10 Old School Southern Rules

Posted: Sep 03 2014

by Jenny Bradley
SOURCE: Country Outfitter

There are rules upon rules in the South. Some spoken and some unspoken. It can be hard to keep up with all of them, and depending on where you live in the South (ahem, Mississippi), you might adhere to some rules more than others. Here’s a list of some old school Southern rules you may not know or have forgotten.

1. Miracle Whip is tacky. Only Yankees eat it.
If you’re going to make chicken salad for a luncheon, you might want to avoid the Miracle Whip if you’re in the South. While this unspoken rule is fading out of relevancy, it’s one many Southerners espoused a couple generations ago. I’d never heard this rule till recently. I blame that on the fact that I’m one-fourth Yankee since my grandmother grew up in the North. Gramma may not have been born here, but as the saying goes, she got here as fast as she could.

2. Never reply to a formal invitation in anything other than black ink.
I know it’s tempting to pull out the 24-pack of multi-colored gel pens you bought at Target to reply to that wedding invitation of your younger cousin, but please don’t. Just because you’re relieved she’s not going to be an old maid (since she’ll be 23 next year) doesn’t mean you can throw etiquette out the window. She probably would’ve told your grandmother anyway. Save yourself that phone call.

3. Don’t dress your baby in anything other than pastels for the first year.
Babies should look like babies, so avoid solid bright colors and stick with the light blue or light pink, depending on gender. If I’m honest, I don’t adhere to this one with my own kids. I think I have an aversion to pastels, but this one is still good to know for situational purposes. If I didn’t know it, I might buy my best friend (who has deep Mississippi roots) a bright red and blue Ole Miss onesie for her baby shower this month. She’d act pleasantly surprised and thank me (after all I crossed football lines since I’m an Arkansas Razorback fan and she’s an Ole Miss fan). Inwardly, though, she’d make a mental note to take it back and get something hand-smocked and, preferably, something monogrammed with her baby’s initials.

Side note: She might keep a bright red and blue onesie if it had the traditional mascot, Colonel Reb. It’s hard to find anything with the traditional mascot ever since the black bear replaced Colonel Reb in 2010.

4. When approaching a door at the same speed as another person, it’s polite to step back and let the other person go first.
Men give deference to women with this one, and younger people stand back for older people. However, if two people of the same age and gender are walking towards a door at the same speed, this rule could cause a politeness standoff with neither party wanting to be rude to the other. Time to stick your boots in the ground, make that other person go first. Always win a politeness war. Always.

5. Younger people should stand up when older people enter a room.
I can’t say I’ve always stood up when my grandparents left the kitchen and joined me in the living room. But, I’ll say this. If my Grandaddy ever asked me to stand when he entered the room, I’d do it. He fought for our country in World War II, raised three kids on a cotton farm, learned to fly an airplane after his kids were raised and makes his own fishing jigs. For all that and so much else, he has all my respect.

6. When walking as a couple, the man should always walk between his woman and the street.
This one probably has its history in days of old when the man would walk on the side closest to the street, protecting his woman from getting muddied by passing buggies or hit by vehicles. This rule has probably been lost with the invention of the sidewalk. Now, perhaps these days as the genteel Southern belle spirit is fading away a lot of men don’t want to put themselves between traffic and an angry woman. Do you remember the Dixie Chicks song “Goodbye Earl?” Yeah, it’s just not safe anymore.

7. Chewing gum in public is tacky.
Keep the Bubblicious at home. Chewing gum is especially rude at business meetings, church, school, or really anyplace where someone might see you. Cows chew the cud, not good Southerners.

8. Southern women don’t gossip.
If you are going to talk about someone’s less desirable traits, always precede your remarks with “bless her heart” then you can pretty much say what you want. For example, you might say, “Bless her heart, her Mama never taught her not to chew gum in public.”

9. Men should take their hats off when they come inside
Taking your hat off is a good personal hygiene rule. This one I get. Southern men love their hats, and when you wear your hat every day in the Southern heat, it tends to get sweaty and smelly. I kid you not; my husband has worn the same hat for the last 15 years. His sister gave it to him in high school, and he wears it all the time. My 3-year-old calls it “Daddy’s stinky hat.” I’m fine with him only wearing it outside.

10. Wait until everyone is served before eating
Our family’s rule growing up was similar to this. We had to wait until after the prayer before we could serve ourselves each other. The five of us kids waited like ravenous wolves to hear that “amen” before digging in. It felt like a matter of survival with that many kids. We were just too unruly; bless my Mama’s heart.


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