Fixin' to head to Music City? Y'all should add these phrases to your vocabulary first.
You go to Nashville for unapologetically indulgent cuisine, a spirited music scene, and all the comforting in-betweens that coincide with a trip to the south. Nashville, specifically, comes with its own signature colloquialisms that make visiting feel especially authentic and delightfully heartwarming. There are plenty of “y’alls” flying around, a fair share of “fixin’s” you’ll pick up on, but as it pertains to Music City, in particular, it might behoove you to brush up on your lingo before you head to Tennessee’s state capital. Ahead, 9 phrases to add to your vernacular so you can assimilate to the Nashville way of life.
“Meat and Three”
You can’t talk about food in Nashville without knowing what a Meat and Three is—period. The concept is simple and straight to the point. A Meat and Three is a diner or restaurant where you select your choice of meat and three sides to eat alongside it (told you it was simple). Delicious accompaniments range from macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes to baked beans and collard greens and they typically come with biscuits and a glass of tea (which, in Nashville, means sweet tea).
INSIDER TIPIf you don’t like your tea sweetened you’ll have to tell ’em. In Nashville, an order of tea means sweet tea. But why wouldn’t you want your tea to be sweet in the first place?
“Across the River”
Depending on who you talk to, East Nashville is arguably the coolest part of the city to have a meal, take in some music, or wander around in right now. It also happens to be located just across The Cumberland River from downtown’s more tourist-geared spots like The Country Music Hall of Fame and Honky Tonk Highway (more on that below).
It would be blasphemous to visit and not partake in the city’s beloved hot chicken tradition. The dish originates from Nashville and the story goes back to the 1930s when Thornton Prince (of Prince’s Hot Chicken) cheated on his lover one night. Legend has it that she sought revenge by seasoning his fried chicken with an exorbitant amount of spices the next day but rather than teaching him a lesson she inspired him to turn the recipe into a restaurant. Thankfully, wherever you order your hot chicken from (Prince’s, Hattie B’s, 400 Degrees, and Pepperfire are a few local favorites) you can choose your level of heat to match your tolerance—or lack thereof—for spice.
Despite its touristy associations, don’t skip out on Honky Tonk Highway if it’s your first time visiting Nashville. The street is bedecked with colorful neon signs promoting the various live music venues (aka “Honky Tonks”). The best part? They’re all free to the public, which means you can go Honky Tonkin’ from spot to spot for a taste of the best music happening that night. Also, they make for a great Instagram, if that’s your bag.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re partaking in some free music remember to carry cash. Someone usually walks around the room to collect tips for the musicians.
“Bless Your Heart”
Depending on the context, a “bless your heart” could be an innocent term of endearment or a not-so-subtle approach to throwing some shade. Be on the lookout for it, read the room, and most importantly use it often and always—everyone else in Nashville does.
While Nashville is widely considered among the more friendly cities to visit, it doesn’t come without at least a little bit of shade. The term “Gherm” refers to someone who exhibits an overzealous attitude that’s offputting to established music vets. Ways to avoid being a Gherm include not handing out your CD to those in the industry, not bragging about your next gig, and not acting overly familiar with a well-known producer or singer. Life is short, don’t be a Gherm.
INSIDER TIPGherm is not pronounced like “germ.” It’s enunciated with a hard G, as in, “Girl, don’t suck up to that musician again or they’ll think you’re a Gherm.”
Is knowing what Goo-Goo Clusters are the most important thing to memorize before visiting Nashville? Perhaps and you’ll understand why once you’ve consumed one. The Goo-Goo Cluster is a chocolate candy that was created in Nashville back in 1912. It’s a delectable confection of real milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel, and marshmallow nougats. Have one, have many, repeat.
“The Mother Church”
Locals dubbed Ryman Auditorium “The Mother Church” thanks to its storied (and varied) history. The first concert was performed in 1892 held by the Ladies Hermitage Association in an effort to raise money to preserve former president Andrew Jackson’s home and artifacts. Religious lectures, college commencements, weddings, and plays were also all held in Ryman Auditorium in the early days. It hosted the Grand Ole Opry for 31 years starting in 1943 and after a 1945 performance by Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, was considered the birthplace of bluegrass music. Countless other performers including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash graced the stage of The Ryman, adding to its influential past. If you fancy a visit, just ask, “Which way to The Mother Church?”
Calling Nashville “Nashvegas” is like participating in a little good-natured self-deprecation. Nodding to the flashy, sometimes-kitschy appeal the Music City offers, comparing Music City to Sin City is a tongue-in-cheek way of referring to Tennessee’s lively state capital. Also, it’s just fun to say “Nashvegas.”