Ya’ll. I have lived in Texas for 10 of the 15 years that my husband has been in the Air Force.
Turns out there are a lot of Air Force Bases in Texas. Who knew!?
I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. I never imagined living in a state like Texas with all of the heat and none of the mountains of my beloved desert abode. But after living here for so many years, I consider myself an honorary Texan. I have loved observing the quirks that exist here, so I thought I’d write a quick guide for anyone moving to Texas for the first time. These are a few things I’ve noticed living here these years that might be helpful to you, my fellow Texas expatriate.
Last week, my children’s pediatrician asked me where I was from. “You have no discernable accent whatsoever,” he told me. My accent (or lack thereof) is a big thing that signals that I am not from around here.
The accents in Texas vary. They are stronger and more “Texan” in smaller towns. They are diluted—but still exist—in the bigger cities. I love hearing Texas accents in the wild. I love The Office Ladies podcast, and I am always tickled when I occasionally hear Angela Kinsey’s Texas drawl pop out from her well-trained actor’s dialect. Angela Kinsey is from Archer City, TX, a little town outside of Wichita Falls, TX (and home of Sheppard AFB).
There is something homey and kind in a Texas drawl. It is a southern accent with a twist. It is saying “real-uh-ter” instead of “real-ter.” It is saying, “Prolly,” instead of “Probably” and “Liberry” instead of Library.” And it is always said with a smile.
The accent isn’t as much fun without the slang. There is the most obvious, “ya’ll,” which refers to a group of more than one person. You can also expand this term to “all ya’ll” when addressing a particularly large group of people. There is the greeting, “Howdy,” which people really do say plenty. The mosquitos are called “skeeters,” and a refrigerator is often an icebox.
But my favorite of all, which is not really slang, is that calling people Sir or Ma’am does not imply age but respect. Growing up, I would never say, “Yes, ma’am.” I certainly would never say it to anyone under 70 for fear of them thinking that I thought they were old. But in Texas, I can say it to everyone. I have adopted this into my speech. I tell the 19-year-old waitress, “Yes, please, ma’am,” when she asks if I’d like more water. No one bats an eye. In Texas, they are nothing if not polite. I love throwing around in my classroom to my middle school students. “Yes sir,” and “No ma’am” all day every day.
Has any state ever loved a gas station as much as Texas loves Buc-ees? Do you also like huge incredibly clean bathrooms, fresh brisket sandwiches, bucket-sized Slurpees, an assortment of tie-dyed t-shirts, and statues of beavers? If so, you would love Buc-ee’s, too.
We finally stopped at a Buc-ee’s for the first time last summer. There were many flavors of beef jerky. The brisket shop was more like an ornate and busy deli counter in New York City, but with barbecue and random foods. I got a bean and cheese burrito! There were tons of stalls in their immaculately clean bathrooms, and I posed for a picture with the beaver statue. Why not? It had something for everyone. Maybe I’ll do some Christmas shopping there.
I still don’t understand this tradition. But every fall when homecoming rolls around in Texas, people make these humongous flower-type things to wear to school and football games. Girls were originally supposed to pin them to their shirts, but they have grown to be Texas-sized. I saw a girl last year who had a mum so huge that she wore it on a rope like a necklace, and her body was completely covered by ribbons and beads and tissue paper. It is wild. I cannot get used to it, but I love a fun tradition! I’ll have a high schooler soon. I had better figure it out.
Texans LOVE Texas
There are Texas flags on everything. Waffle makers in Texas hotels make Texas-shaped waffles. Shirts, hats, ties, socks, license plates, and any manner of memorabilia can be decorated with the Texas flag. In other states, there might be an occasional sighting of a state flag, but I’ve never seen anything like in Texas. Famous Texas journalist John Gunther is credited as saying, “If a man’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. If not, why embarrass him by asking.” Texans truly believe there is no better place. I sort of love it, too.
So if you are moving to Texas anytime soon, this shortlist will get you started for your new state and home.
Have you spent a lot of time in Texas? What other things have you noticed?