How to Sound Like a Local in Louisville

Even though Louisville sits right on the Indiana Kentucky border, the city goes above and beyond in establishing its own identity. There are plenty of things that make Louisville tick, from the electric pulse that takes over the city at the time of year when the Kentucky Derby rolls around to the statewide love of bourbon. What really makes Louisville weird and wonderful though?

The people.

Nearly all life-long residents of Louisville know the ins and outs of the city, and it can be hard to get caught up to speed for transplants. Which is where we can help. Consider this your guide to the vernacular of Louisville, but more than that we can give you some of the locals only knowledge.

How to pronounce Louisville

This is a big way to fire up a crowd, and not in a good way. If you pronounce Louisville with any emphasis on the S, it’s clear that you are not from the city. Folks who are from either Louisville, Southern Indiana or really anywhere in Kentucky will only pronounce the city name with as little emphasis on the middle of the word as possible.

So here is the best rundown we can give you. LOU-AH-VUL. You may also hear LOU-VUL from some of the more seasoned residents. A lot of people who aren’t from here will pronounce the first half like LOU-EEE, as in King Louis. At the end of the day, say it however you wish. Just know that a through and through local will keep it short and sweet.

Speaking of short and sweet, order your bourbon that way.

To say that Louisville is bourbon country is to sell it short. It’s the heart and soul of bourbon country. In fact, to name something bourbon it has to be made in Kentucky. And with dozens of distilleries, bourbon tastings, trails and tours, the turn of phrase at the bar that will set you apart as an outsider is if you order your bourbon anything other than neat or on the rocks. Don’t get us wrong, a bourbon soda can be a delicious drink. It’s just not the way that most Louisville native will order their local gem of a drink. This goes for mint juleps too. While they are the famous Kentucky Derby drink of choice, very few locals will actually order them.

Don’t go for the wax.

When you are picking up a bottle of bourbon at the liquor store in Louisville you might be tempted to go for the wax dip of a Makers Mark. After all it was made just down the road. But a true local will always go for the rare Pappy Van Winkle if they can. To put it simply, it’s what other bourbons want to grow up to be.

A lot of phrases come from the Derby.

Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few phrases that you commonly hear around the country that got started at Churchill Downs. Here is the rundown: “champing at the bit” describes a horse’s biting down on its mouthpiece during a tight race. (And no, it is not “chomping at the bit”)

“Hands down” refers to the position of a jockey’s hands when they know they are far ahead and guaranteed a win. “Beating a dead horse” is actually almo10st as harsh as it sounds; it’s a phrase that comes from jockeys trying to push the horses hard even when they know that they are going to lose.

Shopping cart or buggy?

This gets more common the further south you go, but in Kentucky shopping carts at a grocery store are called buggies. Just go with it.

Emily Taylor