16 Comments You Should Never, Ever Make to a Southerner

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Knowing what you shouldn’t say to a Southerner can be difficult if you didn’t grow up in the South. Specific phrases, an offhand comment, and even a well-meaning compliment can easily show your ignorance when talking with people born and raised South of the Mason-Dixon.

To help you out, we’ve curated some of the most popular words, phrases, and comments that Southerners don’t like to hear, no matter where you were born and raised.

1. Sweet Tea

Iced tea
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During a trip to Michigan with my southern husband, we were invited to lunch, where my husband kindly asked the waitress for sweet tea. Word to the wise: If someone asks you for sweet tea, it is far better to say you don’t have any than to offer them iced tea with sugar from the table.

Anyone who makes sweet tea knows you cannot add sugar to cold tea and get good sweet tea. At most, you’ll end up with iced tea with gritty crystals.

2. Instant Grits

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Having moved to Florida in 2003, I can tell you people in the South are serious about their grits. Cheesy grits are especially favored, but cooking them well is a big part of most “Southern” cooking. Creamy with a texture similar to cream of wheat, these savory grains are a great addition to Southern specials like fried chicken and excellent barbecue.

However, never are they “instant,” and asking someone if they are may get you disinvited from dinner.

3. Barbecue

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Step over the Mason Dixon, and you’ll find several variations on great Southern barbecue. None is more apparent than the difference between North Carolina and South Carolina. While driving, it’s easy to merge the two, but an ingredient in many South Carolina barbecue recipes is a red line not to be breached for those in North Carolina.

In South Carolina, many barbecue recipes call for mustard, and to their Northern neighbors that one ingredient is nearly sacrilegious.

4. Y’all

Kids going to school
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When I was growing up and in school, a contraction of the words you and all wasn’t a word. However, down South, it’s been an accepted part of everyday vocabulary since before I was born. One particular sticking point, though, is where you place the apostrophe.

Y’all is the correct way to write it; anything else is unacceptable. Also, ain’t, which wasn’t a word when I was in school, is now proper (according to Webster’s Dictionary) language and should be spelled correctly.

5. It’s So Hot

Woman feeling hot
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Getting used to the humid heat in the South takes some adjusting. Between 10 AM and 6 PM, especially in July and August, people understand that no one’s running a marathon. There are no 70-degree days to give you a break. Summer is hot, period.

If you want to workout or do just about anything physical, you do it early in the morning when the sun is barely up or late at night after the sun has set.

6. Y’all Are Slow

Young man walking to office
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This comment is especially grating to my husband and would offend many Southern people. It stereotypes every Southerner because one or two may be slow to move. Generally, people from the South aren’t slow; they’re smart. They don’t want to suffer from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or any other medical conditions related to the extreme temperatures associated with life in the Southern U.S.

Slowing down during the middle of the day when the hottest temps and humidity are rampant will save much-needed energy for when the heat lets up, and work can recommence. It may also save your life.

7. Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken fried Steak
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While this dish is a favorite among many Southern families and a popular restaurant choice, the debate over having brown or cream gravy with your steak is real. People feel so strongly about this topic that comments about a person’s upbringing are familiar, even to the point of insulting someone’s mother.

For many Southerners brown gravy is specifically for Salisbury steak and only heathens would eat it anyway.

8. Do You Want a Pop?

Coca Cola
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In the Midwest, it is customary to call soft drinks pop. While it’s common, saying it to a Southerner might cause a look of confusion or start a low-key fight. In the South, asking someone about a pop is like asking if they want to get a spanking.

The stark difference can lend itself to a need for explanation if you have visitors from the South or if you’re a Southerner making a trip into the Midwest or other Yankee states.

9. They’re All the Same Anyway

Charleston, South Carolina
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Traveling around the US can be fun, educational, and enlightening. However, sometimes, it’s hard to tell where one state ends and another begins. One thing you don’t want to do is compare neighboring Southern states as if they’re the same.

North Carolina and South Carolina are neighbors that border the Atlantic Ocean and have similar weather, but culturally, they are pretty different, especially regarding food. Before you say anything about one state being like another, learn the differences so you don’t get a verbal beat down.

10. Pepsi’s Better Than Coke

Woman with Pepsi
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One dispute that will live on long after I’m dead is the debate between soft drink options Pepsi and Coke. While I am an avid Pepsi fan, Coke is a prevalent option in the South, not because “Coke” is a way to ask for a soda. The Southern US isn’t the only place to have an issue with this matter of opinion either.

11. Races Shouldn’t Mix

Interracial couples
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While race-baiting and racial issues exist all over the US, none is as prevalent as those in the South. In many rural counties, the old-school thought is that “the races shouldn’t mix.” Choosing to have a partner of a different race than your own is likely to get you shunned or at least ostracized by your family and possibly your friends.

Disagreeing that races should remain separate is not popular in several small towns, but of course that doesn’t make it right.

12. Bless Your Heart

Old woman talking
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While hearing this phrase may make you think that the sweet grandma you met at the grocery store is complimenting you, it’s more likely that she thinks you’re a bit dim. “Bless your heart,” or any version thereof, is not often given as a nice comment. Take a moment to evaluate the situation, and you’ll know whether someone’s insulting you. If you’re unsure, chalk it up to indifference and move on.

13. Who’d You Vote For?

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Approaching politics anywhere can be dangerous. In the South, it can split up families, rip friends apart, and scatter a whole town’s population. Generally, avoiding politics, religion, adult relationship preferences, and other touchy topics like the plague is wise. Even if you agree, the ground is still plenty boggy for Southerners.

14. NASCAR Sucks

Concord, NC
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In the South, NASCAR is like church. People are religious about the sport and don’t play when it comes to defending their favorite driver, team, sport, etc. If you plan to live until your next birthday, avoid making any negative connotations about this much-loved activity.

15. Waffle House

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When it comes to fast food and sit-down style food-to-order restaurants, none compares to Waffle House in the South. This particular fast-food-style joint has a cult following that doesn’t mess around. If you happen to not like fast food or don’t like WaffleHouse, it’s best to keep your opinion to yourself.

Once in a while, you may have to take one for the team and choke down some of WaffleHouse’s finest flavors to appease a friend or family member who’s particularly fond of this eatery.

16. Common Southern Slang

Couples buying Grocery
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Because I was born and raised in Michigan, we used a shopping cart whenever I went shopping with my mom or dad. When I married my husband and moved to Florida, he called it a buggy.

Pop, as we discussed earlier, is soda in these parts, and phrases like fixin’ to, over yonder, and in a coon’s age are pretty common in everyday speech.


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