I’ve been in Charleston for over five years and it’s no secret I’ve enjoyed my time in the South. Growing up in New England, I never thought I would not only live here, but love it. I love the big changes – weather, food, living by the beach, etc. – but I also love some of the little things. Namely, clothing and vernacular.
I’ve spent most of the past week back in my hometown, so I’ve been able to really reflect on those differences. Clothes are the most immediately noticeable difference. Charleston girls wear their summer dresses to just about every event. Concert? Baseball game? Night out on the town? Food truck rodeo? Doesn’t matter.
Holy City guys wear boat shoes/sperrys, croakies, they don’t mind their shorts being a little shorter (but will never wear any size of cargo shorts), they sport feathery hair and will wear anything that is pastel-colored. That stuff is not for me, but some of the local boys love it. And good for them.
The vernacular is probably my favorite thing about Chucktown though. Now that I’m dating a native of Charleston, I’ve become even more aware of some of differences in speech. Here is a small sampling (aka what I could remember on a moment’s notice) of Charlestonisms.
Y’all - The classic. The collective “you” is just too damn confusing, so this word was created to make things easier.
Bo’ – I’m not sure of the “proper” spelling of this term, but Southerners use it to mean “boy” or “buddy.” They’ll say things like “You got that right, Bo’!”
Box – Synonym for fight/punch. “I’m gonna box him in the face!” “I’m gonna box him!”
Might Could do – Another way to say “could do.” “That’s a good idea, but we might could do this instead”
Raise Cain – To cause trouble
Sir/ma’am - Although all regions of the country are familiar with these words, Charlestonians overuse them. I’m called “sir” about 80 times a day and I’m expected to call all adults “sir” or “ma’am” and respond to people’s questions with a “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am.” This is a hard thing for a reforming Yankee like myself.
Fixin – Planning on, about to. “I’m fixin to get some food.”
Tore Up – Messed up/broken up. “I hurt my leg earlier. It’s all tore up.”
Yankee vs. Damn Yankee – A Yankee is a Northerner who currently lives in the North. A Damn Yankee is a born-Northerner who moved to the South.
Piazza – It’s a porch, but on the side of the house. Do not call it a porch.
Joggling board - Couldn’t explain it if I wanted to.
She Crab Soup – If you like crab, this is excellent.
Sweetgrass Baskets – They sell these everywhere.
Pecan Pie – I still haven’t tried it
Boiled Peanuts – Like peanuts? How about eating them when they are hot and soggy!? Yea, they are an acquired taste.
Double staircases – I heard each side was designated for each gender when they were originally built.
Fried-green tomatoes – Not a fan.
Bricks – Every damn building downtown is made of bricks.
BBQ – When Southerners (at least in the Carolinas) say BBQ, it can encompass a lot of things, but it’s really about the pork, not the chicken.
BBQ Sauce – Carolina folk seem to prefer the yellow, mustard-based BBQ sauce as opposed to the sweet, tangy red sauces.
Grandma – A liquor that I knew nothing about before moving here. It’s short for Grand Marnier.
Sweet Tea – It’s iced tea but with a crapload of sugar. I absolutely prefer this now.
Grits – A southern staple. It’s kind of a combination of rice and oatmeal, but made of corn meal. Confused? Doesn’t matter, because when it is done right, it is delicious.
Pimento Cheese – Much like grits, I’ve never had this before moving to the South. It is awesome.
Wreck – This is used in the place of “car accident” or “accident.”
Gig – My girlfriend has tried to explain this to me and I’m still not sure I get it. To the best of my recollection it involves catching frogs or something?
Buggy – This is used in place of “shopping cart.” It cracks me up everytime my girlfriend uses this term.
Things New Englanders say and my girlfriend is happy to remind me that I sound silly when I say them: Supermarket, Grinder
Dislike of people from Ohio – Surprisingly, Ohioans really draw the ire of the people of Charleston. They seem to hate them more than the Damn Yankees.
Phew….I hope to continue this list as I think of more! I hope you all are having a great weekend and I look forward to rejoining you in Charleston tonight.