there’s highfalutin. If you call someone the h-word, be prepared to engage in fisticuffs.

Look at this highfalutin fella in the Cadillac!”

If the silent “gh” is too fancy, hifalutin will do.  Webster’s says so.

Ramblin—This underused term can be used to tease someone who talks too much, and it’s a vivid way to describe wandering or moseying about. It’s a word that connotes a freewheeling, adventurous spirit, as perfectly captured by these Georgia boys (and by the greatest fight song in all the land).

“Honey, I’ve been ramblin long enough. I’m ready to come home.”

Breadbasket—Use this term interchangeably with “abdomen,” but especially in the context of hilarious minor injuries.

“Phew, Tater got me right in the breadbasket again!”

I demand satisfaction!—What else are you supposed to say to someone who insults your honor or besmirches your family name? Just be mindful of who you glove-slap and challenge to a duel. You might end up on the wrong end of pistols at dawn.

“You, sir, are a scoundrel and a rogue! I demand satisfaction!”


8 Responses to “Southern slang that should be approved as AP style”

    Carol Mattar says:

    Carry – as in “Will you carry me home?”
    Mash – as in “Mash the button” (note that Mash is pronounced with a long “a”).
    Rc- cocola – No need to choose; there’s probably only one choice anyway (not sure about the hyphen, but easier to read).

    Learned by a Midwesterner attending college in the South whose friends applauded the first time she said “Y’all.”

    Barbara MacRobie says:

    “Y’all” is truly needed! One of the (few) great fails of English is the lack of separate pronouns for second-person singular and second-person plural. “Y’all” deftly avoids the gendering of “you guys.”

    LeeAnnD says:

    How on earth did y’all leave out fixin’ to? Usage: I’m fixin’ to post to social media, y’all.

    Terri says:

    Not to be a killjoy, but as a Southerner, I find this offensive. No wonder people automatically take 20 points off the IQ of any Southerner they meet. It’s this perpetuation of the idea that we’re stupid because of our accents. (And FYI, we do say, Y’all (who doesn’t?) and perhaps gonna, and fixin’ to. But git, yer, turnt?

    Let’s try some headline substitutions here:

    African American slang that should be approved as AP style. (Then come up with about 15, and see what response you will get.)

    Native American slang that should be approved as AP style (Then come up with about 15, and see what response you will get.)

    Jewish slang that should be approved as AP style. (Then come up with about 15, and see what response you will get.)

    I could go on, but I think you git it. Don’t yer?

    Steve S says:

    Terri’s spot on: It’s always okay to denigrate certain groups of people – primarily white, Christians living in flyover country – but Katie bar the door if you were to do the same for the groups she listed and a few other groups.

    To those hypocrites I say: Bless their hearts!

    Southern translation: F.U.

    Pawwwl says:

    There are African American and Jewish southerners who use the expressions mentioned in the article. If this article offended you, perhaps you are overly sensitive.

    As someone who is an African American myself, I can say for certain that I would not be offended by the article title you suggested.

    Terrance says:

    This obviously lighthearted article is wonderful. This Terri, and their(remaining gender neutral since the name is androgynous) ilk, represents all that is wrong with the world. Please stop ruining the rest of our fun by getting up in arms about an intentionally silly article. Charge On Robby! Don’t let these people slow you down! Daily Headlines

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