Unless you grew up down here, you'll never decipher these little jewels without some "hep" from the natives.


We all know Southerners have a flair for colorful expressions: "It's hotter 'n blue blazes, but this ain't my first rodeo, so I can see it's about to come a gully washer, after which I'll be cool as a cucumber."

Northern transplants can generally work those out on their own. If they stay here a few months, they'll even try the occasional "bless your heart," perhaps with a hint of a Southern accent. And if they stay a few years, they'll begin blessin' hearts with an honest-to-goodness Southern drawl. (If they're lucky, they'll be buried with that drawl, meaning they never left the South.)

But there's a particular class of Southern expressions that can be very difficult to master. These aren't old sayings so much as words and phrases that we've blurred, shortened, stretched, whittled, honed, and downright adulterated to suit our purposes. You might get the Southern pronunciation right, but unless you cut your teeth on fried green tomatoes, you'll struggle for the meaning.

We think we've found a few that are "purt near" impossible for the untrained ear to decode. Got a few more to share with us?

Air ye go

Literal Translation: "There you go."
Southern Translation #1: "See? We knew you could do it if you kept trying."
Southern Translation #2:"Why that's a fine idea."

Purt near/Purt nigh

Literal Translation: "Pretty near/pretty nigh"
Southern Translation: "Just about/almost," as in "We purt near polished off the last of the barbecue."


Literal Translation: "Your" (collective)
Southern Translation: "Belonging to the two of you/all of you, our special friends and neighbors." (For use in everyday conversation, see: Chip Gaines.)

Who all

Literal Translation: "Who all"
Southern Translation: "How many of you," as in "Who all's goin' to the ballgame?"

Sho' nuf

Literal Translation: "Sure enough"
Southern Translation: "Absolutely," as in "Our team sho' nuf put the whoop on yours."
Not To Be Confused With: SURE 'nuf, which means, "Is that a fact?"

'M'on back

Literal Translation: "Come on back."
Southern Translation: "There's at least a yard between you and the Chevy parked behind you, so keep backing up, and I'll let you know when to stop."

How m'I hep you?

Literal Translation: "How may I help you?"
Southern Translation: "Is there anything in this whole wide world that my place of business can do for you? How's y'mama'n'em? Memaw feelin' better after that procedure?"


Literal Translation: "Here."
Southern Translation #1: "Here," as in, "C'm'eanh to me!" ("Come here to me," a favorite among Southern Mamas whose kids have just pushed them to the verge of a hissy fit. Jeff Foxworthy can build an entire standup routine around it.)
Southern Translation #2: "Hold on a minute" as in, "Heanh, now, you boys cut that out."

Hear tell

Literal Translation: "Hear tell."
Southern Translation:"Heard news of," as in, "I hear tell there's gonna be an all-day singing next month."

Hey, y'all watch'iss

Literal Translation:"Hey, y'all watch this."
Southern Translation: "I'm about to do something really stupid and would like an audience."