How to Talk Like a Houstonian

Hey, y’all! Are you planning a move to Houston and worried that you won’t speak the language? As someone who moved to Houston after living my whole life in Chicago, I understand the concern. I remember sitting in the cafeteria in 5th grade (shortly after we moved to Houston) and saying that I was going to get a “pop.” Little did I know, in Houston schools, “getting a pop” means getting corporal punishment from the principal. Yep. And ALL soda, no matter what, is referred to as “Coke.” The entire lunch table erupted in laughter. You can bet I never called it “pop” again.

So, yes, Houston does have its own language, to an extent, but the number one thing to remember when learning to speak Houstonian is that it’s not the same as speaking Texan. See, most people in Houston are not from Houston. It’s probably one of the most diverse cities in the country, mostly due to the mass influx of people moving to the area during the 80s oil boom. This melting pot of different cultures has forced Houstonians to create a common language so we can all communicate.

You may have noticed that I didn’t start this post with “Howdy, y’all!” Reason being, very few people in Houston actually say “howdy.” They do, however, adopt “y’all” shortly after moving to Houston. I didn’t, but most people do. So there are aspects of Houstonian language that have Texas origins, but are a bit of a departure from traditional Texan talk. But most terms are pretty much native to Houston.

soda-pop-cokeCoke – Soda pop is always called Coke, no matter what.

Usage:  “Can you get me a Coke?

“Sure, what kind do you want?”

“Dr. Pepper.”

feeder-road-frontage-roadFrontage road – It’s not a road called Frontage. It’s what Houstonians call what most people refer to as the “feeder road.”

KolacheKolache – Most places around the world, a kolache is a pastry with fruit in the middle. In Houston, however, it’s meat—typically sausage—stuffed inside bread. Don’t call it a pig in a blanket, though. You’ll be mocked.

pen-pinPin – To Houstonians, “pin” and “pen” are pronounced the same—as “pin.” This definitely has its roots in Southern language as a whole.

Usage:  “Can I borrow a pin?”

“Like a safety pin?”

“No, like a pin. A pin that you write with. Pin.”

Also see: Sit/Set

putawayPut it up – Oddly enough, this does not mean hold the item up in the air. It means put the item away.

YallY’all guys – And here is what happens when southern and northern cultures merge. Instead of saying, “y’all” or “you guys,” some Houstonians have adopted, “Y’all guys” when referring to several people at once.

If you’re moving to Houston, hopefully I’ve helped prepare you for some of the strange things Houstonians say so you don’t have to do what I did and either embarrass yourself or look at people like they’re from a different planet. The good news, though, is that because Houston is part of Texas, Houstonians believe in being independent and doing your own thing. So you don’t have to change the way you talk to live in Houston, but it probably will help from things getting lost in translation.

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