16 Trivia Facts Only True Southerners Know
So you think you're a true Southerner and are positively brimming with knowledge that people above the Mason-Dixon line could never understand? Let's see how well you really know your biscuits from your dumplings.
The south is truly its own little oasis
The first time I encountered the south was when I attended summer camp in North Carolina. At breakfast, I asked for “a grit.” There was a moment of silence before the entire cafeteria burst out laughing at me, yet I still didn’t understand what I had done wrong, having been told by friends that I should order grits when I arrived in the Tar Heel State. I learned my lesson quickly. Cross over to the southern side, and it’s not just a different accent that you’ll hear: southerners have their own way of speaking with different phrases, a whole new pronunciation, and a southern genre of culinary delights. Say these 9 words and we’ll tell you where you grew up.
Church is more than a religion: it’s a way of life
When she first arrived in Nashville, Stacy Harris, publisher and executive editor of Stacy’s Music Row Report, was chatting with a fellow customer at a fast-food joint and mentioned that she was new in town. “She asked me what church I went to,” Harris says. “I considered that a personal question, and hence rude, but she would tell you she meant well, believing she was extending a friendly invitation to join her for services at her church the following Sunday.” Learn the United States trivia your high school teacher never told you.
Football is the other religion
In other parts of the country, football is an enjoyable game to watch, a fun pastime; but in the South, it’s a way of life. Tailgating at big southern state schools (think Louisiana State University and University of Alabama) includes fried turkeys, roasted pigs, plenty of beer and an ocean-sized parking lot of RVs packed with fans. According to ESPN, football—especially college football—is so important in the south because it has a long history there. The south’s devotion to college football reaches back to the early 1900s, and you’re taught at a very young age to worship your parents’ team of choice. Find out the 10 best football movies of all time.
“Meat and three” is a standard order
Go to a restaurant throughout the South and put in your order for “meat and three.” As the name implies, it’s one serving of meat, plus three sides. Typically, there are three to six daily choices for your meat ranging from country ham to meatloaf and about a dozen choices for your side including mac and cheese, creamed corn, and potatoes. All this is served up with a traditional tall glass of sweet iced tea and a hunk of cornbread.
Maury County is pronounced Murray county
“You always know someone is new to Tennessee when they don’t know that Maury County is pronounced Murray county,” Harris says. Does this make sense? Absolutely not. But it’s just the way you pronounce it here. Other odd pronunciations in Tennessee and throughout the South? Milan is pronounced my-lan, Louisville is pronounced Louis-vull, Lebanon is pronounced Leban-un and Alabama’s Mobile is mob-eel (like the thing you hang over a crib). Oh, and here’s a biggie: New Orleans should be pronounced N’aw-lins. Find out 35 more city names around the world you’re mispronouncing.
How tall knee-high to a grasshopper is
It’s actually not tall at all, says Amanda Minton, who hails from Charleston, South Carolina. When you tell someone that they’re knee-high to a grasshopper, you’re telling them that they’re very young. This phrase is often used in the past tense to refer to a period a long time ago. Find out the backstory of 14 commonly used idioms.
How the cow ate the cabbage
“When my nana had to tell someone to do something they didn’t like, she would say, ‘I told them how the cow ate the cabbage,'” says Stephen Spivey, a filmmaker based in Atlanta who was born and raised in the South. Since cows don’t eat cabbage, this folk saying is known to mean to state your opinion strongly. It’s often said in Texas and Arkansas and is derived from the punchline to an off-color joke detailing an elephant eating cabbage in the backyard. Here are 20 funny phrases definitely worth memorizing.
BBQ is different in each state
In the north, (usually) barbecue is barbecue: ribs, chicken, and mac and cheese. But in the South, there are specific styles of BBQ, according to Eater, and the sauce is just as important as the type of meat. If you go to North Carolina, expect to eat pulled pork topped with a vinegar-based sauce that’s a combo of cider vinegar, cayenne, pepper, hot sauce, and salt. Travel to South Carolina, to enjoy the addition of mustard to your vinegar-based barbecue sauce. In Texas, you’ll get a mop sauce which is literally applied with a mop to the top of your beef brisket. It’s a glaze that could include beef stock, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and spices. Cooking at home? Avoid these grilling mistakes even seasoned BBQ chefs make.
Iced tea is sweet
If you’re ordering iced tea anywhere, expect it to be sweet, on par with a glass of regular Coca-Cola. (We’re pretty sure that’s why it’s so delicious.) In 2003, the Georgia House introduced a bill making it a misdemeanor to sell iced tea and not offer a sweet tea option. This may have been an April Fool’s joke and never went to a vote. Find out the strangest food law in every state.
Southerners have a koozie for every occasion
Anyone else may not even know what a koozie is—but southerners can’t live without one. These canned-drink insulators keep your drink cold and prevent it from sweating on your hand when you’re outdoors. And since southerners are often outdoors as the weather is fab in their neck of the woods just about all year long—and since they love to show their support for their fave football team—and since they also have a thing for cold beer—they bring their own koozies everywhere. Discover 61 genius products on Amazon you’ll definitely use every day.
Do not talk about cornbread with new friends
Because cornbread is a very controversial topic. It’s just about as controversial as religion and politics. The big debate is whether you believe you should have sugar or spice in your cornbread. Yup, that’s all. But in a region that takes cornbread as seriously as it does its football—the sugar topic is a biggie. The sugar issue crosses over state lines, and it’s usually handed down from generation to generation. So if your grandparents baked their cornbread with sugar, then you will probably prefer it to be sweet, but if they added in jalapenos, you likely do, too. Find out how to make jalapeno buttermilk cornbread.
Black-eyed peas are a must on New Year’s Day
If you’re not from the South, you may never eat black-eyed peas in your life. But if you live here, you’re going to feast on them every New Year’s Day—or risk a year of bad luck. More specifically, you’re supposed to eat one pea for each day of the year, so you technically should be eating 365 peas. Fill your plate up with these other good luck foods for the best year yet.
“Bless your heart” is not necessarily sincere
Anywhere else in the world, you might say, “thank you.” But southerners like to say this sarcastically, as in, “Bless your heart, you have no idea what you’re talking about.” It’s not always said sarcastically, but according to Southern Living, the phrase is often said in a sassy manner with a bit of judgment. Smiling and changing the subject is a good response (this is the south, after all, and manners are everything). But make sure that they’re saying it sarcastically: if it’s said with an empathetic tone, it may be literal. Here’s some more Southern belle etiquette we need to bring back.
If you’re invited to go muddin’…
…aka mud bogging, mudslinging, and mud racing…you know that you’re really being invited to drive pick-up trucks and get covered in mud in the process. There will be spinning tires, there will be some trucks that will get stuck in the mud. Why do they go muddin’? Because they have pick-up trucks and they had mud so why wouldn’t they go muddin’? Find out 15 pop trivia facts almost everyone gets wrong.
The secret to making a mint julep
A mint julep only has three ingredients: bourbon, simple syrup, and mint, says Masia Malaksis, CEO of Belle Chevre in Elkmont, Alabama. “What a true southern knows is that it should be served in a silver cup and only served with bitty, pellet ice, like what you find at Sonic,” she says. “These two details are telltale signs of a true mint julep.” The best time to enjoy one? While watching the Kentucky Derby, of course.
Coca-Cola with peanuts is a treat
Hey, don’t knock ’em till you’ve tried them. Popping peanuts into Coca-Cola (call it “Coke” in the south, and you’d be referring to any type of soda) is a century-old tradition, according to the Independent. It’s practical: you can eat and drink simultaneously, and you don’t even have to wash your hands in order to snack. Plus, this has the sweet and salty thing going for it, in the same manner as salted caramel. You just have to get the correct ratio of peanuts to soda—and that may be something only a southerner can master. Find out 50 surprising things you can do with a Coca-Cola.
The middle name is no good
If mom uses your first, middle, and last name, you know you’re in trouble…if you’re in the south. This is often satirized in sitcoms, but it actually happens—and when it does, you come running. It’s simply the way it is, according to SouthernThing. Oh, and that middle name? Most often, it’s your mother’s maiden name. Here are other middle name traditions throughout the world.