Mike's Guide For Frustrated Northerners

By Michael J. Legeros

"Nip it!"
     - Barney Fife, esq.

Double-o.  End of Teens.  The Big Millennium and Then Some(tm).  And,
for this Certain Someone, the twentieth twelve of a colorful (North)
Carolina tenure.  For a double-decade (and counting) I've been living
"down South," logging the lion's share of my experiences in and around
Raleigh, the state's capital and my residence for 17 of these last 20
years.  Prior was "down east" in Morehead City, for high school, plus
one college summer and a host of subsequent visits.  (Prior prior, for
the first fourteen-- and a half-- years of my life, I strolled the up-
town streets of Minneapolis, living in suburban Minnetonka and fre-
quently frequenting the family restaurant at "Lake and Hennipen.")

As I start Year 21, I *suppose* I should reflect on those particular
pleasures of the "Old North State."  Like the terrific topography, the
(largely) seasonable weather, and that certain... "sparse-ity of eve-
rything" that lends the region its uncomplicated appeal.  (Well, until
it drives you nuts...)  I've learned to "y'all," eaten at "pig pick-
in's," shagged to "beach music," and, by dating, marrying, and *div-
orcing* a Girl From Here, even qualify for the super-duper-derogatory
title of "F***** Yankee."  (Though, technically, I'm a so-and-so *Mid-

Yup, were I a responsible writer, I'd be all blue skies and sunshine.
But I'm not.  Instead, I'm gonna go in the other direction, to focus
on those things more curious, colorful, or, at times, downright annoy-
ing about Tarheel time-killing.  (And with an expected slant toward
the Raleigh-Durham area, but of course...)  Here they come, friends--
the huhs and whosits and not-so-subtle slams.  And if, at times, they
sound a little too gripe-like, then they're long-soured gripes.  Er,
grapes.  Such as, oh, the madness of driving behind someone with a
"feather foot."  Or, say, the superhuman amount of energy required
when listening to a profoundly slower-speaking individual than your-

Admittedly, I've only lived three places:  here, down there, and back
home.  But I've been places.  And places *more* just one or two states
away.  Like Boston, Hartford, Seattle, and St. Louis.  Not to mention
New York, LA, New Orleans, and San Diego.  Plus other sundry cities,
ranging from Pompano Beach to Duluth.  A broad, bi-coastal sampling of
"viva la difference a la Americain" that maybe-- just maybe-- has pro-
vided this author with enough "comparative perspective" to be insight-
ful.  Or at least entertaining.  And so, for those North Carolina new-
comers piqued, puzzled, or even exasperated by that that is, I present
the following "guide."  A to Z, as seen by me.  Enjoy your stay.  I

  o ABC Stores - You call 'em "liquor stores."  Place to
    purchase extra vowels for later use in slurred speech.

  o ACC - Abbreviation for "Atlantic Coast Conference" and
    reason region grinds to halt at tournament time.

  o Air Conditioning - Synonym for "life support system."
    See also: "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."

  o Andy Griffith Show - Documentary television series
    aired between October 1960 and April 1968.

  o "Bacco" - Shortened form of "tobacco" and reason rest
    of the world hates us.

  o "Bacco Juice" - Shortened form of "tobacco juice."
    Brown-colored substance containing saliva and freshly
    sloughed cancer cells.

  o Bagels - Mysterious, round, rapidly disappearing ob-
    jects frequently sighted near large concentrations of

  o BBQ - Butter, vinegar, and red pepper.  Period.

  o "The Beach" - Turn right, drive for two-and-a-half
    hours.  Also called "the Coast."

  o Big City - Depending where you live, Raleigh, Char-
    lotte, Atlanta, or New York.

  o Bluegrass - AKA "Mountain Music," AKA "Hillbilly Mu-
    sic."  Actually studio creation of Bill Monroe in the

  o "Boat" - Multi-purpose synonym for "row boat," "sail
    boat," "speed boat," "fishing boat," "bass boat," or

  o Bojangles - Cajun-style fast food and popular post-
    church destination.

  o "Bubba" - Slang, synonym for "Sir."

  o "Carolina" - AKA "UNC," AKA "Chapel Hill."  Slang,
    shortened form of "University of North Carolina at
    Chapel Hill."

  o Change - Unknown word.

  o "Chew" - Slang, shortened form of "chewing tobacco."
    See also:  "Spit," "Skoal," and "just a pinch between
    my cheeks."

  o Chewing Tobacco - Alternate spelling of "yuck."

  o Church - Building around which parking laws are not en-
    forced on Sunday morning.

  o Cities - "Durham" is pronounced "Durm," "Goldsboro" is
    pronounced "Golds-bur-ah," and "Fayetteville" is pro-
    nounced "Fayette-nam."

  o The Civil War - AKA "That Most Recent Unpleasantness."
    Historical event still debated as having occurred in
    the early 1860's or just the other day.

  o Collards - See "Greens."

  o Confederate Flag - AKA "Rebel Flag." Alternate combina-
    tion of stars and stripes that can cause immediate pro-
    tests and/or yee-hawing.

  o Contractions - What y'all have when having a baby.

  o Country - Shortened form of "Country Music."

  o Country Music - Broad label for a bunch of styles, in-
    cluding "Alternative Country, "Contemporary Country,"
    "Country Pop," "Honky Tonk," "Progressive Country,"
    "Traditional Country," and "Western Swing."

  o Cracker Barrel - Place to go to be called "hon,"
    "shug," or "sweetie."

  o Crime - There is none, which is why you'll get a traf-
    fic ticket long before you get mugged.

  o Culture and the Arts - Thank God for the Internet.

  o Customer Service - There is none, because there are
    more jobs than people who need jobs.

  o "Daddy" - Synonym for "dad."  Used by children *and*
    adults, and some of whom might just kick your ass for
    calling attention to it.

  o "Did you watch / Are you gonna watch the ballgame?" -
    Question asked of person wearing colors and/or logo of
    college sports team.

  o Dale Earnhardt - Person who regular programming was
    interrupted for on Sunday.

  o Dinner - What you call "lunch."

  o Dixie - 1. Brand of paper cup.  2. Everything else.

  o Double Names - e.g. "Billy Ray," "Tammy Faye," "Peggy
    Sue," etc.  See also "Junior."

  o Drivers - Motor-vehicle operators required before li-
    censing to demonstrate inability at merging, accelera-
    tion, and use of turn signal.

  o "Duke" - Slang, synonym for both "Duke University" and
    "Duke University Medical Center."

  o Elvis - Popular figure frequently represented in velvet
    art work and homemade shrines.

  o Fishin' - See "Huntin'."

  o "Fixin'" - Slang for "getting reading."  Also shortened
    form of "fixing." Can be combined: "I'm fixin' to start
    fixin' this here lawnmower."

  o Fried Chicken - Food of the gods.  Also called "South-
    ern-Fried Chicken" and "Chicken-Fried Chicken."

  o Frustration - What happens when faster-talking Northern
    meets slower-speaking Southerner.

  o Fundamentalist - Person who believes they'll go to Hell
    for chewing gum.

  o General Lee - Name of famous car.

  o Greens - See "Collards."

  o Grits - Plot-device of movie "My Cousin Vinny."

  o Grits, Instant - 1. See above.  2. "No self-respecting
    Southern uses instant grits."

  o Gun Rack - [ Too easy.  Insert own joke. ]

  o Helms, Jesse - World's second oldest-living politician
    and former bogeyman of intelligent adults.

  o "Hey" - Slang, synonym for "hi," "hello," or "how are

  o "Hoss" - Slang, synonym for "Bubba."

  o Huntin' - See "Fishin'."

  o Hurricane - Really strong winds at the beach.

  o Hurricanes - Name of local hockey team.

  o Hurricanes, Question Mark - Puzzled look of person when
    told North Carolina has a hockey team.

  o Hush Puppies - Deep-fried pieces of cornmeal, with
    slight sugar or onion flavor.

  o Idioms - Regional expressions, such as "cuttin' the
    fool," "fit to be tied," or "on that like a duck on a
    June bug."

  o Jordan, Michael - Some basketball player.

  o Kerr - Pronounced "car."

  o The King - 1. Elvis.  2. Richard Petty.

  o Krispy Kreme - Popular brand of glazed doughnut best
    consumed (a.) hot (b.) after midnight and (c.) in in-
    crements of six.  Milk optional.

  o Kudzu - Some plant.

  o Labor Day - Calendar date after which the wearing of
    white is strictly verboten.

  o Lard - That smell on your clothes after eating at a
    cafeteria.  See also:  "Obesity Rates By Region."

  o Leaves, Changing of - Spectacular seasonal event where
    entire mountainsides appear on fire.

  o Lottery - Tax applied to mathematically challenged vis-
    itors of Virginia.

  o "The Mall" - Slang for "shopping mall."  Most cities
    only have one, thus no other descriptor required.

  o Mass Transportation - Ineffectually implemented method
    of moving complaining visitors around town.

  o "Mayberry" - 1. Setting of "Andy Griffith Show."  2.
    Slang for any small town in North Carolina.  Can be de-

  o Miss - Informal title preceding first or last name of
    female.  Also unrelated to marital status.

  o "Momma" - Slang for "mother."

  o "Momma, Big" - Slang for "grandmother."

  o Moon-Pie - Some snack.

  o "The Mountains" - Turn left, drive for three-and-a-half

  o "Nabs" - Slang, for prepackaged crackers, usually con-
    taining cheese or peanut butter.

  o NASCAR - Popular sport where "stock cars" drive in cir-
    cles on "race tracks" and make lots of noise.

  o NASCAR Fans - Popular practice of displaying "stock
    car" numbers on passenger vehicles.  Warning:  driver
    may be rabid.

  o NCAA - "I pull for [ favorite ACC team ] and anyone
    playing [ rival of favorite ACC team  ]"

  o The North - Above the "Mason-Dixon Line."

  o "Northerner" - Slang for anyone from "up North."

  o Okra - Scary vegetable, fried or otherwise.  Says me.
    Unrelated to scary person "Oprah."

  o Pace - Appears as slow-motion only if you don't have
    enough to do.  Or daydream about.  See also:  "Episode
    #77:  Man in a Hurry."

  o Pepsi - Inferior brand of cola.  Also created in New

  o Petty, Richard - Well-known person who pitches "head-
    ache powders."

  o Pig Pickin' - Outdoor event involving "slaw," "stew" or
    "taters," and the fainting of newcomers upon opening of
    the cooker.

  o Pollen - Reason everyone appears to be crying in the

  o Polysyllabicismitis - Colorful practice of extra sylla-
    bles to single-syllable words.  Such as "gee-rits"

  o Real Estate - As-of-yet-understood phenomenon of large,
    expensive homes built on small, teeny-tiny lots.

  o "Reckon" - When combined with "I", slang for "I have

  o Redneck - Genetic condition oft-characterized by lower
    intelligence, diminished levels of tact or taste, and
    frequent laughter at Jeff Foxworthy jokes.

  o Red Hot Dogs - Edible objects inexplicable dyed the co-
    lor of Cool-Aid.

  o Religion - 1. Why stores don't open till 1:00.  2. Why
    beer can't be bought before noon.

  o Revival - AKA "Revival Meeting," raucous religious
    service, typically conducted inside a large tent, and
    involving lots of shouting, sweating, and the fanning
    of one's self.  Can I get an Amen?

  o Roads - Poorly planned strips of asphalt (or concrete)
    that North Carolina purportedly has the most of.

  o Scarlet O'Hara - Central character in "Gone with the
    Wind," documentary feature from 1939.

  o "Shine" - Slang, shortened form of "moonshine," plot
    device of Southern-set movies and television shows.
    Also origin of "stock car racing."

  o "Skynyrd" - Shortened form of "Lynyrd Skynyrd," com-
    monly used in exclamation "play some Skynyrd!"

  o "Slaw" - Slang, shortened form of "cole slaw," which is
    yucky.  See also: "What the Hell is on my sandwich?"

  o Small Talk - The approximate two to ten sentences-worth
    of pleasantries required before getting to a point.

  o Snow - Small flakes of frozen water that, upon accumu-
    lation, result in increased sales of milk, bread, and

  o Snow Removal - False idol of Yankee hostility as re-
    quired only once or twice a year.

  o Soda - You call it "pop."

  o The South - Below the "Mason-Dixon Line."

  o Southern Accent - Clever method of measuring intelli-
    gence in people who've never heard one.

  o Southern Hospitality - "Have a nice day" is spelled
    "come back and see us."  FYI.

  o Sports - Why perfectly good talk-radio stations suck
    for most of the week.

  o Sprawl - Any increase in new homes or shopping centers
    greater than 112%.

  o "State" - AKA "NC State," AKA "State College."  Slang,
    shortened form of "North Carolina State University."

  o State Fair - Best place to experience economic diver-

  o "Stew" - Slang, shortened form of "Brunswick Stew,"
    which is also yucky.

  o Summer - Season of year identified by eggs frying on
    sidewalks and molten lava flowing down streets.

  o Supper - What you call "dinner."

  o Sundress - Bright-patterned underwear worn on outside
    of clothes.

  o "Tar," "Far," "Dar," "Har" - Tire, fire, dire, hire.

  o "Tarheel" - Slang for "Carolina" fan.

  o "Tarheel" (alternate) - Slang for person from or living
    in North Carolina.

  o "Tea" - Shortened form of "iced tea."

  o "Tea, Iced" - Shortened form of "sweetened ice tea."

  o "Tea, Sweet" - Slang.  See above.

  o Thunder - Regular afternoon occurrence in summer.  Usu-
    ally accompanied by "lightning."

  o Tractor - What country singers sing about, or so the
    stereotype goes.

  o Trailer - See above.

  o Trailers - 1. Large, oblong objects used to attract
    tornadoes.  2. Smaller, square objects used to keep
    crowded school buildings company.

  o Trailer trash - Derogatory term for someone who lives
    in a trailer and has less money than person using de-
    rogatory term.

  o "Triangle" - Slang for geographical area comprised of
    Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Research Tri-

  o "Truck" - Multi-purpose synonym for "small truck,"
    "light truck," or "pick-up truck."

  o Upholstered Furniture - Landscaping technique for
    smoothing areas of lumpy grass while simultaneously
    lowering surrounding property values.

  o Vacation Destinations, Out of State - Graceland, Opry-
    land, Dollywood, South of the Border, etc.

  o Vacation Destinations, In State - Beach.  Mountains.

  o Yankee - Person either (a.) from "up North" or (b.)
    suspected of being from "up North."

  o Yankee, Damn - Person from "up North" who either (a.)
    moves here or (b.) marries someone from here.

  o Yard Sales - You call them "garage sales."

  o Wal-Mart - Second-best place to experience economic di-

  o Watermelon - Messy fruit that, when consumed outdoors,
    results in spontaneous display of adolescent behaviors.

  o "The way we do it..."  - Method of identifying Yankees.

  o "White Trash" - Variation of "trailer trash."  Can be
    qualified with "poor."  Also common utterance on "Jerry
    Springer Show."

  o Winter - Three weeks in December or January.

  o Work - "We close at five and ain't open on the weekend."


The following were omitted due to space limitations, lack of author
experience, lack of author interest, or utterly shameless safe-play-
ing:  ball caps, blue jeans, missing teeth, coveralls, big hair,
blue hair, Blue Bridge Parkway, "Bragg," "Lejune," and all things
"jar-head", chit-lens, fat back, black-eyed peas (actually they're
beans), "Dueling Banjos" as anxiety trigger in men who've seen "De-
liverance," flea markets, farmers market, front porches (with or
without dogs), "Fran," "Floyd," Floyd the Barber, funnel cakes and/
or fried dough, "Hank," "Hank, Jr.," Hardee's, Indian tribes, Indian
casinos, Jack Daniels, Jim Crow, Jesus _____, Jesus is _____, lame
local newscasts, lame local newspapers, Latino communities, migrant
farm workers, local bands that made it big (COC, The Zippers, etc.),
mint juleps, lawn jockeys, plantation homes, possum and other edible
road kill, 'nana sandwiches (ugh!), 'mater sandwiches (double ugh!),
nasty grocery chains, outhouses, electric power and back before they
had it, Ocracoke, The Outer Banks, oxymoron of non-smoking sections
at Waffle House, pecan pies, pecan logs, race, race relations, the
Raleigh Beltline and circular confusion, shagging, beach music,
beach music festivals, slain civil rights leaders and all things re-
lating to, Southern writers, Southern politicians (other than scary
Jesse Helms), tacky signs informing what unattended children will be
sold as, tax breaks for the faith-based, tele-evangelists, tobacco
barns, tobacco farms, tractor pulls, truck pulls, the Triangle as
the Best Places to Get Sick in America (says me), some college team
called the "Wolfpack," some boys named the "Wright Brothers," and
either the school, seminary, or small town of Wake Forest.


  o "1001 Things Every Person Should Know About the South,"
     John Shelton Reed, Doubleday, New York, 1996

  o "Armed and Dangerous: Withering Attacks on All Things
     Phony, Foolish, and Fundamentally Wrong with America
     Today," Hal Crowther, Longstreet, Atlanta, 1995

  o "Cathedrals of Kudzu: A Personal Landscape of the
     South," Hal Crowther, Louisiana State University Press,
     Baton-Rouge, 2000

  o "The Country Music Guide to Life," Will N. Maxwell,
     Signet, New York, 1994

  o "Honky-Tonk's Guide to Country Dancin' and Romancin',"
     Eileen Sisk, Harper-Collins West, 1995

  o "My Tears Spoiled My Aim and Other Reflections on
     Southern Culture," John Shelton Reed, Harcourt Brace,
     San Diego, 1994

  o "Redneck Heaven, Portrait of a Vanishing Culture,"
     Bethany Bultman, Bantam, New York, 1996

  o "Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor," Roy Blount edi-
     tor, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1994

  o "Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy: Classic Country
     Songs and Their Inside Stories by the Men and Women
     Who Wrote Them," Dorothy Horstman, Country Music
     Foundation, Nashville, 1996

  o "True South: Travels Through a Land of White Columns,
     Black-eyed Peas, and Redneck Bars," Jim Auchmutey,
     Longstreet, Marietta, GA, 1994

  o "Whistlin' Dixie: A Dictionary of Southern Expres-
     sions," Robert Hendrickson, Facts on File, New York,

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros


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