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Southernisms

10 phrases and traditions you will encounter on a South Carolina getaway

By Joquita Burka

It seems like a strange thing to write definitions of words that are as plain as the nose on your face.[1] But bless your heart[2] if you don’t happen to be from around here. You may not have heard of all these phrases before. So since we want you to feel right at home when you do come to visit, here’s a lesson in Southernisms.

Grab a glass of tea and sit a spell.[3] I’m fixin’ to[4] tell you how to understand, talk and maybe even think like a native. You’ll get it. It’s as easy as all get-out.[5]

[1] Clearly visible. [2]See #1. [3]. For a while. [4] See #2. [5] The utmost conceivable degree.

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10. Y’all and All y’all

You = one person. Y’all = two persons. All y’all = three or more people. Example: All y’all should come visit South Carolina!

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9. Sweet tea

Tea is served over ice and dazzlingly sweet. Even though the first glass may be a shock, you will learn to love it. It is hard to beat when it is sipped on summer days while sitting on a porch swing. With a lemon, please.

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8. Barbecue, BBQ, Bar-B-Q, Q or barbeque

However you spell it, barbecue is pulled pork (99 times out of 100), not an event. And if you ask 10 people what their favorite type is, you will get 10 different answers ranging from dry-spice rubbed to covered in a mustard- or tomato-based sauce. Best advice is to try it all. You can’t lose.

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7. Full as a tick

This is how you feel after stuffing yourself on sweet tea and barbecue. Totally worth it!

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6. Pineapple as a symbol of hospitality

Some say that because pineapples were rare and valued, they were reserved for special guests. Others say it was displayed in front of homes to signify that the seafaring owner was receiving guests. Whatever the origin, the pineapple is just one more reminder of our renowned Southern hospitality.

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5. Sweetgrass baskets

West African slaves used their skill of weaving bulrushes to create baskets for plantation work such as winnowing rice. By the early twentieth century, basket artists were using Lowcountry sweetgrass and long pine needles to create stunning pieces destined to be treasured art.

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4. Porch ceilings painted blue

Sometimes called “Haint Blue,” the particular shade so often found overhead on front porches was said to frighten away evil spirits and ghosts, keep flying insects away or mimic the sky to extend the daylight. The best viewing is from a hammock stretched under the sky-blue porch ceiling. Lie very still while pondering the shade above and remain there until you fall into a deep, don’t-care nap.

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3. Spanish moss on live oaks

While the unromantic may see it as a deciduous quercus virginiana draped with an epiphyte, the more idealistic see sprawling and ancient live oaks that appear to drip with the moss that feeds on the surrounding water and air. Just like Southerners, Spanish moss thrives on high humidity and mild winter temperatures.

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2. Fixin’ to

Literally this means, “I am about to begin.” But it may also imply that you need to slow down a bit and enjoy the beauty and people around you. After all, you are on a vacation.

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1. Bless your heart

It’s an excuse for almost anything you might want to say, as in, “She thinks she can cook, bless her heart.” But it can also be a very sincere sorrow as in, “You have to go home? Well bless your heart! And you just now learned the language!”

Now that you’ve been educated on Southernisms, we hope you’re fixin’ to spend a spell in lovely South Carolina.