I recently read a post from the Southern Magazine blog entitled “The Northern Southerner: Bless My Heart?” This post struck a note with me. When I first moved to North Carolina I was at a bit of a disadvantage. Obviously, I’m not a native Southerner and I moved to the South after moving about – places with different speech, climate, food, traditions – from my new home.
Growing up in rural PA was, well, rural. Farms, fields, cows, and dirt roads were commonplace. My high school was pretty small and you knew just abut everyone that lived in the community. We traveled to Philly and NYC a lot, Boston, DC, and Inner Harbor in Maryland to see museums, check out history and see shows, to try restaurants, see sights and take in the local culture. Of course I went to Florida to visit family in Clearwater and to Disney (the happiest place on Earth!) as well, which is in the South (I’m not 100% sure Florida is really considered to be “Southern,” but more on that later!). None of this prepared me for living in North Carolina.
I should tell you, however, that Fayetteville is not the best representation of North Carolina, or the South in general. Why? Because Fayetteville is home to Fort Bragg and is primarily a military town and hardly anyone is born and raised here. When we first moved to our house, we met several people that live here, but almost all of them were associated with the Army or Air Force in some way and not from here. My next door neighbor, however, was from the South, if not from Fayetteville specifically. She helped me to understand some Eastern North Carolina foods, customs, and sayings. Without her tutelage I would have been lost!
Of course all this learning came during awkward interactions. Sitting at dinner she asked “doyouwantsomedrink?” rather quickly and slurred together. The first time I heard this I had no idea what she was saying. Translation: would you like something to drink. Check. Now I’ve got it! It wasn’t so hard once I got used to it. Another favorite down here is “do you want sum Pesi?” followed by “what kinda Pesi do you want? Sprite, Sunkist, Mountain Dew?” (Pepsi can be replaced with Coke in this case.) Huh? Didn’t you just ask me if I want a Pepsi? I’m so confused!!! Translation: would you like a soda? Ooooohhh! Roger. Now I’m getting it!!
Of course Jay-Z and Ariana Grande might have 99 problems, but down here you have about fifty-leven (problems, kids, spiders…) which is a whole bunch! It looks something like this: “That wolf spider has about fifty-leven babies on its back.”
Recently, while at work, the topic of cooter stew came up. Yup, cooter stew. Of course my mind went right to the gutter, I blushed, and then laughed, wondering why someone would want to eat that. I wasn’t the only confused person at work though, even some that are from here weren’t familiar with this particular phrase. Although those that knew what it was looked at the rest of us like we were from outer space. It turns out, a “cooter” is a turtle, hence the cooter stew. Whew. I was much relieved!
And that haint all! Haint blue. She looks like a haint. She was running faster than a scalded haint! What is a haint you ask? Well, a haint is a ghost or apparition. Have you ever noticed that porch ceilings in the south are painted a particular shade of light blue? Have you wondered why? Painting your porch haint blue keeps the haints from coming in your house. Think of this as an extra level of protection for you and your family! On the other hand, calling someone a haint is an insult, as in “she showed up to church lookin’ like a haint, bless her heart!”
Perhaps my all time favorite though, which still makes me laugh after all these years, is “I’m so hungry, I could eat the butt end of a hog raw!” What in the world?!?!? I have never heard such a thing! Who eats hog butts raw!? Well, that’s just the thing. This phrase means you are starving to death, so much so that you do not care and would eat the butt end of a hog raw if you could. And still makes me laugh, y’all know what I’m sayin?’
Not from around these parts? Don’t understand what people are saying? No problem! Nicely ask your closest Southern friend to translate. He or she will gladly assist you with learning the lingo here in the South. Some colloquialisms will translate though several states, while others many be more regional. And remember, if y’all hear a Southerner say “oh hell no!” things are fixin’ to go from bad to worse, and it might just be too late!