100th Post! Y’all Say Potato; We Say Tater

17 Jun

On the SSPL Facebook page, I asked y’all to vote on what my 100th post would be and this topic won unanimously (except for the vote cast by my sister for “cream of something soup,” which I’ll get around to soon).

One day, Geoff says to me: “That’s the only thing you say that makes you really, really, really sound like a redneck.” The word in question: foil. As in tin foil. For him, it has two syllables: foy-ll. For me, there’s only one. Sadly, I do not know how to spell my pronunciation phonetically, but I’ll try: Ok, I have been trying for about ten minutes now, searching the internets even, and I can’t (or cain’t) make it happen. The pronunciation of the “oi” sound (which is consistent across other “oi” words like soil, toil, boil, etc.) does not seem to be one that’s used in any other words in the English language. Or none I can think of. Closest I can come is oh’l. But that’s not it exactly. I think it’s a sound that’s nigh impossible to pronounce unless you know it from the womb (practiced your rolling Rs lately?).

Elfi Walter painted this "pitcher" of a pitcher.

Ok, let’s move on. In the South, what you’re writing with or using to attach a corsage is a PIN. Whether it belongs to you or is atop something, it’s OWN. A PITCHER might be a vessel to pour from or an image captured via camera or a guy in tight pants hurling a ball at another guy in tight pants.

Conversely, DON and DAWN are not pronounced the same way. One is a girl, duh! Also, what you sleep uncomfortably on and how you came by that mess of fish are two different things: COT and CAUGHT.

Most people are familiar with Southerners’ blatant disregard for the letter G, but did you know we also like to change letters or drop them at random? I can’t teach y’all all the variations, but here are a few: supposably, prolly (who needs “bab”?), everbody, histry, libary, chimbly, nuCUler.

This CHARdonnay has a lovely bo-kay, for a $3 bottle o' wine.

Sometimes, just to mix it up, we add letters or even syllables where they don’t belong like misCHEE VEEous or manDENtory. My mayonnaise– (or mannaise) hating friend Sandy has a talent for adding letters where they don’t belong. I can’t figure out what the system is, but when it’s cold out it’s “nipply,” or the black-eyed peas taste a little too “hamhockly.” One of her favorite things to say is, “God bless a moogy milk cow.” And I always think, shouldn’t that cow be moog-Ly?

There are a few pronunciations that are specific to my family (or at least I haven’t heard them elsewhere) like VEE DEEo (for video), Q sin air (for Cuisinart), and CHARdonnay (for Chardonnay).

But my favorite all-time mispronunciation is “Dixie.” Let me explain: Before the Civil War, the Citizen’s Bank of Louisiana issued ten-dollar bank notes that bore the French word “dix” (for 10, which is pronounced “deece”). Folks started calling them “dixies” and the name spread such that the South became known as Dixieland.* Technically, it should have been deece-ie land, but I reckon D.C. was already taken.

*This is my favorite of the three theories on the origin of “Dixie.”

What are your favorite Southern mispronunciations?

Photo credits: Chipotle card by someecards.com, pitcher painting by Elfi Walter available at etsy.com, Three-buck Chuck by GSankary from Flickr Creative Commons.

49 Responses to “100th Post! Y’all Say Potato; We Say Tater”

  1. DessertForTwo June 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Um, it’s not misCHEE-VEEously? What other way is there to say it? Everytime I read your site, I feel like more and more of a redneck 🙂

    Q sin air totally cracked me up!

    I’m trying to think of some funny things my family says.
    My grandpa said FAR instead of fire.
    Oh, and bob wire instead of barbed wire

    And I say evrabody instead of everybody 🙂

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

      Nope, it’s mis chi vous. Think “mischief.” Sorry to make you feel like a redneck, but you’re in good company! I can definitely remember a time when I thought barbed wire was “bob wire” or “barb wire.”

    • Jane N. Henry February 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

      Love your blog! Especially your comments about Southern mispronunciations. My current favorite is the mispronunciation of the capital of Alabama as (phonetically) “Mungumry.” (Oh, and where I grew up in Oklahoma — before I moved to Alabama — we ate Vienna sausages with “catch-up.” on ’em.)

      • Kim Holloway February 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

        Thanks! You’re so right about “Mungumry!” My dad, possibly the world’s biggest Vienna sausage fan (he doesn’t embark on a road trip without at least one can), has always called them VIE-EE-NA.

  2. Jenna Holloway Cochran June 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    You forgot about words ending in “ow” some follow (Folla) the rule and some don’t. As in:

    Fellow (fella)
    Arrow (arra)
    Pillow (pilla)
    marshmallow (marshmella – change the second “a” to an “e” as well as the ending change)

    But then you have the others that keep their “ow” sound such as:


    I don’t know what makes us decide to make some end in an “a” and other’s not…one of the great enigmas about the south.

    Oh and then you have what we (in college usually in reference to one of my suitemates) used to say was a “Brookhaven (MS)” accent where they emphasize the “i” in words such as “lIght” and “nIght” and “brIght”

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

      Maybe words have to be more than one syllable to get the special “a” ending. You’re rIght about the “I” emphasis. Forgot that one.

  3. rebecca June 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    I just finished nine months in south Georgia, and my Southern coworkers there, even the highly-educated, urban ones definitely all said “pitcher.” (One of the first times I heard it, I literally sat there for a moment trying to puzzle out what he was saying about a container for pouring liquid.) Another, more purely low country expression was “scrimp” instead of “shrimp.” Of course, when I picked up “y’all” they all teased me about it…

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      I used to work at Pizza Hut during high school and for some unknown reason, they offered shrimp as a topping. I never did get used to taking orders for “scrimp” pizza.

  4. Shannon June 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    My Mississippi family eats Fur-heat-as (fajitas) off the Boo-Fet (buffet) and my Louisiana family gets the Earl (oil) changed in their cars and occasionally eats a scrimp (shrimp) or a ben-yay (beignet). My boyfriend makes immense fun of me for shopping with a “buggy” instead of a basket or a cart and for asking do you want this er (or) that for dinner. Apparently they eat supper where he’s from…

    • lisa in alabama June 18, 2011 at 4:23 am #

      Funny how the French influence changes things even more. That’s definitely a butchered version of buffet, but it looks like they’ve got beignet right! I’d love to get down to Louisiana and get a better sense of Cajun culture.

      Where is your boyfriend from? I used to tease my husband about calling a shopping cart a buggy…until we moved to Alabama and I actually called it that myself one day. Heh.

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      Oh, yes, I can hear it now: You need to get your earl changed. I’d forgotten about earl. When I’m in Seattle, I use a cart (or more often a basket), but back in MS, it’s a buggy. I’m surprised folks get beignet right. I’d expect something more along the lines of “beige net.”

  5. lisa in alabama June 18, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Seriously. It’s a wonder kids can learn to spell at all with the crazy pronunciations!

    How about rearranging all the L’s and R’s? Like goin’ down t’ the Guff to do some feeshin’, or playin’ a round o’ Goff, or goin’ dolve huntin’, or goin’ to schoo at Allburn.

    And someone mentioned the pronunciation of the long i. Where I grew up you said a long i like “eye” or “ai”. But down here, it’s “ah” or “aw”. Take a raht at the laht and then another raht at the house all covered in ahvy. Or – what do y’all have on tap? Coors laahhht, Buuud laaahhht, Buuud laaahhht laaahhm.

    I’ve been puzzled by the “oi” sound here as well. The closest I can figure is that northerners use a “y” as a transition between the vowel sounds (oyil) and down south it’s a “w” instead (owil).

    Congrats on hitting the big magical #100! Did you think when you started that there’s be this much to write about? And wait…there’s more!

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

      Thanks! I’m not sure when or why Southerners decided to randomly swap letters around. I was just thinking that the South would be a bad place for someone to try learning to speak English, but then I realized, hey, that’s where I learned!

      “all covered in ahvy” Love it! The Coors laahhht reminds me of an art director I used to work with. He was doing a flyer about a company picnic and he wrote the word ribs like this: R-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-B-S. When I asked him why, he said, you can’t just say “ribs,” it’s riiiiiiiiiibs! I cannot eat ribs without thinking of them as riiiiiiibs.

  6. Todd Pack June 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    I’m from the South, but I remember when in 3rd grade, a kid from Tennessee asked me how to spell a word. I wasn’t sure what he was saying, so I asked him to use it in a sentence. He said, “I won’t to go the store.” So I told him W-O-N-apostrophe-T, just ’cause I wanted to mess with him. I always felt a little bad about that.

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

      I wouldn’t feel too guilty. He might not have known what an apostrophe was anyhow.

  7. Nancy June 20, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    My husband’s Louisiana relatives “make groceries”. I have no idea where that came from – doesn’t everybody else just go to the grocery store?

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

      I’ve definitely heard of folks who make groceries. I’ve never made them myself, so I’m not sure how difficult it is. Maybe I’ll get into a DIY mood and try it someday, right after I knit a scarf and sew myself a cute skirt.

  8. Charity June 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    I grew up in a littttttle town in VA called Scottsville. In this town there is a creek which is spelled Totier and properly pronounced “Toe-Tier” however that is NOT how anyone from there pronounces it. They say “Toe-Tell” LOL Why you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. I asked my Granny one day why everyone pronounced it this way and she said “That’s how everyone has always pronounced it”.

    When anyone asks where “Toe-Tier” is most of the town knows they aren’t from those parts lol

    • Kim Holloway June 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      That’s hilarious. Probably one guy mispronounced it back in the day and everybody followed suit.

    • helen July 4, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

      OK – I’m Southern raised… live near Scottsville VA now. The ones out here that get me are (not sure how you missed it) is “Crick” (could mean “creek” or something wrong with your neck) and the city of Staunton (pronounced “Stanton”). And Rio Road – Rye-oh. And “oil” is “oral”.

    • Sarah July 15, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

      I am obviously coming to this late, but it is kind of funny. I am born and raised in Scottsville, as was my mom, grandma and beyond. I have ALWAYS called this creek “Toe-Tier” and have never heard “Toe-Tell.” The reason I have found this post was my irritation with people new to the area calling the place “Tot-ear” like Anthony Zimmer did when he did his show Bizarre Foods there.
      Helen, as I have always heard it…a crick is smaller than a creek. Think brook. The thing with Rio came from an old Mill that used to be in that area and Staunton, the story goes, was how southerns knew a yankee during the civil war. Anyone who said Stawn-ton instead of Stan-ton was suspect.

  9. real southern men June 22, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Kim, as you know, we’re working on quite a list of these in our Twanglish Lessons. As far as the “oif” in foil, there’s another Southern take on that. My ex-wife said “ohll” and “fohll.”

    My favorite mispronunciation of a French term is from near my hometown of Mobile. There, Bayou La Batre is pronounced “Bile-uh-Battree.”

    And that all-time best mispronunciation of Chipotle came from my mother-in-law: Chip-uh-tell.

    • Kim Holloway August 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

      Chip-uh-tell? Man, I wish I’d known about this mispronunciation before I watched “America’s Next Great Restaurant.” I thought the founder of Chipotle (who was one of the judges) was kind of annoying…trying to turn everything into a taco. I will pronounce the name of the restaurant “chip-uh-tell” from now on. At least in my head.

  10. Cup of Kris July 13, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    Oh I have you a ton of words if you want them although my particular favorite from the farm life is Tracher…. as in I’m gonna git the tracher out ta shed so I can plow da field….

    • Kim Holloway August 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      I haven’t heard “tracher,” but I’m definitely familiar with folks getting things “out ta” places. Like: gotta get my books “out ta” library. Wait, maybe that’s not a good example. 😉

  11. Kristin Baldwin July 18, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    I’m in love with a Texan myself (and having lived in Seattle for 18 years, the southern drawl is part of the charm) – I call him up to make him pronounce the words “Lawyer” and “Oil”…it’s a great party game since it makes me howl. Now if we could just work though the differences between Northern and Southern communication, life would be much easier.

    • Kim Holloway August 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      I feel your pain on the communication issue. For my boyfriend and I, it’s not so much pronunciation issues (although that’s part of it) but mostly my trying to tell a story about folks back home and he can’t keep track of the relationships between folks.. I mean, what’s so confusing about “my friend karen’s husband’s ex-wife’s boyfriend”?

  12. Dave Ericsson July 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Several on-air personalities in Tucson, AZ, and nationally seem to have a hard time pronouncing the long “a” sound in words such as fail, bail, jail, etc. They pronounce these words with a short “e” sound, i.e., fell, bell, gel, etc. Is this a southern pronunciation? If not does anyone know where it comes from? This problem seems to be growing as I have heard it on national TV and NPR radio.

    • Kim Holloway August 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      hmm. I don’t think it’s a southern pronunciation. If anything, Southerners draw out the long a sound. Or add extra syllables like “fay-you’ll” or “jay-you’ll” or my favorite from my mom, ‘It’s hot as hay-you’ll!”

  13. Calder Clark August 5, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    You are high-larious. I’m howlin’! My Birmingham friends all say “toll” (toil), “boll” (boil), “oll” (oil), and “toh-litt” (toilet). I’m from Memphis and my favorite mispronunciations from my fam are: “the home depp-itt” (home depot), “hawa-yah” (Hawaii), and other smatterings which are more malaprop than mispronunciation (like when Mama says “extra-ordinary”).

    • real southern men August 5, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      So it IS a Birmingham thing! I love the country folk who try really hard not to sound Southern, but can’t quite master it. Instead of pronouncing “light” as “laht,” they’ll over-compensate for the “i” and turn it into “lie-eeet.” The overly-long “A” is also great. Mary becomes “May-ree” and you “cay-ree” somebody to the store.

    • Kim Holloway August 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      oh, yes! hawa-yah!! Haven’t heard that one in a while, but I remember it well.

      I think country folks trying not to sound Southern would be almost as amusing as yankees trying to sound Southern. If not more so!

      • Southern and Country September 9, 2011 at 11:27 am #

        My Mama says Ha wa’ yah. Or sometimes, Hi wi’ yah.

  14. Kelli August 5, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    I love it when people say “pimenna cheese” for Pimiento Cheese.

    • Kim Holloway August 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      Yep, I’ve heard it pronounced that way many a time. I keep thinking I should do a post on “pimenna cheese” since it’s a popular Southern staple, but I’ve never actually eaten it so I’m not sure what I’d say…

  15. Southern and Country September 9, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    I never knew other folks thought it sounded funny when I said “Cut on (or off) the lights,” “Crank the car,” “I gotta get my awl changed, frigerater, “Cut the grace” instead of “Mow the lawn,” and called everything a coke regardless of the type of carbonated beverage it was (unless of course it was an RC.) And the o in the middle of a 3 (and some 4) letter word usually sounds like “aw”, ie; dawg, hawg, lawg, frawg.

    • Southern and Country September 9, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      And before you start on my edumacation, I have a master’s degree and my mother and grandmother were heads of their english depts. I am a serious grammar critic for sure.

      • Kim Holloway September 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

        Love it! I, myself, would never equate random Southern mispronunciations with stupidity. My dad has a doctorate degree in education and is still says VEE DEEo (for video) and calls his favorite car snack food VIE EEE NA (for Vienna) sausages.

        • real southern men September 12, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

          I thought vi-een-er ended with an “R.”

          • Kim Holloway September 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

            I reckon it does in some places. I’ll have to do a post on Vienna sausages one of these days. I’ve never actually seen a can of them outside the South. Do your folks eat them on saltines? Or perhaps some fancier crackers like Ritz or Town House?

            • real southern men September 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

              Always on saltines…possibly with a little hot sauce. They were typically fishing food. Something about eating them with the taste of raw shrimp (used for bait) and briny water on your fingers made them delectable.

  16. Cardinal Guzman October 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    It was very interesting to read about mispronounciations in the South and I agree that this was the best theory on “dixie”.

  17. Tricia June 19, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Reading this brought back funny memories…my mama would give me VI eena sausages to eat on saltine crackers while she was washing clothes at the “washerteria”. She wanted to go to Ha wa yah, said a loud noise sounded like someone set off a bum (bomb), and she often made sal-mon patties (must pronounce the “l”) for supper. She also gave me a snack she called sugar sanwiches made of white bread, oleo and sugar sprinkled on top. I drank sweet milk which my Yankee friends find funny. I didn’t stop saying “cain’t” until I was in my 20s and lived up north. In high school people just stood around to listen to me talk as if I was an alien. There are still a few words that my kids laugh at me for saying – bless their hearts, they didn’t grow up in the south! I hate that the southern (Texan in my case) accent is not as prominent as it used to be and we are losing the old sayings.

  18. Tiffany November 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    I love your blog. I just stumbled upon it today and I can hear my grandma and mama pronouncing each of those words! Ha! I’ve got two favorites.. “groin,” similar to “foil” – impossible to type out and “waller” or as Yankees call it, “wallow.” I’ll have you know I didn’t know that “waller” meant “wallow” until I was 17 years old… Haha!

    • Kim Holloway November 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      Hi Tiffany, I’m glad you’re enjoying SSPL! I definitely recall hearing “waller” when I was growing up. Usually used in the context of “wallering in the mud,” if I remember correctly.

  19. Orson December 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    My family moved out of Mississippi when I was five, but I’ve been around them and been back enough to still have some of my accent. The most noticeable speech variations people here in Utah hear are my wh’s and my L’s. I emphatically over-pronounce all of my wh’s, just like the whole Stewie/Brian Family Guy skit with the Cool WHip. I also pronounce my L’s in walk, talk, chalk, etc.
    I’ve read up on both of these “mis”pronunciations, and it seems like most of the south doesn’t have them. My family certainly does and, as far as I can find, it seems to specifically be a Mississippi thing. I’m curious if you’ve ever noticed this as well?

  20. harrisgirls March 21, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    Your blog is hilarious! I live in NC and grew up with my mom & dad completely destroying most words. Mississippi became “Mippysippy”. I was nearly twelve before I knew that I had an Aunt Mary and not an Aunt “Mer”.

    • Kim Holloway March 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      Thanks! Aunt “Mer”! Love it!

  21. Kay July 26, 2021 at 12:19 pm #

    So im from southern California, my mom’s family is from Texas. I ran across this word Negus. It sounded alot lot like, you know what, so I looked it up. It happened to originate in Ethiopia. A fine time for me to find this word, here with the big move going on in America and the findings of the aweful things done to people of color and the race riots. Could the old southwestern twang be the culprit for the n word? I mean adding ignorance and hatred to the mix, really kind of all falls in line.

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