Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kate's Top Eight... Mississippi Words and Phrases

When I moved to the land of Dixie, of course I knew of some Southern words and phrases, but I have certainly expanded my vocabulary during my tenure here.  Pour yourself a glass of sweet tea while I regale you with...

Kate's Top Eight Mississippi Words and Phrases

8. Y'all - the most commonly known (and mocked) of all Southern words, y'all is a very handy little word.  I have engaged in online discussions about the correct spelling of y'all.  I've seen it spelled seen it spelled "yall," no apostrophe, and "ya'll" as well, but I've done a bit of research and the most commonly held belief is that the origin is a contraction of "you all," which would put the apostrophe after the "y," and have it substitute for the "ou" and "a."   Up north, we say "you guys" instead of "y'all."  I like "y'all" better, because it's gender neutral.  I once went to a Christian conference in Amherst, MA that was led by a pastor from Texas.  He explained to us New Englanders that "you" addresses one person, "y'all" addresses a few to several people, and "all y'all" addresses a large group of people.

7. Bless yer heart - While this phrase *can* be used sincerely, and I've heard it used that way, more often than not it means that the person doing the "blessing" thinks that the other person has said something the blesser believes to be really stupid or something that the blesser heartily disagrees with, but is too polite to say so, or both.  "I think the U.S. needs universal, single-payer health care!"  "Oh bless yer heart.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens."Yep.  That conversation has occurred, almost word-for-word.

6. Might could - Do you need help with something?  Someone at church might could help you with that!  I never heard these 2 fairly common words put together until I moved here.

5. Hug your neck - If someone is glad to see you, they don't "give you a hug," they "hug your neck."  I find this one incredibly endearing, but a bit creepy at the same time as I don't really like anyone's hands or arms too close to my neck.

4. Buggy - Southern for grocery cart.  I grew up calling them carriages.  When we lived in Washington State, someone asked me where I was from that I called a cart a carriage.  Here, it's a buggy.

3. Ma'am and Sir - I've never been called "Ma'am" so much in my life.  Children here are well-trained and well-mannered, at least the ones I've met.  Everyone from the littlest child to graduate students calls their elders "Ma'am" and "Sir."  Even once I've said "No, really, you can call me Kate! You're an adult now!"  It's so ingrained in them that it's difficult for them to make the transition.  I have picked up on the habit too - if I'm speaking to someone whose name I don't know and they ask me a question, I say "Yes Ma'am" or "No sir."  I was once asked on a cruise ship if I had a military background, because I called a guy "Sir."  I think he was from New Jersey, so not brought up in the Southern cultured manner.

2. Yankee - As y'all know (see what I did there?), I grew up in Massachusetts.  I am a lifelong, die-hard, multi-generational Red Sox fan. It's in my blood. Our fiercest rivals in baseball are, of course, the New York Yankees. Much to my annoyance, the term "yankee" is slang for anyone from the North, and particularly the Northeast.  Whenever anyone calls me a yankee, I am irresistibly compelled to correct them.  "You can call me a Northerner or a New Englander," I say, "But please don't call me a yankee.  I'm a Red Sox fan."

1. Finna/fixin' to - Our first Christmas here, Rob & I decided that we were going to venture to the capital city of Jackson to do some "real shopping."  We looked online for shopping malls, and found one called the MetroCenter Mall.  We didn't find out until we got there that it's not the best mall to go to - not only was it oddly deserted for being so close to Christmas, but when we got back our pastor's wife said "You went there?!  I'm so thankful y'all made it back alive!"  Apparently it's not in the best neighborhood.

As we were preparing to pull out of our parking space - it was maybe 4 or 5 spaces from the entrance - a lady walked up to us and said "Yawlfinnalee?"  "Excuse me?"  I asked politely.  She repeated, "Yawlfinnalee?"  My husband managed to infer that she was asking if we were leaving.  "Leaving, yes, we are leaving," he told her.  She walked back to her car, TWO spaces further from the entrance, got in, waited for us to pull out, and took our now vacant parking space.  I later learned that "finna" is a contraction of "fixin' to."  The woman in question had contracted "Y'all fixin' to leave?"  into "Yawlfinnalee?"

"Fixin" of course just means preparing.  When I was living the single life, I had a roommate who was from Mississippi.  She once asked me, "I'm fixin' to go to the grocery store, do you need anything?"  I said, "You're what?"  I had never heard the term "fixin' to" before.  That's one phrase I haven't personally adopted.

What odd or interesting regional phrases have you heard around this great nation, or as you've traveled the world? Have you adopted any into your vocabulary?  Tell us in the comments!

1 comment:

Kerry Steffan said...

In the part of Wisconsin where I grew up, there is a large community of descendants of Belgian immigrants. They often end phrases with "an' so?" I assume this is related to the French "n'est pas?" This group also makes plural "hair"and "you guys." For example "I like your hairs. Did you just get them cut?" Also, "Yous guys should come over later." Great post, Kate. I love regionalisms. I have a friend here in Madison who worked on the American Dictionary of Regional English. Word nerds, Unite!