Eavesdrop in this Arkansas-born mega store, and you'll hear some familiar themes.

Walmart Exterior
Credit: ullstein bild/Getty Images

Several years ago, a colleague was visiting Southern Living from a sister magazine in London (that's London, England—not to be confused with New London, Alabama). Everybody else was taking her to the most sophisticated eateries and watering holes in Birmingham, but when it was my turn to show her a good time, I picked her up at her corporate apartment and said, "Hey, you wanna go to Walmart?" She absolutely did. And we have been friends ever since.

I can still see the look on her face when we made our way through the garden department, rounded a corner, and there it was—that expanse of white tile stretching the width of a store where floor space might well be measured in acreage, not square footage. And the ceiling is so high that you will occasionally hear birds chirping up there—birds! They fly in through the garden department and periodically branch out to do a little recon in Health & Beauty. You could probably hold a 5k charity run in Walmart—or a horse race if you just threw down some welcome mats so the floor wouldn't be too slick for the ponies. One does not see such a thing on Sloane Street.

Not everyone is a fan of the mega-mega. And I get that. But if you're a fan of Southerners and our unique turn of a phrase, Walmart is an eavesdropper's paradise. It has become a cultural phenomenon. On any given day, you might hear something like . . .

  1. "Can y'all put some steel-belted radials on my SUV while I buy my groceries, get my pictures developed, and look for school clothes for the kids?"
  2. "Look, Mama—they've got Oil of Olay on a two-for-one."
  3. "Don't buy those cheap $3 T-shirts—they'll draw up the first time you wash them. The good cotton is on the $7 table, and it's absolutely worth the money, for what you get."
  4. "I think people who buy their cleaning products at the grocery store are just plain crazy—you can't beat this price on 409."
  5. "Do we have any more bathing suits? No, ma'am, we don't. We marked 'em down to $2, and they all got gone." (Meditate on that for a minute. How boring would it be to say, "We reduced the price and sold all our merchandise"? No. We did not sell our merch. Those bathing suits got gone. Kind of lends a mystical quality to it.)
  6. "You reckon they carry (wind chimes, paint, computers, flat screen TVs, lingerie, candles, skillets, goldfish, swimming pools . . .)?"Answer: yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep.
  7. "You reckon this anti-aging cream is worth a flip?"  (See Products Our Mamas Swear By)
  8. "Well, hallelujah, they've finally put the white towels on sale. That's all I buy because then you can just Clorox the daylights out of them."
  9. "Jane buys her clothes in the men's department. She says their stuff is more comfortable—but I'm partial to the Kathie Lee Gifford Collection."
  10. "That girl over yonder needs to hit the Root Touch-Up—bless her heart." (See: 24 Phrases Only Southerners Use)