Husband, father, lawyer, and part-time blogger from Sweetwater, TX.
Learn to Speak Texan
When traveling abroad, it is usually wise to learn a few words and phrases in the native language to help in case you find yourself in a jam. It is also wise to learn a little about the native culture to make you appear less touristy.
For example, should you choose to make Texas your travel destination, you should know that Texas was once its own country called the Republic of Texas. Also, most native Texans do not yet realize this is no longer the case. They are very sensitive about their homeland. Tread lightly. Don't mess with Texans.
However, many Texans do speak a form of English (pronounced "Ainglish" in Texan), so the language should not be much of a barrier. There are a few key differences, though. For example, I do not believe the phrase "learn a little Texan" to be ambiguous for English speakers, but it may be for a speaker of Texan (prompting one to go meet a shorter Texas native). It is these subtleties that you need to master before your trip to the Lone Star State.
40+ Texas Words, Sayings, and Phrases
When traveling in Texas, please feel free to carry this handy guide to Texas-speak with you—trust me, you will need it.
Ah - (ah)
The letter "I" or the sound produced by the long "i", as in ahce (ice), tahr (tire), lahk (like), or mah (my).
All git out - (all-git-out)
To a great degree, exceedingly, or as much as possible, as in, "She was madder'n (see 'n below) all git out!"
Ah'ite - (ah'ite)
Alright, as in, "Is ev'thang (see ev'thang below) ah'ite?"
Bald - (bald)
Boiled, as in, "Cook me up a hard bald egg."
Big'o - (big-oh)
Big ol', big ole, or big old, as in, "That sure's a big'o truck."
Caw - (caw)
Call, as in, "Caw may (see may below) later."
Done - (dun)
Done, completed, broken up, or tired, as in "the chicken's done," "we're done," or "I'm done."
Ev'thang - (ev-uh-thang)
Everything, as in "Is ev'thang ah'ite?" (See ah'ite above.) See also thang below.
Fixin' - (fix-in)
About, when used with to, pronounced "tuh," as in "I'm fixin' tuh go to the game." Or, the whole of the side dishes included with a meal when made plural "fixins," as in "We're havin' turkey and all the fixins."
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Gimme - (gi-mee)
Give me or give to me, as in "Gimme a break."
Get/Got on at - (get or got-on-at)
To gain or to have gained employment from, as in, "Johnny's gonna (see gonna below) try to get on at the feedlot next week," or "Johnny got on at the feedlot last week."
Gonna - (gun-uh)
Going to. See get/got on at above.
In'thang - (in-uh-thang)
Anything, as in "Do we need in'thang from the store?"
Jeetjet - (jeet-jet)
Did you eat yet(?), as in, "Jeetjet? Squeat." (See squeat below).
Kicker - (kick-ur)
The deciding or utmost motivating factor, the last and typically most persuasive reason or argument. As in, "...and here's the kicker..."
Libel'ta - (libel-tuh)
Liable to, or more appropriately, likely to, as in "He's libel'ta go off and do sumpin' (see sumpin' below) stupid."
May - (may)
Me, see caw above.
'n - (un)
Than, when following a descriptive, as in "bigger'n Dallas" or "madder'n all git out"(see all git out above).
Nuttin' - (nut-in)
Nothing, as in, "I ain't got nuttin'."
O' - (o)
Ol', ole, or old, an article like "the" or "a," especially when applied to persons or animals, as in "O' Scooter is good o' boy (or dog)."
-Off - (off)
A condition or state of being when appended to the end of a descriptive, as in "The doc says Jim's pretty bad-off." Others include good-off, well-off, and the more familiar ticked-off, hacked-off and, of course, p'd-off.
-Out - (out)
Appended to a verb to form seemingly interchangeable present tense descriptives, as in wore-out, give-out, plum-out.
- Note: For the present perfect tense of verbs ending in "n" or "en," drop the "n," as in wore-out (not worn out).
Ov'air - (ohv-heir)
Over there, as in, "Where are my shoes? They're ov'air."
Piddlee'o - (pid-lee-oh)
Small, or a small amount, as in "Ain't you just a piddlee'o thang."
Place - (place)
A particular though perhaps undefined parcel of property often preceded by a proper noun to provide definition, as in "the o' (see o' above) Johnson place." Not to be confused with the English slang "place" meaning residence, as in "my place" or "your place". If you want to invite a Texan over to your "place" and the "place" to which you are referring is a 400 sq. ft. apartment, expect to be escorted to the nearest state line.
Purt/Purtee - (pert or perty)
Pretty. Omit the last syllable when preceding a descriptive, as in "Joe's purt well-off" (see -off above), and pronounce the last syllable when referencing attractiveness, as in "She's show 'nuff (see show 'nuff below) purty!"
'R - (are)
Our, not to be confused with "are."
Show 'nuff - (show-nuf)
Sure enough, an intensifier (see "She's show 'nuff purty" above) or state of agreement, as in "That was some good fishin' today, wat'nit (see wat'nit below)? Show 'nuff."
Squeat - (squ-eet)
Let's go eat, as in "Hungry? Squeat."
Sumpin' - (sump-un)
Something, as in "Sumpin's gotta' give."
Swate - (swate)
Sweet, as in "Gimme' (see gimme above) a large swate tay (see tay below)."
Tak'n'ta - (take-un-tuh)
Taking to, or to have commenced or begun to enjoy, as in "He's tak'n'ta drinkin' again" or "She's really tak'n'ta him."
Tank - (tank)
A pond (typically man-made) primarily for watering cattle, and to a lesser degree for fishing and/or swimming, as in "We went swimmin' down at the tank."
Thang - (thang)
Thing. A universal pronoun, as in "little o' thang" or "ugly o' thang".
-Up - (up)
Appended to the verb form to connote a final or conclusive condition or state of being, as in "He's gussied-up." Others include fired-up, worked-up, tied-up (not literally tied up as with ropes or chains, but similar to eat-up, see eat-up below), cowboyed and/or cowgirled-up, bowed-up (agitated and aggressive or threatening).
- Note: As with -out above, for the present perfect tense of verbs ending in "n" or "en," drop the "n," as in eat-up (not eaten-up) and tore-up (rather than torn-up, meaning emotionally wounded not ripped).
Up'dee - (up-dee)
Uppity, insolent, as in "You better quit bein' up'dee with your mom."
Var'mit - (var-mit)
Varmint, any small animal particularly when being hunted, as in "Me and o' (see o' above) Jack went var'mit huntin' this mornin'."
Wat'nit - (watt-nit)
Wasn't it(?), an interrogatory typically appended rhetorically to a statement where only agreement is sought, see show 'nuff above.
-Way - (way)
Similar to -off above, as in "He's in a purt (see purt above) good-way."
Whole 'nuther - (hole-nuther)
A whole other, an indicator of something altogether different, as in "That's a whole 'nuther can o' worms."
Worsh - (worsh)
Yankee - (yank-ee)
Any person born north of the Red River.
Yer - (yer)
Yonder - (yon-der)
An indication of any direction or any location other than the location of the speaker, typically following a modifier, as in "up yonder," "down yonder," "out yonder," "in yonder," "over yonder," and, when appropriate, "under yonder." Shakespearean English ain't got nuthin' on Texan.
Rules to Remember When You're Speaking Texan
Should you ever find yourself in Texas without an English-Texan dictionary or this handy guide, here are five simple rules to remember (and possibly save your hide).
1. Shed Syllables
In almost any three syllable word, you can contract out any vowel from the middle syllable to make a two-syllable word and sound more Texan.
- Examples: Italy = It'ly, Florida = Flor'da, Johnathan = John'than, Melody = Mel'dy.
2. Forget "G"
Never, ever pronounce the "g" in words endin' in "ing." This is a dead giveaway that you are a Yankee cruisin' for a bruisin'.
- Examples: Fishin', Cookin', Readin' and Writin'.
3. "L" Is Optional
Ignore an "L" following a vowel in the middle of a word or simply replace an "L" with a W.
- Examples: Light Bub (Bulb), Code (Cold) Outside, and Caw (Call).
4. Wing It (If You Dare)
Let the metaphors fly. Texan is nuttin' if not colorful, so go to town, make stuff up, invent words if you must. Alliterate, elaborate, and incorporate.
- Examples: "Heck, it's hotter'n a hog on a hot plate." Why not? Sounds Texan to me. You can also compare anything to a $3 bill (weirder'n a $3 bill), add "fire" to any exclamation ("Crap fire boy, what's the matter with you?"), or make up inoffensive curse words (dad gum it, gosh darn it, dag nab it, dad blazes, etc.).
5. Know When to Fold 'Em
One of the most popular bumper stickers in Texas reads "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could." Yeah, right. You're not a Texan. There is no citizenship test, membership card, or minimum residency requirement. You either are privileged enough to have been born in the Republic of Texas or not. It's okay if you weren't—just accept it. Go ahead, root for the Cowboys, wear your cute little outfits at the honky tonks, and display your bumper stickers. You are always welcome, but you're just not a Texan...but be thankful, your kids can be.
© 2008 Peter M. Lopez