If you are new to central Alabama, Welcome! We hope you enjoy this translation guide for local phrases; it might just come in handy when you are talking with native Alabamians.
1. “Who are you for?”
Your new Alabama neighbors are likely to be friendly; they may even show up with fresh cut flowers or a casserole to welcome you to the neighborhood. Don’t be caught off guard when the first thing they ask you is this question. Who are you for?
Translation: Do you root for Auburn University or the University of Alabama?
Action: Tread carefully here; a wrong answer can stick to you like melted gum on hot asphalt. Observe and do your research before declaring… try yelling War Eagle! and Roll Tide! Does either just pop out naturally? If you aren’t ready to commit, it is best to hold off instead of answering “neither.” Stall them by asking which team they pull for; they will go on and on, and might possibly even break into a cheer, and will forget they even asked you.
Hint: UAB is the closest large public university; and it is perfectly acceptable to be for both UAB AND one of the other two schools. The proper response here is Go, Blazers!
2. “Are you going down to Mardi Gras?”
Translation: They mean in Mobile, Alabama, original home of Mardi Gras. Not New Orleans.
Action: Go, take the family! And learn to love Moon Pies!
3. “Respect the Polygon.”
Translation: During Tornado Season, you are going to want to follow James Spann, world’s best weatherman; he will tell you when a tornado is headed toward your driveway, and you better believe he has heard of your street. The projected path of the tornado is described as a polygon; if James Spann says you are in the Polygon, you need to take action immediately. See #4.
4. “Do YOU have a plan?”
Translation: When you are in the Polygon (see #3), what are you going to do to keep your family safe? This phrase was also made popular by James Spann. If you don’t follow this advice, he will call you a Bonehead.
Action: Familiarize yourself with severe weather preparedness and create a safety plan for your family.
Translation: There is a tiny chance of a few snow flurries falling from the sky.
Action: Immediately drive, as fast as your car will go, to the closest Piggly Wiggly; time is of the essence. If you delay even an hour, chances are you will lose the chance to buy milk and bread. If you miss this chance, what will you eat when all schools and businesses are shut down for a few days? Think about it.
6. “Bless your heart!”
Translation: It depends on the tone in which it is said. Blessing someone’s heart can be a very sincere expression of empathy; but even more often it can be a thinly veiled insult.
Action: Hone your skills for determining how the heart blessing was meant.
Hint: What type of karma might you be due?
7. “Let’s head to the Beach.”
Translation: The main point of importance here is that whatever beach is being referred to is most definitely on the Alabama Gulf Coast or Florida Panhandle. Any other beach would come with an extra adjective. Don’t be alarmed if this area is called the Redneck Riviera; this is not an insult and is instead a source of huge local pride.
Hint: Whether spoken aloud or not, the Alabama native thinks that all beaches in the world besides those mentioned above are far inferior in sand quality, friendliness, and fresh seafood.
8. “Do you ski?”
Translation: This means water ski. Always.
9. “What are your favorite veggies?”
Translation: Which pole beans, heirloom tomatoes, corn, or other local vegetables do you prefer?
Action: When in doubt, specify Kentucky Wonders or Rattlesnake Beans, Better Boy or Cherokee Purple ripe tomatoes, Silver Queen corn, also all okra, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, mac & cheese, and banana puddin’.
10. “Yay, the clear seed peaches should be out this week.”
Translation: Sometime in July, the best peaches in the world are ready. No, they are not from Georgia; they are from Chilton County, Alabama. These freestone (“clear seed”) peaches are Heaven-sent and easy to eat, as the peach meat doesn’t stick to the seed.
11. “Moon over Homewood.”
Translation: This phrase, also the name of a song by Jack Voorhies, refers to the unclothed rear end of Birmingham’s Vulcan statue, whose butt cheeks hang over the city of Homewood.
Action: You have to go see it for yourself.
12. “I’m about to throw a hissy fit.”
Translation: I am madder than a wet hen.
Translation: I am upset.
Action: Back up. You’ll get a better view to record for Youtube.
13. “He has just gotten too big for his britches.”
Translation: My goodness, he is pretentious.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a followup statement to #11.
14. “My car wouldn’t crank this morning.”
Translation: No, the car doesn’t have a crank; Alabamians say crank the car instead of start the car.
15. “I am worn slap out.”
Translation: I am all tuckered out.
Translation: I am tired.
One last hint. When this place captures your heart and you decide it is home, you need to know what to call yourself. The proper term is Alabamian. Not Alabaman.