8 things Southerners say that the rest of the US just doesn’t understand

Southerners say things differently from everyone else, especially in what words they use.

Southerners say things differently from everyone else, especially in what words they use.
REUTERS/Todd Korol

People in the American South have one of the most famous dialects in the United States, from their distinctive drawl to the versatile pronoun “y’all.”

And there are some things Southerners say differently from the rest of the US.

Southern vocabulary can be confusing to outsiders, especially when a common word has a totally different meaning when spoken in the South.

Here are eight of the most perplexing Southern words that people from other places simply wouldn’t understand.


In most parts of the country, Coke is the common nickname for Coca-Cola.

But in many parts of the South, coke with a lowercase C is just a term for soft drinks in general, a synonym for “soda” or “pop.”

So if you’re in the South and you offer someone a coke, don’t be surprised when they respond, “what kind?”



This “fixing” has nothing to do with repairing something. In some Southern dialects you can say you’re fixing to do something if you’re on the verge of doing it, like in the sentence “They were fixin’ to leave without me.”

The construction comes from an older version of the word “fix” meaning to prepare. Similarly, “fixings” are all the trimmings and side dishes that accompany a meal.


Flickr / Carlos Pacheco

As anyone from the South can tell you, barbecue both a type of grill and the food you make with it – usually pulled pork coated in spices and sauce and cooked over a flame.

There are several regional variations of barbecue, with North Carolina, South Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas each claiming their own distinct method of preparation.

Whatever you do, don’t use “barbecue” to refer to a gathering where barbecue is consumed – that’s a “cookout” in the South.


Mark Wilson/Getty

In most parts of the country, a buggy is a little carriage pulled by a horse.

In the Deep South, you’ll only find buggies in the grocery store – it’s another word for “shopping cart.”


Jason Trim/flickr

In some parts of the South, they don’t “press” the buttons in an elevator or on their remote control – they “mash” them.

The word is so distinctively Southern that one Dixie blogger called it the “ultimate secret handshake of the Southern lexicon.”


Phil Cole/Getty Images

What Yankee means is completely relative to where in the world you are.

In the UK, a Yankee is an American. In the northern US, a Yankee is a New Englander.

And in the South, a Yankee is a northerner. Suffice it to say it is not a loving term.



This is one that the Midwest and the South can claim together – both regions have dialects where people say “sweeper” to mean a vacuum cleaner.



Lifelong Southerners won’t find it strange to hear “foot” used as an interjection when something goes wrong. As in, “Oh, foot! Auburn lost again!”