If ya’ll don't know how to talk Texan, I’m here to help. Texan is a unique and fun lingo. Let's learn to speak (and laugh) the Texas way.
I think of myself as half Texan since half my relatives come from the Lone Star State. And I’ve lived here full-time for longer than a decade. While I’ve wandered the dusty trails of this great state, I’ve picked up a few amusing words and phrases. Grandmother Maurine taught me the most, but I learned some more colorful phrases from Grandpa Pat. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this post clean!
I recommend learning some of the lingo before you visit Texas. Some might surprise you; others will feel downright normal after getting used to them.
The first term you need to know: y’all. No, I didn’t spell it wrong. Texans don’t say you all; we say y’all.
Any y'all drive a Chevy Suburban, the National Car of Texas?
Note that it’s plural. Don’t address one person, “How y’all doin?” She’ll likely stare at you and ask where you’re from.
Y’all is inclusive. If you normally say, “you go,” in Texas say, "y’all go.” Use it if you’re talking about a group of folks all going somewhere.
All y’all going there?
Darlin' or Sugar
You’ll also hear sir and ma’am a lot. This is the respectful form of y’all. When dining out, your server might call you darlin’ or sugar. No disrespect is intended. Your server is just being personable and Texan.
Hey, darlin'! Can I get ya some coffee?
When I visited Texas as a youngster, I thought darlin’ was meant for all youngsters. But as I got older, I found that the servers were just being sociable.
Texans know how to get things done. When a Texan is preparing to do a task, they are fixin’ to get something done.
I’m fixin’ to mow the lawn right after church.
Now it’s time to talk about a mess. In Texas, there are many forms for this word. The most common usage is “Don’t Mess With Texas.” This started as a slogan to cut down on roadside littering. But it has since grown to be a slogan for the Texas lifestyle.
It can also be used to refer to a collection of items.
I’m fixin’ to make a mess of black-eyed peas. Y’all want some?
The other form of mess is more pejorative.
That guy you set me up with was a real mess.
It’s certainly not an endorsement of quality!
When you hear the word longnecks, they are not talking about tropical birds, Texans are referring to cold beer. Texas brewers started using longneck-type bottles in the 19th century and continued to do so even after the advent of canning technology in the early part of the 20th century. One of Texas’ most popular beers, Shiner Bock, comes from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner.
Gimme a longneck of Shiner.
Gilley’s, the famed Texas nightclub, was the world's largest honky-tonk for years. The founder and manager, Sherwood Cryer, said, “We don’t handle anything but longnecks. When they’re dancing with the gals, they stick it in their back pocket, and they hold onto the son-of-a-gun everywhere they go. I tried cans in here for a long time because these boys are bad about fighting with bottles. They’d throw a bottle clear across the room, and if they broke a bottle and started fighting with it, it could get unfortunate.” Even so, the cans, Cryer told the paper, didn’t sell. All anybody wanted was longnecks.
Gilley’s was featured in the movie, Urban Cowboy, in 1980. The place was co-owned and named after country music legend Mickey Gilley and located in Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Gilley’s closed in 1989, and the main building burned down in 1990. There was talk of reviving the club, but it never happened. The rest of the property was demolished in 2006. Gilley's Dallas, however, thrives in Big D.
Coke is not just a product made by the Coca-Cola Co. Texans use it to order any caramel-colored soft drink. Note that soft drink, soda pop, soda or pop are used.
I’ll have a coke.
If you feel tard, you aren’t running late. You’re exhausted. If you’re more than tard, you’re dog tard.
I’ve been on my feet all day and am dog tard!
Bass ackwards doesn’t refer to a fish or a misspelled word. It adds emphasis to the phrase, ass backwards by making ass backwards bass ackwards.
That’s the most bass ackwards idea I’ve ever heard!
Sometimes, it’s best y’all don’t ask.
Let’s talk about bigass. No, I didn’t misspell it. You just haven’t added it to your Texas dictionary yet, y’all. This adjective can apply almost anywhere.
My, y’all have a bigass truck!
We’re fixin’ to get ourselves a bigass burger at Sonic!
Speaking of Sonic, these drive-in restaurants, aka, car hops, at which you order food by parking and using an intercom to place your order. Then someone, sometimes wearing roller skates, delivers your food to your car. While Sonic holds a special place in Texans’ hearts, it started in Oklahoma City. Oklahomans get along fine with Texans—unless they’re talking about football. But after some spirited debate between Longhorns and Sooners, they all go out for some longnecks.
Speaking of food, we need to give a special Texas howdy to Whataburger. This wonderful restaurant chain started in San Antonio. Texans love Whataburger because it’s Texan. At Whataburger you can put on real Texas jalapeños on your burger or have your burger on Texas toast.
That’s right, only at Whataburger can you find a burger on Texas toast. You also can get spicy ketchup. It’s so popular you can buy it in Texas grocery stores. Feel more like breakfast? Whataburger has a great breakfast.
Madeline and our daughter, Lori, love the mouth-watering honey butter chicken biscuit breakfast sandwich. They get extra honey to make them even more gooey. And Madeline isn’t even a fan of breakfast! Whataburger chicken biscuits induces some other fun Texas phrases.
Eatin’ those biscuits makes a person happy as a clam at high tide or happy as a hog in mud.
The Whataburger experience is sweeter than stolen honey and sweeter than baby’s breath.
Did I mention Whataburger serve you even if you’re on horseback? Yup, it happens all the time, though not in the big city.
You don’t live longer in the city; it just seems that way.
Directionally, yonder is an import word. It’s an indication of any direction or any location other than the location you’re in at that moment.
Yonder is the Circle A Dot Bar Sideways S Ranch.
You can use additional modifiers, as in up yonder, down yonder, out yonder and over yonder.
The gas station is down yonder a bit.
Texans convey distance in imprecise terms, such as fur piece.
It's a fur piece to the library. You'd best drive your Suburban.
Here are some other phrases to denote distance:
Her school is two hoots and a holler away.
My mama’s house is just down the road a piece.
Notice how piece came back into the vernacular.
Other Fun Phrases
Disparaging comments about someone are usually indirect. They tend to tell a story about someone else who show incompetence.
He couldn’t knock a hole in the wind with a sack full of hammers.
She’s as useless as two buggies in a one-horse town.
He’s no better than an eyeless needle.
If someone is puzzled, use this fun phrase:
He’s as confused as a goat on AstroTurf.
Any Texan knows that AstroTurf was developed for the Astrodome, a stadium in Houston and the former home of the Astros (MLB), Oilers (NFL) and Rockets (NBA).
If you’re frustrated talking to a puzzled soul, you can say:
I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.
This might leave that puzzled soul thinking:
That conversation was nothing to write home about.
There’s incompetence, and there’s just plain dumb. Dumb can be defined in many direct phrases:
He’s dumb as dirt or dumb as a box of rocks or dumb as a post or dumb as a wagon wheel.
For more indirect statements:
He can’t ride and chew at the same time.
She don’t know which end’s up.
He don’t know diddly squat.
She don’t know a widget from a whangdoodle.
On the other hand, if you’re speaking about a smart lad or lass:
He’s as bright as a penny or smart as a hooty owl.
She does her job as easy as pie.
That man gets the job done because it ain’t their first rodeo.
That woman has plenty of arrows in her quiver.
If your friend is fast, describe him or her like this:
You’re as fast as greased lightning.
You’re faster than a prairie fire with a tail wind.
He’s fast as small-town gossip.
She’s faster than a sneeze through a screen door.
Acting slowly can be frustrating, though.
He’s so slow he could gain weight walking.
If you’re unwilling to give a hearty endorsement, throw out a couple of these phrases that are neither complimentary nor derogatory.
That’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
That’s close enough for government work.
If you’re asked to do something you’re not enthusiastic about you could say:
Might as well.
It’s too wet to plow.
I could sit still for that.
Can’t dance, never could sing.
If you’re going to dance in Texas, you better learn the line dance. They teach it regularly—not just at lunch. Check Billy Bob’s website and chose a time. Billy Bob’s is the self-proclaimed world’s largest honkey-tonk. Y’all know it’s in Fort Worth, right?
If you work with a dishonest colleague, try one of these:
He’s so crooked that if he swallowed a nail he’d spit up a corkscrew.
You can’t tell from his tracks if he’s coming or going.
She knows more ways to take your money than a roomful of lawyers.
She’s as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
On the other hand, when you meet an honest person, be sure to praise them!
He’s so honest you could shoot craps with him over the phone.
If she tells y’all that a hen dips snuff, you can look under her wing for the can.
You can hang your hat on it, bet the farm on it, and then take that to the bank.
If you meet someone full of bluster, here are a few helpful Texanisms:
She’s all hat and no cattle.
I think he can strut sitting down.
He’s all sizzle and no steak.
Remember: Simply buying a Stetson hat or some custom-made boots doesn’t make you a Texan. They might call you too big for your britches.
Texas weather is always something to comment on. It’s usually too hot—until it’s not. But if it’s too hot, Texans say:
It’s as hot as Hades.
It's hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk.
My Grandmother used to say, “It’s hotter than blue blazes!” I still don’t know what that means. Here are some other favorites:
It’s so hot the hens are laying hard-boiled eggs.
It’s hotter than a fur coat in Marfa.
Marfa is in the Big Bend region of Texas, known for its desert and heat.
It can get cold in Texas. Keep in mind, when we say cold, that means less than 70 degrees. But if we’re in for a cold spell, we’ve got phrases for that:
It could be cold as a banker’s heart or cold as a well-digger’s knee.
If you’re from the country, you know some jewels:
It’ll be cold as a cast-iron commode or cold as hell with the furnace out or cold as a frosty frog.
How y’all doin’?
If you’re doing just OK, you might reply with fair to middling. Maybe you’re feeling mighty perky, so you might reply with one of these:
I’m cooking on a front burner today.
I’m fine as frog hair!
If you’re feeling even better than that?
If I felt any better, I’d drop my harp plumb through the cloud.
Some days start slow but get goin’ good.
Now I’m cooking with gas!
Sometimes Texas greetings are tongue in cheek:
Well, look what the cat dragged in.
Company’s coming, add a cup of water to the soup.
Want to invite someone inside for a bit of conversation?
Why don’t you put on your sittin' britches, come on in and let’s chaw the rag.
Well, it’s time to finish up this post. It’s time to put the chairs in the wagon. It’s time to put out the fire and call in the dogs. Church is out. That’s all she wrote!
Y’all come back now, ya hear?