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A to Z Texas: I is for Idioms

Dr Pepper is a common sight in Texas (photo by Tui Snider)
Dr Pepper is a common sight in Texas (photo by Tui Snider)

Texan Accents Vary

I love how accents and slang vary throughout the USA, so, for me, that aspect of moving to Texas has been a real treat.

Of course, since Texas is such a big place, there is no one official Texan accent. Think for a moment of how different Tommie Lee Jones, Billy Bob Thornton and H. Ross Perot sound from one another even though they are all Texan natives. (And what’s with their three-piece names? Maybe that’s a Texan thing. I will have to look into that. Ooh – Lyndon B. Johnson, there’s another!)

My Favorite Texas Idioms

I realize that some of the following may occur in places beyond Texas, but here’s a list of things that really stand out to my ears since moving here:

Y’all: OK, this one definitely occurs all throughout the south, but I wanted to mention it because I am a big fan of the word, “y’all.” People often make fun of this little word, but it serves a grammatical purpose. It gives a plural of the pronoun, “you,” which can really help clarify things. Also, most other languages have a plural for the word you. (I could go on, but I’ll leave that for another post.)

Coke: It took me a while to realize that when you go over to someone’s house and they offer you a coke, they are not necessarily referring to Coca Cola. Here in Texas, “coke” is synonymous with any soda drink, and can refer to everything from rootbeer to ginger ale.

(On the other hand, coke never refers to Dr. Pepper. Every Texan knows what that is. Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco, Texas and folks around here drink it by the gallon. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see a bottle or can of the stuff.)

Bubba: Up north, I occasionally heard the word, “bubba,” used as a put down. Here in Texas, however, I hear guys use it as an affectionate endearment, much the way my Yankee pals call each other, “dude.” It’s a casual way to greet someone you are on friendly terms with.

This ain’t my first rodeo: This phrase is perfect for moments when a person starts instructing you on how to do something you are very experienced at. Let’s say you are a tailor and someone starts telling you how to thread a needle. Here in Texas, you’d say, “Bubba, this ain’t my first rodeo!” to let them know their advice is unneeded.

Fixing to: When someone nags you to do the dishes, and while you haven’t yet washed them, you sincerely plan to, all you have to do here in Texas is say, “I’m fixing to do the dishes,” and you are off the hook. (After snickering over this one for a couple years, I caught the phrase by contagion and have used it a time or to myself.)

Might could: The phrase, “might could,” really snagged my ears the first few times I heard it, but now I know it’s simply a Texan way of saying maybe. In fact, “might could,” is even better than maybe.  From what I’ve seen, when someone tells you they, “might could,” do something for you, it means that they sincerely would like to if they can find a way (at which point, of course, they’d be fixing to do it!)

What’s Your Favorite Regional Slang?

Those are just a few phrases that were new to me since I moved to Texas in 2009. I’m sure there are lots more out there that I haven’t heard yet. Do you know of any? What interesting phrases do people use where you live?

More A to Z blog posts

This was my post for the letter I of the A to Z blogging challenge. Tune in tomorrow to see what quirky Texan thing the letter J will bring!

In the meantime, click on this link to find out what other A to Z blogging challenge folks are writing about.

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Rhonda,

      Oh, yeah. I remember when a British person invited me to tea once. I was expecting scones and, well, tea, but instead we had curry!


  1. Ha. My sister dubbed me “bubba” early in life and it stuck. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. After leaving and coming back, even for a few weeks, I’ve found that “y’all” actually irritates me a little bit now, more often than not when I use it! ;) Good catch on “might could” and “fixing to”…I can never think of idioms like that when I need an example.

  2. What a great post! I love this! I’ve lived here my whole life, so none of it stands out to me – I love to hear what sounds strange or remarkable to other people.

    One that I especially enjoy is a phrase Molly Ivins coined: “dumber than a bucket of hair.” Makes me snort every time. I highly recommend you help us put this into greater circulation!

    (There is also “hotter’n two mice humping in a wool sock,” but that one’s like the fancy china – too nice to use for anything but special occasions.)

    Looking forward to your next post!

  3. Ha! I love hearing people talk about idioms. There seems to be a lot of different perspectives. It’s one of my favorite things about traveling.

    Being from Alabama, I am guilty of several of these. In fact, I remember debating the usefulness of “might could” with one of my coworkers from Colorado. I never did convert him, but he would occasionally use y’all by the time our project ended. :)

  4. Loved this! Yes, we do say all those things! Guilty as charged :)

  5. That was a fun post. In Hawaii, we say soda, not pop, not coke. There is a language called pidgin which is a mishmosh of English, Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, etc… all the languages that the plantation workers spoke, so the language can be quite colorful here.

    • Slim Slim

      I am married to a local girl and We are retired to small town in West Texas. You can imagine the idioms firing back and forth on our front-porch of an evnin’ , and I am the translator!

      • Tui Snider Tui Snider

        Hi Slim! Thanks for dropping by. Sounds like a lot of fun. I love all the accents and Texan sayings I hear since moving to the Lone Star State from up north. :)

  6. Oh my goodness yes! Before I lived in Texas, I had been exposed to a lot of those idioms you’ve listed, so I knew what to expect. I find if someone were to call me “Sweetheart” outside Texas, then I’d consider them very rude! But in Texas, yeah, it’s much welcomed! :)

    Can I get you a Coke?
    Yes, please.
    What kind?

    Yup, many an overheard conversation! :)

    I <3 Dr. Pepper, so driving by the massive can outside the museum in Waco never got old! Dr. Pepper just doesn't taste the same anywhere else!

    Jamie Dement (LadyJai)

  7. OMG The whole coke equals all pop thing is always something when I go to visit my in-laws in Mississippi. People give me confused looks when I say pop. It’s funny.

  8. Lisa Veccjopme Lisa Veccjopme

    Tui Dahling,

    The first time I was in Tennessee, my ears were absolutely dancing with joy listening to the dialect. My absolute fave was from a little child chasing after their mama into the mall. She was bustling into the mall to take care of important mall business saying to her little one trailing behind, ‘Hurry up now!’ and the little one was half way to crying and as he ran after her he was wailing, ‘Wait on me mama! Wait on me!’
    I wish I had a recording. I guess I still have one in my head.
    Have a blast wit yo bloggin challenge sugar pie.

  9. Enjoyed the post. Knew some folks a few years ago that actually had the Dr Pepper truck make a delivery to their house every couple of weeks. Working on a post of my own of just the variations of the word yonder.

  10. LOVE idioms and accents. They make people interesting. I like using idioms when I write to build a character.

    Happy A to Z blogging!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi S.L. Hennesy,

      I think Mark Twain was the master of incorporating idioms and even accents into his fictional accounts.

      Happy A to Z blogging to you, too! I’ll pop over and say hi at your place.


  11. Tui… I am loving your A to Z series. You’re doing a great job of highlighting the greatness of my home state! Brava!! I haven’t had a chance to read a few of the other posts or comment on the ones that I have read…. but I’m fixin’ to! :)

    • ps… I ain’t had a Dr. Pepper in years! (I have noticed that since my parents came to visit, my Texan is coming out real bad. Wonder how long it will stick around after they leave.)

      • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

        Hi Sonia,

        I think it’s funny how a person’s accent can “flare up” around relatives. My husband is from Long Island and I get a kick out of hearing his speech change when we visit his family up there.

        I hope your parents brought you some treats from Texas when they visited!


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Sonia,

      Hehe – I’m flattered that you’re fixin’ to read through my Texas A to Z posts. What more could I ask for – besides a coke of some sort? ;p


  12. Eeeewwww, no to Dr. Pepper. I don’t understand what it is that’s so appealing about that drink :/ *bleurgh*

    I’m now trying to think of things we say here, in the good old east of England. People around here say ‘boy’ even when they’re talking about an old man. They’ll also say things like ‘She like riding her bike, she do.’ Things like that really irritate me, because I love grammar and it hurts my ears and brain when it’s used incorrectly :/

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Rebeccah,

      Some things grate on me grammatically, but other things I find endearing. I enjoy a colorful description and I believe in the need for the word y’all, but I do notice when people make grammatical errors. It’s the editor in me, I can’t help it!

      If you ever post about your local slang, let me know!


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