Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever visited the American South?

How is the English language different in the South?

The South is like its own culture at times, and you may find that there are things said in English that you don’t quite understand yet.

As you are learning English, focusing on a different part of the country and unique culture like the South can really take your speaking up a notch.

We are going to look at the American South and its culture, as well as some of the common idioms used there and how they came to be so that you can connect with native English speakers in the South.

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Learning About The South

Today is all about the American South, and some of the unique things that natives say there.

What makes the American south different from the rest of the United States?

We are so happy to get to interview and chat with Laura Beth Peters and Lainie Stubblefield from the Steel Magnolias Podcast.

The show was named after all of the facets of Southern culture, and it is a chiefly Southern term.

It’s a term about a woman who shows fortitude and strength of steel, but who also has the grace of a magnolia flower.

It’s a high compliment for a Southern woman, and this is a perfect example of a term that is used in this part of the country.

It’s about the strength but also the compassion and a gentle approach too.

As you can see there is much thought put into things, and therefore the phrases and terms in the South are often coined in this way.

Both of these ladies from this wonderful podcast grew up and live in Nashville, and so they understand the American South very well.

A Culture All Its Own

The South has a culture that is all its own, and it’s the things that they do and say that make it that way.

If you look at a place like Nashville for example, you may have heard it called “Music City.”

“Music City” is the name of Nashville but this came from a radio broadcasting tower that played a lot of Blue Grass and Country music.

There is so much rich history to the South, and it’s such an interesting part of the country to study and analyze.

So you may understand that the South is a culture all its own, but you may wonder what makes it that way.

What makes the South so different?

Smaller cities and towns make up the south, and this is a big distinction.

Life tends to move at a slower pace and there is often a smaller population in every area.

Along with this comes the idea of going slower and being kind, gracious, and helpful.

You will see people being very relational in significant ways, and this alone sets this part of the country apart from others.

People move slower, have more grace and compassion, and are more interested in talking to you.

Even at the grocery store, the cashier may ask what you are making for dinner as she’s scanning your groceries.

There are simple conversations that happen effortlessly, and you can’t find that as much in other places.

There is more of an emphasis on this relational element, as this is what matters so much here.

So along with the cultural differences, we are also going to look at the differences in the language here.

We are talking about language of the South today, and you can learn so much about a culture by its language.

You will start to see that as we delve into some of the most common Southern terms.

Three Idioms Specific To The South

There is so much rich vocabulary that can be found in Southern conversations.

There are a couple idioms however that really help to set the South apart.

This is what we are looking at today, and once you learn them you can start to understand how and when they are used.

You want to listen for these in conversations, and then you can try them out when you are in the South.

  1. Bless your heart: You see this everywhere in the South and hear it used often. Initially it was used to convey a sense of compassion towards a person. Asking for God to grant mercy to an individual. If somebody lost everything in a flood you may say “Oh she lost everything, bless her heart.” This works well for somebody that is at a disadvantage. Now people are using it in a different way as well, which is interesting. This can be used if somebody wants to say something negative, but they don’t want to say that negative thing. “I can’t believe she wore that to a wedding, she has no fashion sense at all. Bless her heart!” So it can be used in a more insulting way, even though that wasn’t the original intent behind it. You may hear it used in either way, whether the original intent or the more negative one. You can tell how somebody intends to use it based upon their facial expression or their body language. If used in a negative way, you will see that there is a certain edge to it and a change in tone.
  2. That dog will hunt: It is often said faster but this is at the heart of it. This comes from the sport of hunting, which is very popular still in the South. Many hunters will take a dog with them and this is a necessary and good thing. When you hear somebody say this, it is referring to an idea, person, or even object that performs well. This is a good thing, and it has great potential. If somebody is test driving a car for example, then somebody may try it out and drive it and say “that dog will hunt” about the car. It can be used for ideas as well, not just objects so it is quite versatile. It could be said in a brainstorming session or something at work. You might hear “Let’s put some attention towards this idea, because that dog will hunt.”
  3. I was born in the dark, but it was not last night: If you hear this used in context it is used to talk about that you might be naive, but you’re not that big of a fool. A parent may say that to a teenager for example who asks to go to a party with a friend that isn’t a good example. Then if the teen asks to go to a sleepover out of the blue, the parent might use this phrase to let them know that they are not naive and they know what they are up to. They would basically say that they know what they are up to and they aren’t stupid. There are plenty of instances where you can use this, as it lets people know that you’re not stupid and you are very aware of things.

You might hear some of these used in a smaller town or a more rural area.

You may not hear something like “that dog will hunt” used in a bigger city in the South such as Atlanta.

It’s a great compliment when you want to learn something specific like the Southern idioms and it will help you get to know locals in the South.

Listeners can find the ladies and their podcast at Steel Magnolia Podcast.

You can also find them on Instagram at Steel Magnolia Podcast, and they release a new episode every Tuesday.

Takeaway

It’s always great to learn something specific within a new language.

In learning about the South, you not only learn some new vocabulary but also about an entirely different culture as well.

It is a different way of life in the South, and now you have some insight into why this is.

These are great idioms to learn, and you can listen for them or even try to use them in the right conversations to really sound like the natives.

Bio:

Laura Beth Peters and Lainie Stubblefield co-host the Steel Magnolias Podcast where they provide space for each listener to have a place at the table while they have uplifting conversations about life in the American South. A ‘steel magnolia’ is a chiefly southern term for a person who exemplifies extraordinary grace as well as an uncommon fortitude. As sisters the chemistry is natural, as southerners the conversation is lively, but these hosts provide different perspectives to the life, landscape, history and culture of the South. 


Lainie is a licensed massage therapist of 20 years and runs her own business. Laura Beth is a former marketing manager turned stay-at-home mom. These sister’s love of the South inspired them to turn to the world of podcasting to share that love with others; even those that are new to living in the South with a look of culture shock in their eyes. 
As natives to Nashville, Tennessee the show is produced with a regional viewpoint from the kitchen table of Lainie’s home in downtown Franklin, Tennessee. A passion project with long term vision, topics include food, hospitality, travel, regional events, history, plus some amazing listener-generated topics. A new episode is released each week on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major platforms. For more information, follow them on Instagram @SteelMagnoliasPodcast or Visit https://steelmagnoliaspodcast.com/

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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