Texans take their way of speaking very seriously. As a native born Texan who recently moved to Michigan, I have become especially aware of certain words and phrases that are unique to the southern dialect. In this write-up, I'll highlight a few of my favorite features.

  • Y'all - Perhaps one of the most well known southern expressions, this is the word that is most universally used regardless of class or ethnicity. It is a contraction of "you" and "all" and serves the purpose of a second person, plural pronoun due to the ambiguity of the more proper usage of "you". Y'all has a variety of uses, but the most frequently misunderstood tends to be the distinction between "y'all" and "all y'all". When in a large group of people, "y'all" tends to refer to the people being addressed directly, generally limited to 2-3 people. "All y'all" emphasizes the entire group. Often misspelled as "ya'll". 
  • Well bless {your/her/his} heart - While I never used this phrase personally, it is one that I miss hearing the most. It is most commonly used by middle aged women. As with many southern phrases, it is highly context dependent. For example, if it is in response to hearing about a difficult situation out of one's control, such as a major illness, it tends to be a sincere expression of sympathy. But it can also be used as a back-handed, passive aggressive response to finding out about a dumb decision someone made or a way to poke fun at someone's inability to be successful. For me, the phrase captures the essence of what differentiates southern and midwestern culture. Southerners appear friendly but when they disagree with you they're not afraid to make a point of it. Midwesterners are always friendly, sometimes so much to the point that even when something needs to be said, it isn't.
  • Might could - As in, "I might could go to the Home Depot". While my interpretation may not be universally accepted, I find that this one is more frequently used by Texan men, and reflects another cultural trait: foolhardy confidence. While using words like "might" and "could" as modifiers reduces the expression of confidence, somehow by using both together it gives uncertainty a more confident, masculine tone. This tends to be used most by drivers of pickup trucks and listeners of country music.
  • Pronounciation - In general, sounds tend to be less articulated. A few examples are:
    • For any word ending in an "ing" suffix, the G is always dropped. (going -> goin')
    • When in the middle of a word, the letter "T" is pronounced as a very soft "D" (water -> "wader")
    • The sounds made by the vowels "I" and "E" are nearly interchangeable and for many merge into a new vowel sound, making words like "pin" and "pen" homophones

While many of these features of the Texan dialect are shared among other Southern sub-dialects, what makes Texan English unique is our pride for it. When we find ourselves away from Texas, we often overemphasize our usage of certain phrases. As a more urban Texan, I often mixed "you guys" and "all of you" in with the occasional "y'all" when I lived in Texas. But now that I am in Michigan where there is nearly a complete lack of the usage of "y'all", I make a point to use "y'all" in every situation possible. It's a way of connecting with my roots and reminding people, "Don't mess with Texas."

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