Since returning to the weekly blog scene, the topics have been little heavy lately. It’s time to soften the mood a bit. Here’s a light-hearted topic that has been rolling around my brain:
Southern Colloquialism: Y’all, I’m in love with the southern way of speaking. I’ve got a thing for speaking in different regional and foreign accents anyway. Spend a little time with me and you’ll know that to be true. I love busting out a crisp British accent, or an Irish brogue, or a thick Jersey style. My all-time favorite phrases are, “The chraffic in New York is bumpa da bumpa,” “The dingoes ateya baby” and “Put the ca in pock”. (Excuse my attempts to spell the accents.)
I’ve also always loved the Southern drawl. I know it varies by region and in the region that we live now, I think it’s especially charming. But it’s not just the drawl. It’s the colloquialism too. All those words and phrases that add a layer of history and charm and a level of complexity when conversing in the South. Here are my top favorite phrases I’ve heard since moving here.
“It’s been a minute.” I believe the meaning of this phrases is ACTUALLY the opposite of what is stated. I think the meaning behind the phrase is “it’s been a while”. Let me show you:
ME: Lisa, can you show me how to upload something to this website?
LISA: Yes. (Pauses). Hold on, it’s been a minute since I’ve done this.
Now, I’ve done a little research on the interweb and this example is NOT included on the top 20 Southern phrases. Mind you, I only looked at three sites and then gave up, but I consider searching three different sites to be conclusive enough. And we all know that if you can’t find it on the Internet, it must not exist. It surprises me that it’s not on any of the lists that I consulted because I’ve heard the phrase used multiple times, in multiple settings. I can tell you though, that I have not once heard, “I declare” or “I reckon,” and those are in the top 5.
I can also tell you I’m kind of in love with the phrase. It’s oddly comforting to me for some reason. It’s like it saying, “I know it. It’s familiar to me. It just might take me a moment.”
“I tell you what.” I love this one too. It’s another phrase that didn’t make The List, but I hear it all the time. There is no other meaning behind it; it’s for emphasis. I especially paid attention to it when my youngest son started to work it into his speaking patterns. Just four days ago, he was recounting what happened on the morning bus ride, when he used it.
Tommy: And Mom, it smelled so bad, I tell you what, we had to put our sweatshirts over our noses!
Now, I’ll tell you what. When I heard Tommy say that, I thought it was cute and endearing. Not about the smell. About how easily he had adopted that phrase. I considered it a sign that he’s not only listening to people he’s encountering, but he’s listening in a way that is open and accepting.
“Fixin’ To.” This one IS on The List. It’s as common as y’all, which I’ll get to in a minute. Not a Southern “in a minute” but an actual minute.
Fixin’ to is Southern for “about to” or “getting ready to.” For me, the most commonly heard use of fixin’ to is when someone is preparing to leave a location. “We were just fixin’ to leave.”
But other applications occur often as well. In that same bus story mentioned above, Tommy was telling about a girl on his bus who was about to get sick.
“Mom, she drank coffee this morning. She did NOT look good at all. So all the kids were yelling, ‘Mr. Sam, Violet’s fixin’ to get sick! And then, ‘Mr. Sam, Violet got sick! It smelled so bad, I tell you what.”
I tell you what, I love fixin’ to, too. I’m fixin’ to use that phrase all on my own.
“Y’all.” I have to admit it. Y’all has already crossed over into my conversational vernacular. I know there is no need to explain its meaning or its use. I remember the first time I used it. I was pulling into the Dollar General parking lot before school one morning and couldn’t read their store hour signs without getting out of my car. A DG worker was sitting on the bench outside, having a smoke break, and I yelled out to her, “Are y’all open?” As soon as I yelled it, I thought, Well there it is. I’ve arrived. This was more proof than my Tennessee driver’s license. I was now a resident.
But I also know some Michiganese will forever be a part of me. A diet Coke will always be a pop. A buggy will always be a shopping cart. It will always be a fridge. A crayon will always be a cran. And the question will always be “Didja eat?” All in all, I’m fixin’ to embrace this dialectally delightful blend of Midwest and Middle Tennessee.