Head-Scratching Nashville Phrases: A Glossary

We’ve got a long list of things here in Nashville that make us special. To visitors, the lingo used to describe our way of life can sound like a language all its own. We’ve put together a list of Nashville slang phrases to improve your Southern twang.

Athens of the South

A nickname given to Nashville due to the city’s focus on higher education. Nashville is home to over 20 universities and even has a replica of Athens’ Parthenon (the real one) in Centennial Park. In Nashville, we work hard — and play hard.

Batman Building

Nicknamed after the comic book superhero because of the structure’s distinctive profile, the “Batman Building” — formally referred to as the AT&T building — is a whopping 33-story skyscraper in downtown Nashville, the tallest in the state. Enjoy the skyline from Broadway’s tallest rooftop bar, The Lookout at Ole Red

Bushwacker

Though perhaps not as notorious as hot chicken, this boozy milkshake is served at dive bars throughout Nashville. With roots tracing back to Pensacola Beach, Florida, the frozen concoction made its way to Nashville over a decade ago and has stuck ever since. Popular bushwackers often include coffee-flavored liqueur, ice or ice cream, cream of coconut, and dark chocolate liqueur. Whether you’re trying to cool down or relax after a long day, a bushwacker is sure to do the trick.

Goo Goo Cluster

Nope, surprisingly, that’s not what you call a buncha babies who won’t quit their yacking. A Goo Goo Cluster is a gooey, chocolatey delight and the world’s first-ever combination candy born right here in Nashville. As a regular sponsor of the Opry over the years, many people speculated that “Goo” was an acronym for the Grand Ole Opry. As the story goes, inventor Howell Campbell got the name from a  woman on his train car who remarked that the candy is “so good, people will ask for it from birth!”

Hair of the Dog

Short for “the hair of the dog that bit you,” this is your morning-after salve after a night out on Broadway. We’ve got plenty of them when you join us for brunch at The Lookout at Ole Red.

Holler and Swaller

A cheerful way of toasting, it quite literally means to shout and drink. You’re guaranteed a good time if you hear a band making this toast at a Nashville honky-tonk.

Honky-Tonk

Used widely to describe a bar in which country music is played. With good music, cold beer, and dancing, what more could you ask for? As Blake says, “There’s a neon light at the end of the tunnel.” The full story on how honky-tonks got their name is an interesting one.

Hot Chicken

Fried chicken, but make it Nashville. This spicy chicken dish is sure to burn your tongue off, but it hurts so good. The Grand Ole Opry’s got the lowdown on how this fiery fowl became a Music City delicacy, and we’re slinging our own take on this spicy bird, which you can enjoy as you sing along to the live bands at Ole Red.

How-DEE!

The queen of country comedy, Minnie Pearl would hit the stage with her knee-length gingham dress and straw hat with a $1.98 price tag still attached, and greet her audience with a signature “How-DEE! I’m just so proud to be here!” Even today, her influence can still be felt. 

Meat-and-Three

We like our square meals and any restaurant that counts mac ’n’ cheese as a side item. If you haven’t tried a Nashville meat-and-three yet, you’re missing out. At these cafeteria-style mom-and-pop joints, you simply choose a meat and three sides. May we suggest grabbing a tray and piling it high with satisfying Southern fare at Arnold’s Country Kitchen

Mother Church of Country Music

Synonymous for Ryman Auditorium. Originally built as a house of worship, the Ryman hosted the Grand Ole Opry for 31 years, earning its title of the “Mother Church of Country Music.” There’s nothing like the first time you experience its hallowed halls and booming acoustics yourself.

Music City

You might’ve noticed — we like music around here. Back when radio barn dances were popping up all across the country, WSM deejay David Cobb referred to Nashville as “Music City, USA” in 1950, and the name stuck

Pedal Tavern

A personal party bar — on wheels. Learn the history behind Music Row and Lower Broadway as you belt your heart out to Shania Twain —  just don’t forget to BYOB. 

Pickin’ and grinnin’

A phrase first coined by Roy Clark on the hit show Hee Haw, “pickin’ and grinnin’” means to play the guitar or banjo with a fire in your soul and smile on your face. Clark passed away in 2018, but his footprint can still be seen throughout country music. 

Pike

If you’ve ever taken a road trip through Nashville, you might’ve wondered why every major road seems to be referred to as a “pike.” The definition has changed over the years, but a century ago these pikes were privately funded toll roads. Farmers would pay to use the roads to bring goods, and travelers would traverse these pikes to come from other parts of Middle Tennessee. Usage of tolls halted at the turn of the 20th century but played a major role to what the city is today. 

Smashville

The name given to the community of diehard fans who root for the Nashville Predators NHL franchise. A conversation between friends turned into a popular slogan for the Nashville Predators and is still popular nearly 20 years later. 

SoBro

Meaning “South of Broadway,” this Nashville neighborhood is full of bustling bars, trendy restaurants, and home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Writers Round

If you’re looking to discover music’s newest talent or the writer behind your favorite song, check out a writers round. Throughout Nashville, songwriters share the stage to play their songs and tell the stories behind them. Check out The Bluebird Cafe or another one of these famous institutions.

Lexi Howder

Lexi was an Opry Entertainment Group intern in summer 2019.