A Newcomer’s Guide to Speaking Mobilian

Take notes on these 19 odd insider phrases you won’t learn from Merriam or Webster.

Welcome to lower Alabama, the land of the Foo and the home of the upside-down dog. Already lost? Fear not, neophyte. Here’s a quick lexicon of the most confusing colloquialisms often heard around these parts. Study up, and you’ll be speaking like a local in no time. 

Past the Cannon

One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks sits smack dab in the middle of the intersection where Airport Boulevard and Government Street collide. As such, it’s a commonly used reference point to give directions in Midtown. Caked with layer upon layer of paint, the 16,000-pound Civil War cannon has also become a sort of billboard for local teens to show off their school pride. As tradition goes, after the big football game between Murphy High School and McGill-Toolen Catholic High School (the oldest rivalry in the state), students race to the cannon with paint cans in tow to proclaim their victory to the world. In recent years, other organizations have taken to the cannon to promote their causes. Then, some poor city employee is forced to slather on yet another coat of black lacquer for the 246th time. Just this past year, the city decided enough (paint) was enough, and elected to stop issuing permits to paint the cannon. We’ll see if it sticks…

Over the Bay

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When referring to a trip from Mobile County to the Eastern Shore or vice versa, you’re always going over the Bay, never across the Bay. Period. We could make up some elaborate origins of the phrase based upon the 8-mile-long Bayway bridge (less commonly known as Jubilee Parkway), but even if you’re making the drive on the Causeway, two tires practically rolling through the murky waters, locals still say you’re going “over the Bay.” Just trust us on this one.

Before the Grand/Past the Grand 

If the Grand Hotel is the ultimate Eastern Shore landmark and essentially the sun at the center of the Point Clear universe, every other property along the bayfront strip must be directionally referred to as either “before the Grand” or “past the Grand.”


Aka “The Dip” or “The Dippity Dip,” the road officially dubbed Dauphin Island Parkway runs clear across Mobile from Airport Boulevard at the Loop to the actual Island (with the odd exception of one tiny stretch over Deer River).

Dolly Parton Bridge 

Unofficial statistics show that only 1 in 2,576 Mobilians knows the real name of I-65’s arched overpass that crosses the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. Thanks to its double-D-sized “peaks,” residents have affectionately renamed the General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge after their favorite busty blonde country music legend. So don’t go looking for Dolly’s namesake on any maps, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Upside-down Dog/Shaved Dog

Established in 1924, The Dew Drop Inn is the legendary Old Shell Rd dive that offers up electric pink hot dogs on vintage orange linoleum countertops. Here’s the lowdown on how to order like a local. “Upside-down” means you want all the fixings on the bun with the wiener on top. “Shaved” simply refers to a dog without sauerkraut. 

Fried, Stewed or Nude

These are just a few of the ways Wintzell’s Oyster House has been preparing its fresh bivalves for more than 85 years. The iconic eat has been listed as one of Alabama’s 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die. While you’re there, you’re sure to find other sage advice on its walls, which are covered in quirky and comical words of wisdom.

West Indies Salad

This local delicacy is a Southern ceviche, in which lump crabmeat is marinated with onion, Wesson oil, cider vinegar, a little salt and pepper and ice-cold H2O. Not much to it, but it’s slap-your-mama delicious. Supposedly, the dish originated at the unassuming Bayley’s Seafood Restaurant, down on D.I.P. (see what we did there?) in south Mobile County. Like his restaurant, owner Bill Bayley kept it simple, serving up each order of West Indies Salad with a side of saltine crackers. In 1964, the secret recipe was shared in the Junior League of Mobile’s beloved “Recipe Jubilee!” cookbook, and the rest of the world came to know and love our signature dish too.   

Battle of Old Shell Road

This does not refer to the struggle that is Monday morning school traffic along Old Shell Road. It is, instead, the name for the heated rivalry between UMS and St. Paul’s, both private schools located along the thoroughfare. To make things more convoluted though, together the two schools host a popular volleyball tournament of the same name in which other schools statewide compete. And, in swimming, the annual meet between UMS, St. Paul’s and McGill also uses the label.

Mullet Toss

This time-honored lower Alabama tradition has nothing to do with the resurgence of Billy Ray Cyrus’ signature hairstyle (why people? Why?). For almost 40 years, each April at the Flora-Bama Bar and Grill, patrons of all skill levels flex their muscles and hurl dead mullet over the state line (think shotput, only with stinky, slimy fish). Winners receive bragging rights. Losers still get to enjoy a grand time at the Gulf Coast’s greatest beach party.

Barn Party

Not to be confused with an Amish gathering to raise a farmhouse roof, a Mobile barn party is a casual Mardi Gras shindig held in a “secret” warehouse, or “barn,” in the downtown industrial district. Sound like the makings of a “Dateline” episode? Fear not. The purpose of this unusual ritual is for society members to paint the town red while showing off their shiny, new parade floats to hundreds of their nearest and dearest before their big ride through the city streets.

Ethel, Camille, Frederic, Elena, Opal, Ivan and Katrina

If anyone over the age of 40 begins reminiscing about when these “folks” came to town, just know you’re in for some excellent hurricane stories, with at least one good Jim Cantore encounter guaranteed.

“Where da gold at?”

If you Googled Mobile at all before you moved here, you’ve seen the viral Crichton leprechaun YouTube video. NBC 15 WPMI first ran the comical news story 18 years ago. The original segment has more than 6 million views and has reached cult status with all sorts of “amateur sketch” and “Where da gold at?” merch popping up all over town around St. Paddy’s Day each year.

Can’t Fake the Foo 

Often imitated, never duplicated, Foosackly’s Chicken Fingers are locally legendary — and so is their slogan that graces billboards all over town. When Will Fusaiotti established his first fast-food chicken business in 2000, he chose a moniker inspired by his difficult-to-spell surname. The “Foo” carried over in their branding and marketing, and the rest is history. 

Js Up  

“J” is for Jags, the University of South Alabama’s mascot. To show their South pride, students and fans alike throw up a pointer finger and thumb to make the letter and raise that “J” up high. Note: Just be sure to use your left hand so you don’t look like a newbie. 

South in Your Mouth (also SIYM)

Alabama has “Roll Tide.” Auburn has “War Eagle.” And thanks to a thrilling 2001 basketball game and three creative co-eds, the University of South Alabama has its own battle cry to rally the Jags team to victory. While some claim it sounds a bit dirty, it just means “South Alabama in your face.” 

We started it.

You’ve likely seen the purple and gold merch around town proclaiming this catchphrase. (mobilebayshop.com) Just in case you haven’t heard (or, you know, you’ve been living under a rock), the Port City likes to gently remind folks that we introduced the very first Carnival celebration on American soil — not New Orleans. Our inaugural Mardi Gras festivities were hosted in 1703, a good 15 years before the Crescent City adopted the tradition. 

“Throw me a MoonPie, mister!” 

Speaking of Mobile Mardi Gras, parading mystic societies in the Port City are known for throwing MoonPies of all flavors to eager crowds. It’s a tradition that is Mobile’s alone. In the early 20th century, popular throws included boxes of Cracker Jack. Naturally, a bunch of mothers, members of the Maids of Mirth (affectionately known as MOMs), recognized the dangers of pelting jagged-edged boxes at onlookers. So instead, in the 1940s, they began tossing out an alternative, softer Southern delicacy, and the tradition stuck. Today, an estimated half a million MoonPies fly through the air in Mobile and the surrounding cities each Carnival season. Hence the reason we drop a giant MoonPie from a skyscraper every New Year’s Eve.

“Where’d you go to school?”

When a lifelong Mobilian asks this, they are not wondering where you went to college, but to high school. It’s a question as common as “How you doin’?” Take it as a compliment. They’re assuming you’re a MobTown OG too (or welcoming you into the club). No doubt you’ve proven yourself to be in the know with your stellar local linguistics. Mission accomplished, and you’re welcome! 

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