Bless your heart: This phrase is the nice way to express your condolences, pity, or your outright shock at someone’s lack of intelligence. Bless your heart has become more mainstream in recent years, being used by Southerners and non-Southerners alike Now, I know it be difficult to understand how one phrase could mean these various things, so let me provide you with some examples:
Condolences: “Lucy’s mama passed away last week, and the viewing is tomorrow evening after supper (could be anytime after 4 pm).” à “Bless her heart; I’ll take over one of my chicken casseroles.”
Pity: “Did you hear that Thomas forgot his and Jessica’s anniversary for the 3rd year in a row?” à “Bless his heart; he never can get it together.”
Shock at someone’s lack of intelligence: “Lucille got lost goin’ to church again.” à “Bless her heart; she couldn’t find her way out of a brown paper bag.”
Fixin’ to: “Fixin’ to” do something means you are about to do something. This is one of my personal favorites, but not to be confused with just plain ol’ “fixin’s” which are the sides to go along with the main course.
Example of fixin’ to: “I’m fixin’ to make a pecan pie for the church potluck.”
Example of fixin’s: “You bring the fried chicken, and I’ll bring the fixin’s.
For the advanced Southerner: “I’m fixin’ to fix the fixin’s for the pig pickin’.”
Too big for their britches: “Too big for their britches” means someone has an inflated ego and thinks he is too good for his present situation. I have mixed feelings about this one because as a Southerner, it sounds 100% correct, but as a grammar fanatic, it screams pronoun error.
Example: “Someone is too big for their britches ever since he made the varsity football team.”
Holler: Southerners don’t say yell; they say holler.
Examples: “I’ll be in the other room, just holler if you need me.”
“Must’ve been a good game; I could hear you hollerin’ from across the road!”
Up/down yonder: We Southerners sometimes need to be as vague as possible, so when you either don’t want to give an exact location, or there really isn’t an exact location, you say yonder—the universal term for “that place.” Never once do I remember my grandma, my Ma-Maw, telling me she would be over “there.” It was always up or down yonder.
Example: “I’ll be over yonder if you need me, just holler.”
Day’law: This is an expression used to exclaim surprise or bewilderment; it could be replaced with “my goodness.” “Day’law” is not a widespread phrase throughout the South; I’ve really only heard my Ma-Maw and other family members say it, but once you hear it, you can never forget it. To the best of my knowledge, “Day’law” is a shortened version of “Dear Lord,” but she never says “Dear Lord,” so I am not entirely sure.
Example: “Day’law, would ya look at the size of those sweet potatoes!”
Up a creek: This is a phrase meaning in a serious predicament. “Up a creek” is synonymous with “in a pickle.”
Example: “I forgot to write my paper that was due today.” “Well, I guess you’re just up a creek.”