Coming to Connecticut has been a culture shock for me. My roommate from New York and my suitemate from California--Soraya and Christina, respectively (shout-out to the home girls)-- sometimes look at me like I’m speaking a different language, and I find myself giving them Southern linguistics lessons almost daily. Even my editor, upon reading this article, said: “People don’t really say that, do they?” Of course we do, Karin. We’re Southerners.
The North and the South haven’t been so divided since… well.
I honestly still find like they’re the weird ones when they give me those looks of utter bafflement every other time I open my mouth. Seriously, people-- even if you don’t know what “Get out of my Kool-Aid” means, surely you can figure it out in the middle of a sentence? You’re at Yale, for God’s sake! Use your context clues!
Unfortunately, my cultureless suitemates aren’t the only people in New Haven who are unenlightened as to how to tastefully express themselves. I will now take it upon myself to educate y’all “city slickers."
Here are some phrases for y’all who are uninitiated:
I just used this twice in the introduction without even batting an eye. This one is just straight-up amateur hour. It’s a contraction of “you all”, used in second person reference to a group of people. Almost everybody has heard someone say “y’all”, everybody knows what it means, and almost everyone has also said it in an offensively bad Southern accent in an attempt to mock the rich cultural haven that is my home.
My hometown spawned Otis Redding. What has yours done?
But despite the almost universal knowledge of what it means and in what context it should be used, it’s still a distinctive Southern trademark. What the hell, rest of America? Why use such clearly inferior phrases such as “you guys” when the grammatical and cultural treasure that is “y’all” exists? Why say in two syllables what you can just say in one?
The South: proud purveyor of the phrases that require the least energy to say.
To have a hankering (or phonetically, “hankerin’”) for something means to want it really badly, usually in reference to foodstuffs. For example, at this moment, I have a hankerin’ for a piece of chocolate creme pie. I don’t have any room for one, though, because I also had a hankerin’ for a sundae at Sundae Sunday at Calhoun and therefore ate more than should be humanly possible, then groaned and complained about how full I was. Both of which, as it happens, are also in proud observance of Southern traditions.
Oh, get off your high horse. Don’t act like you could resist that.
Christina was under the impression that “hankerin’” was a fictionalized creation of old Western shows, and that no one actually said it in real life. Well, the joke’s on you, baby. The South is full of all kinds of things that people don’t believe are real--and that most people also desperately wish weren’t real.
My use of “finna” in a sentence was what first prompted Christina and I to discuss in-depth what people outside of the South don’t say and what phrases Southerners take for granted. “Finna” is actually a secondary word, in that it’s a shortened version of the colloquial phrase “fixin’ to”. When you’re finna do something, you’re about to do it. Example sentences include: “I’m finna go to the store” and “We finna turn up.”
I bet two sticks of deep-fried butter it ain't me. Two sticks!
I was dumbfounded that she needed an explanation for this. It’s such a staple of communication back home that the fact that someone didn’t know what it meant blew my mind. Neither she nor Soraya even believed that I wasn’t making it up until my boyfriend, also from Georgia, confirmed its existence and usage to them.
He immediately undermined this backup, however, by saying: “Yeah, but only ghetto people use it.” As a representative of the accusedly ghetto, I would like to publicly state that we resent that, and that we prefer the term “rachét”. I love him to bits, but he just needs to stop being so damn shady. Speaking of which...
Most people know the two most common uses of the word “shady”. It can refer to a stretch of ground that is covered in shadow and is usually highly sought-after, such as “a shady spot” under a tree for picnicking or parking the car. Seriously though, in Georgia during the summer, if you don’t have a sun visor or a shady spot, you’d better be ready to be slowly baked to death when you get back in the car.
God help you if you have leather seats.
Additionally, it can refer to a person/place/thing that is less than reputable or seems to be underhanded in some way, such as a “shady deal” or a “shady alleyway”.
This alleyway is shady in both previously stated forms of the word.
“Shady” has taken on yet another meaning in the South, however. Shady is used to refer to someone who “throws shade”, which means to trash talk someone either verbally or just by a meaningful eye roll.
Seen here: Alex Trebek, revolutionarily defining one meaning of “shade” with another one.
I’m rather surprised that this adjectival form of “shade” hasn’t caught on in other places. In my high school, “shady” was bandied about on a daily basis. My social group in particular even had a specific Emoji we used as shorthand for shadiness. Every text about our English teacher had at least three of them.
That woman was shadier than the Mariana Trench at midnight.
Seriously, rest of the nation. Get with the program. Sometimes I just… I feel like y’all don’t even know me.
You don’t even know me
Yes, that was two bitchin’ segues in a row. Also, pictured: not the South. We will take responsibility for a lot, but not this
This phrase has a more obvious usage, in which it would be said to a stranger (especially a rather persistent one) as a way to communicate to them that you think they have no right to address you or interact with you in the way they were trying to. The secondary meaning it has taken on in the South, however, is a bit more nuanced and subtle.
The South: definitely well-known for its nuances and subtlety.
“You don’t even know me”, when said to someone who is actually acquainted with you, means that there is more to you than meets the eye and is usually said in response to their surprise at finding out about a previously unknown aspect of your personality. For example, I said it to Christina after she expressed shock at my clandestine rapping talents.
Pictured: me, essentially.
Get out of my Kool-Aid….
My answer to Christina’s question: “People don’t really say that, do they?”
...’cuz you don’t even know what flavor it is.
This phrase is, quite possibly, my absolute favorite from home. It means “Get out of my business because you know nothing about my life and my circumstances”. The seeming ridiculousness of the phrasing is a clever facade for the deepness of the message it carries. Plus, if you can summarily dismiss someone with a coherent phrase including the words Kool-Aid, why the hell wouldn’t you?
The South, as terrible as it is in so many other ways, is the origin of many beautiful pieces of culture. We’ve got country and rap music, we’ve got sweet tea, and we’ve got all these useful and quirky phrases. This is a point of pride for me, second only to all the edible horrors we’ve produced.
Case in point.
*DISCLAIMER: Not everyone in the south will have heard these, and not everyone out of it is necessarily ignorant of them. I ain’t a fool, y’all.