What ‘Bless Your Heart’ and Other Southern Sayings Mean

by Clayton Edwards

It’s no secret that we talk a little differently in the South. Sure, our accents stand out from the rest of the country. However, it goes deeper than that. Over the years, Southerners have developed a long list of sayings that are as unique and colorful as our quilts and the grannies who make them. If you’ve found yourself confused by something a Southerner said, we’ve got you covered. We’re going to look at some of the most popular Southern sayings and what they mean.

Bless Your Heart: The Queen of all Southern Sayings

“Bless your heart” is probably the most talked-about Southern saying. That’s fair. It’s widely used and, like many other uniquely-Southern things, it’s pretty versatile.

Sometimes, it’s a statement of genuine consolation. If something horrible happens and a Southerner doesn’t know what to say, sometimes “bless their/your/his/her heart” is all that will work. However, it’s usually a statement of mild disapproval. Don’t let it get too far under your skin, though. Everybody down here has been on the receiving end of an exasperated “bless your heart” at least once.

You might also hear this one modified with “ever-lovin’,” “pea-pickin'” or “little bitty” but those are just a little extra seasoning. The real difference between consolation and disapproval is in the tone.

I Reckon

I reckon you’ve heard this Southern saying a time or two if you’ve been here for any amount of time. “Reckon” can replace words like think, suppose, or assume. At the same time, it can be another way to begrudgingly agree with someone. For instance, “Honey, are you about ready to go to my mama’s house for supper?” could be answered with “Hell, I reckon.” The addition of “hell” and a little exasperation transform the phrase.

Fixin’ To

This simple Southern saying seems to bother geographically challenged (read: non-Southern) folks. “Fixin’ to” means “about to” or “going to.”

You’ll probably hear this one combined with other Southern sayings. For instance, “I reckon I’m fixin’ to go over yonder and get some coffee.” Speaking of which…


“Yonder” is more of a Southern unit of measurement than a saying. However, if you’re down here long enough you’re going to hear it. Yonder can measure distances from across the house to across the country. For instance, if you’re traveling north or into the mountains, you’re going up yonder. If you’re going across town, you’re going over yonder. However, if you’re going all the way across the country, you’re going way over yonder. Then again, if you’re just going in the other room, you can go in yonder.

If I Had My Druthers

This is probably one of the most uniquely Southern sayings out there. However, it might be the easiest to understand with a few context clues. It just means, “If I had things my way.” For instance, “If I had my druthers, I’d be sitting on the front porch pickin’ and grinnin’ right now.”

Pickin’ and Grinnin’

If you’re a musician or come from a musically-inclined family you’ve done plenty of pickin’ and grinnin’. This is just a Southern way to say playing music and having a good time. More specifically, it refers to playing guitars, banjos, or other stringed instruments, usually in a group. For instance, “A couple of the fellas are coming over tonight, we’re gonna watch the game and do some pickin’ and grinnin’.”

I’ll Let You Get Back to Your Rat-Killin’

This is something my granny used to say to me when we were about to end our weekly phone conversation. Some Southerners might opt for the tamer, “Let me let you go,” to end a conversation. This one, though, has a little more color. Basically, “rat-killing” is whatever you were doing before the conversation started.

So, with that, I reckon I’m fixin’ to let you get back to your rat-killin’ with a whole new understanding of the colorful language of the South. Go out yonder and use a few of these. If your geographically challenged pals seem put off, just gently pat them on the shoulder and give them a warm and loving “Bless your heart.”