“I’ll Tell You What”and 4 Other KY Expressions

Since I’ve lived in Kentucky for 16 years I have the right to make fun of some of the silly traditional expressions used in daily conversations.  As an educated college major, many of these phrases have made me grit my teeth, however  If you want to fit in our state, use some of these phrases correctly.

  • “Ill Tell You What.”  This doesn’t have any follow up, so don’t wait for any punchline.  It’s mainly used to end a sentence and let the listener know they have shared a secret.
  • “Louisville”People like me who know the French language have a natural inclination to pronounce the name of the city LOO-EE-VILLE, which is correct.  Technically the town is named after a Louis XVI by French immigrants.  However, many Kentucky people use the slang “LOO-AH-VULLE.”  Why exactly do the local civilians use this pronunciation?  I still don’t have clear evidence why.  It could be because us Kentuckians have a little bit of slang when we talk or because Kentucky ancestors wanted to have a cultural tradition. However, the incorrect pronunciation is widely encouraged and, in some areas, if you use the correct way, the locals will tease you.My theory is that at first it was a joke to outsiders, then it became a stubborn tradition and now there are so many different variations that there isn’t a consistency.  Regardless, I can tell you I have gotten out of many arguments with saying it incorrectly, so if you want to fit in “LOO-AH-VULLE” is how to mention this city.
  • “Warsh”  Yeah, we add an “r” to the word so that you pay attention and get your chores done.
  • “Y’All” I’m not quite sure where this phrase came from, or if it migrated upward from the South.  Either way, I can tell you that it is commonly used to refer to a group of people, because it somehow makes everyone feel more comfortable and included in the conversation.
  • “Bless Your Heart” Can be used genuinely to express love toward a caring other human being.  It’s also used as a replacement for saying something negative. such as “You’re a dunce.”

Hope you liked this break from my travel adventures!

Did I miss any phrases? Let me know in the comments!


*photo via quotesbae.com*


  1. Tennessee folks have their way of talking too. Being a New Yorker, I tend to enunciate everything. To me, Maryville should be pronounced: Mary-ville. Tennesseans say: Mar-ville, Marvel or Maravil. Everything but NOT: Mary-ville! They are always “fixing” something: like their beds. And here’s something I will never understand: When they are referring to 2 people, they say: “y’all.” When it’s 3 or more people, they say: “all y’all.” What’s up with that? Why can’t they just say y’all no matter how many people there are?

    I’m just messing around here. I married a Tennessean and she’s a great gal!

    BTW I still think Louisville should be pronounced: Lewis-ville.


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