As many who have read my essays are painfully aware, I am a native of the great state of Georgia who has spent most of the last 20+ years in Western New York. Some who hear me speak think my Southern drawl is barely noticeable. Others assert that my “twang” is thicker than molasses in January. I even had one surly Rochesterian give the following request: “Can you please stop talking like you just walked out of ‘Deliverance’?”
I have to be honest. I love hearing someone with an authentic southern drawl. It is about as refreshing to me as freshly brewed sweet tea. In the course of my job, I occasionally get to speak to a fellow Southerner. This sometimes allows me to hear words and phrases I grew up hearing. Unfortunately, they would possibly confuse my Northern colleagues, friends, and family. Therefore, I feel led to teach some of my readers some terms they may have heard and some they may have not. I am sure many of my Southern friends well let me know I left out some good ones. To my Northern friends, I quote Sir Francis Bacon: “Knowledge is power”.
- Ohhhhhh me – This is an interjection that can indicate mild exhaustion, amazement, or frustration. “Ohhhhhh me, I can’t believe you did that.”
- Dadgum – This is a word that has resulted in many Southern kids getting smacked because it a euphemism for profanity. “Ohhhhhh me, my hair is a mess but I can’t find my dadgum brush.”
- Say – This is an interjection that is used when someone has asked a question and has not received an immediate response. Southern parents use this interjection quite frequently with their children. “Boy, why did you put a frog on your sister’s bed? SAY!”
- EHHHNNK! – Another popular interjection with parents. It is used to tell a child to immediately stop whatever activity they are doing or trying to do. For example, a boy’s mother notices him trying to sneak some cookies from the cupboard. The mother shouts “EHHHNNK!” The boy stops immediately and darts out of the kitchen.
- Hey – This is a Southern greeting equivalent to the Northern “Hi” or “Hello”. In Northern circles, it implies contempt. To Southerners, it is a warm greeting. For example, Northerners would say: “Hey, don’t give me that monkey business”. Southerners would say: “Hey, how ya’ doin’?”
- Bless his/her heart – This is a modifier that implies what follows is potentially insulting. “Janie is a pretty girl but, bless her heart, she can’t boil water without burning it”.
- Up and — These are words that imply an immediate (perhaps even impulsive) action. “I can’t believe the way that boy just up and walked away from his Momma when she was talking to him”.
- Said it with his/her own mouth – This implies audacity on the part of the person being cited. “That boy up and said with his own mouth that he didn’t break that window. Bless his heart, he forgot that he was holding a baseball bat in his hands”.
Well, there you have it folks. Class is dismissed. I hope you this entertaining and informative. After all, it took me years of living in NY to figure out that “not for nothing” was another way of saying “with all due respect”. A Southerner would just say: “Bless her heart”.