Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Speak Texan

We Texans speak a language all our own, leading non-Texans to look at us like we don’t have good sense. We’re not illiterate hicks, you know…well, not all of us, anyway. Truth be told, even the most educated, most cosmopolitan Texans converse in Texas-speak when we’re around other Texans.

Honestly, folks who can speak both English and Texan ought to be considered bilingual.

This is why I don’t write dialect in stories. Nobody but another Texan would have a clue what the characters said.

In an attempt to assist the unfortunate souls who stumble into the state without a dictionary — and to keep those of y’all who insist on making fun of us alive a little longer — I herewith present a few Texas-isms. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Ahmoan: I’m going to. “Need anything else? Ahmoan head on out here in a bit.”

Ahohno: I don’t know.

Ahuz: I was. “You hungry? Ahuz just about to put supper on the table.” (Note: Whether or not Texans are happy to see you, if it’s mealtime they’ll invite you to eat with them.)

Aint: aunt. “Ant” is acceptable. “Awnt” is unforgivable.

All y’all: y’all, but for a bigger group.

Arya: are you.

Pumpjack in Hockley County, Texas (click image to play video)
Awl: oil. Still the lifeblood of Texas’s economy.

Awl patch: oilfield; petrochemical industry. Every Texan has at least one relative or ancestor with some connection to the oil business.

Bar ditch: a water-diversion channel running alongside a roadway. Except after a rain, they’re usually dry.

Better’n: better than.

Bidness: business. “That ain’t none of your bidness.”

Bless your heart: This phrase isn’t exclusive to Texas, but it gets used an awful lot in the Lone Star State. The meaning depends upon the context, and there are too many possibilities to list. Among the most common are “I’m so sorry,” “You are just the sweetest thing,” and “You’d best get out of my sight before I need bail money.”

Caint: can’t.

C’moanin: come on in. “I’ve been expecting y’all. C’moanin.”

Cocola: Coca Cola. If you want the brown, fizzy beverage that comes in a red can, order this.

Coke: any carbonated beverage, regardless the color, flavor, or name on the bottle. If you order a coke in Texas, the waiter or waitress will ask you “What kind?”

Coon’s age: a long time. “Where you been? I ain’t seen you in a coon’s age.”

Monument to the Texas Rangers at the state capitol in Austin
Cotton to: like, accept, or be unoffended by. Usually used in the negative. “We don’t much cotton to Yankees making fun of the way we talk.”

Daaaaayum: the longest word in the Texas language. Foreigners just say “damn.”

Didden; dudden: didn’t; doesn’t. “My family didden want me to marry Jim Bob. Daddy still dudden like him.”

Do whut now?: You’re kidding, right? Also, in cases where the speaker wasn’t paying attention, “Could you repeat that?”

Fixinta: about to. “I’m fixinta run down to the store. Need anything?”

Flahrs: flowers. “Better take her some flahrs or throw your hat in first.”

Foggiest notion: clue or idea; always used in the negative. “I don’t have the foggiest notion what you’re talking about.”

Furners: foreigners. Anybody who’s not from Texas.

God love ’im/her/’em: Like “bless your heart,” this phrase can be used in a variety of ways. The most common meaning is he/she/they need looking after, because they’re too stupid to live. “God love ’im. He ain’t never had a lick of sense.”

Growshree, growshrees: grocery, groceries. “I’d better run down to the growshree store and pick up some growshrees, or we’re gonna starve.”

Hun’ert: one hundred.

Idden: isn’t. “Idden that cousin Bo over there?” (Yes, we spell names funny, too.)

Texas Longhorn with attitude
My cow: an expression of disbelief or concern. “My cow. Doesn’t he know better than to tease a rattlesnake?”

My hind leg: I don’t believe you. “You were working late, my hind leg.”

Nessary: necessary. Texans frequently omit syllables they don’t find absolutely nessary.

Ohnover: on over. “Y’all come ohnover. We’ll play cards or something.”

Pert-near: almost. “That boy’s pert-near as big as his daddy now, idden he?”

Probly: probably. “He’s probly just confused.”

Proud of: typically indicates something is priced way too high. “A hun’ert dollars for a pair of jeans? They sure are proud of those, aren’t they?”

Rainch: ranch; used as both noun and verb. “Yep, I come from rainch stock: My granddaddy was a raincher. Some of my uncles still rainch.”

Ratback, ratnow, ratquick: right back, right now, right quick. “Ahohno what you think you’re doing with that horse, but put him ratback where you found him, ratnow, or I’ll call the law ratquick.”

Ratcheer: right here. “Clara, where’d you get off to?” “I’m ratcheer.”

Rouneer: around here. “Y’all got any duck tape rouneer?”

Spoze: suppose; supposed. “I spoze you expect me to mow the grass.” “You were spoze to mow it yesterday.”

Tea: iced tea with sugar, the national beverage of Texas. If you want tea served any other way, you’d best be real specific...and prepare to face a scowl.

Texas anole (NOT a gecko; NOT a chameleon)
These parts: the general vicinity, which might be the neighborhood, the state, or the entire southern U.S. “’Round these parts, we don’t cotton to folks who can’t keep their noses in their own bidness.”

Tickled to death: very happy. “I’m just tickled to death y’all stopped by.”

Tuhmahruh: tomorrow. “See you tuhmahruh.”

Uh-huh: although used nationwide as a general term of agreement, in Texas “uh-huh” also is an appropriate response to “thank you.”

Urmomanem: your extended family; literally, your mom and them. “How’s urmomanem?” (Warning to the unwary: Never ask a Texan about his or her mother unless you’re prepared to hear an extensive report about everybody in the family. “How’s your momma?” “Oh, she’s fine. Grandma’s rheumatism’s acting up again. Uncle Billy and Aint Leta sold the house in Boerne and moved over to Seguin to be closer to the kids. Mark ran his truck off into the bar ditch again, and Dub had to take the tractor out yonder to pull him out. Cousin Lucille’s getting married in November. Ahohno how that girl can have the nerve to wear white, but…”)

Viztin: having a conversation with; literally, visiting. “Ahuz viztin with Mable just the other day. That woman can talk the bark off a tree.”

Wooden: wouldn’t. “I wooden touch that with somebody’s else’s ten-foot pole.”

Yaint: you aren’t. “Yaint too bright, arya?”

Yawna: you want to. “Yawna go to the football game Friday night?”

Yole: you old. “Ain’t seen you in a coon’s age, yole hound dog.”

A rabble-rousing Texan to the bone, Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen’s stories, even the good guys wear black hats. Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the 2014 Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction.

Visit her home on the range at


  1. Quite a few of these are southern words used even in my state of NC, and then there are those only Texans speak. When I saw the title of this article I knew in an instant it had to be no other than the crazy Texan, Kathleen Rice Adams who wrote it. You have your own very unique style and voice, my friend. You show up in everything you write.
    Wishing you all the best...

    1. Oh dear. I guess that totally blows my cover as a New York Socialite, doesn't it?

      Sarah, I figured you'd recognize a lot of these. A whole lot of words and phrases are used all over the South. Texas really can't lay claim to all of them...but that doesn't stop Texans from tryin'! ;-)

  2. Oh, lawd hep me. I don know whar to start.
    My husband taught in the School of Business here at Texas State University, and one of the Head of the Department before my husband got that position, said, "School ah Bidnus." I swear, my husband and his co-horts have said that and laughed about it for...well, for decades.
    Well, I laughed about each and every one of these, because I have been guilty about speaking like this many times. I learned to "straighten" up when I taught school, because these kids were from all over the US and Mexico, and ever in some European countries. I learned quickly to finish my "ing" words, and I learned to stop putting extra syllables in some words. Thanks for the laugh, Kathleen...this made my day, and believe me, I needed a laugh.

  3. Celia, I should've consulted with you before posting this! I'll bet we could've come up with a list that would wrap around the globe fifteen or twenty times. :-D

    I completely forgot all the words in your opening sentence. I also forgot "wahr" -- as in "bob wahr." GAH! Can't believe I forgot that one!

    BIG HUGS, dear lady. I hope your week gets better. :-)

  4. Thanks for making my education, YT. Highly interestin'. It sort of reminds me of how people speak in the Maritimes (and in Louisiana, by extension) - except it would be a mix of French and English. As an example: Espère-moé sul'corner dans five minutes, m'a allé get my car. (which would translate more or less as: Wait for me at the corner in five minutes, I'll get my car). And, to top it all, their accent is so cute.

  5. Lots of these used in Mississippi, too!! Thanks for the laugh.


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