1. "What'll ya have? What'll ya have? Have your order in mind and your money in your hand!"
This, of course, is the call to customers at the world famous Varsity (61 North Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30308; 404-881-1706), located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, where over 300 gallons of chili are made every day. Even though a few satellite locations have branched out to the suburbs, there is nothing like visiting the original. The Varsity has a version of Atlanta lingo all its own from the "What'll ya have?" question thrown at customers to the specialized menu. For example, order an MK Dog Sideways with a Bag of Rags and you will find yourself eating a naked hot dog (without chili) dressed with mustard and ketchup, onions on the side, and a bag of potato chips.
2. Is it OTP or ITP?
These Atlanta related slang terms translate to mean "outside the Perimeter" or "inside the Perimeter." The Perimeter, also known as Interstate 285, circles the city of Atlanta. When attempting to give someone directions, OTP or ITP is a good place to start to orient the traveler. Be more specific by adding the phrase "top end," meaning the section of the Perimeter above I-20, or the phrase "bottom end," referring to anything below I-20. Some newcomers have a hard time realizing if you travel on I-285 you will eventually wind up where you started. In fact, Pascual Perez, who played for the Atlanta Braves in 1982, was late to a game once because he was traveling on I-285 and couldn't find his way off. He circled the Perimeter twice.
3. Question: "What kind of Coke would you like?" Answer: "I'd like a Sprite."
Atlanta is home to the Coca-Cola Company and the World of Coca-Cola museum (121 Baker Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30313; 404-676-5151), and for anyone born and bred in Atlanta, Coke is synonymous with ANY soda product (with the exception of Pepsi products). So don't be afraid to order a Sprite when your waitress asks you if you'd like a Coke!
4. "I'm fixin' to"
One of the classic Atlanta slang phrases, this bit of local lingo means, "I will be doing something in the near future." For example, if I am going to travel to The Varsity to get a Chili Steak and an F.O. (hamburger with chili and a Frosted Orange), I would say, "I'm fixin' to go to The Varsity."
5. Ponce de Leon
While this avenue was, in fact, named for the famous Spanish explorer, forget your high school Spanish lessons! Those of us native to Atlanta use the pronunciation PAWNs da Lee-on. You'll want to know how to ask directions to this place; there are too many attractions here that can't be missed! The historic Fox Theater (660 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30308; 404-881-2100) can be found at the corner of Peachtree and Ponce. A little further east, the Poncey-Highland neighborhood boasts the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library (441 Freedom Parkway Atlanta, GA 30307; 404-865-7100) as a fixture. Manuel's Tavern (602 N Highland Avenue Northeast Atlanta, GA 30307; 404-525-3447), a local spot for politicos and journalists, is nearby and so is the Clermont Lounge (789 Ponce De Leon Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30306; 404-874-4783), Atlanta's oldest strip club.
6. "Delta is ready when you are."
This was a very successful ad campaign for Atlanta-based Delta Airlines from 1968 to 1984. Due to the influx of folks who are designated by natives as being "not from around he-ah" and for the prevalence of newcomers who want to change things, natives are fond of reminding visitors and newcomers that "Delta is ready when you are," meaning they can leave at any time.
7. "I found it in the AJC."
The AJC is Atlanta slang for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta's only major daily newspaper. The Journal carried the motto "Covers Dixie like the Dew," a well-known phrase to those of us who call Atlanta home.
8. Peachtree Street
Telling someone you live on Peachtree Street or attempting to give directions for Peachtree Street can cause the question "Which Peachtree Street?" to arise. Some sources state there are as many as 71 streets that have "Peachtree" in the name, but the premier Peachtree Street is the main north to south corridor through the downtown area. Creek Indian legends tell of a settlement located in the area that was known as Standing "Pitch" Tree. The Creeks used the tree pitch, or sap, to authenticate treaties and vows. Somehow the word "pitch" morphed into "peach" once English settlers were in the area. Peachtree and Atlanta are one and the same in the minds of natives.
Let any weatherperson, local or national, state that there is a slight chance of an "icing event" and everyone clogs the stores buying up toilet paper, milk, bread, and beer. Any mention of ice or snow shuts down the city. You wouldn't think we'd be THAT afraid of a little weather!
10. "Go through Spaghetti Junction to the Brookwood Split until you come to the Connector. Go around Grady Curve until you see a Waffle House past the fifth exit."
These directions are littered with Atlanta local lingo! Spaghetti Junction, formerly known as the Tom Moreland Interchange, has many lanes as well as entrance and exit ramps to navigate. From the air, you can see how the interchange gets its nickname--it looks like a plate of spaghetti. The Grady Curve is called such simply because a curve exists along the route right in front of Grady Memorial Hospital, the state of Georgia's largest such facility. Waffle Houses abound in the Atlanta area and are perfect landmarks to use when giving directions.
With a little Atlanta slang now in your vocabulary, you may find yourself feeling a touch local, y'all!
- Overview: Atlanta Travel Guide
- Atlanta in 48 Hours [Lonely Planet]
- Explore the Low Country of Georgia and South Carolina [National Geographic]