How to Sound Like a Local in Nashville

If you’re planning on moving to Nashville, you’re not alone. Music City has recently overtaken Memphis as Tennessee’s largest city when it comes to population, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Although newcomers can browse the Web to find Nashville’s coolest hangouts and tastiest restaurants, there’s no substitute for insider tips – and that’s where we come in. We’re sharing the lingo you need to know to pass as a local in Music City, which will come in handy during hockey season (you’ll see) and save you the embarrassment of sounding like a total newb in front of your new friends.

Ready to get started? Just keep reading to discover the ins and outs of the Nashville vernacular.

Don’t Call Nashville “NashVegas”

Locals never, ever say “NashVegas” unless they’re joking around and/or making fun of tourists. The phrase technically describes Lower Broadway, which is a four-block district downtown where you’ll find tons of honky-tonks (bars with live country music) – but not only do most Nashville residents avoid this area like the plague, they usually also laugh when they hear a newcomer call any part of the city “NashVegas.” You’ve been warned.

We’re the Athens of the South

Along with Music City, Nashville is often called the Athens of the South, a nickname that makes sense for two reasons. First, Nashville lays claim to several higher education institutions – most famously Vanderbilt University – and that has contributed to the city’s status as a center for philosophy and learning. In addition, Nashville’s Centennial Park is home to a full-scale replica of the Parthenon (yep, just like the one from ancient Greece), and inside, there’s an enormous statue of Athena.

Try the Hot Chicken

Hot chicken is Nashville’s version of fried chicken, and as the name suggests, it’s spicy. You basically must try it if you want to be considered a full-fledged Nashville resident. Fortunately, there are several restaurants across the city serving it up, such as Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack on the east side and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Midtown and West Nashville … just make sure you’re ready for the burn.

Get Familiar with the Preds and Smashville

Preds is short for Predators, which is Nashville’s professional hockey team that plays home games at the Bridgestone Arena on Broadway, and Smashville is what local fans call the city during hockey season. Even if you don’t think you’re a hockey fan, you’ll probably get swept up in the excitement (especially if you head downtown when there’s a game going on). Embrace it, and join in the fun!

The Vols Wear Orange

The Vols are the Tennessee Volunteers, or the University of Tennessee’s sports teams. You’ll know a Vols fan when you see one on game day because he or she will almost certainly be wearing bright orange, the school’s signature color.

I Believe in Nashville (and so will you)

You’ll see this phrase on murals across Nashville – and chances are you’ll want to take a picture with them. The original “I Believe in Nashville” mural is in the trendy 12South neighborhood and was created by Adrien Saporiti, a Nashville artist and owner/designer of DCXV Industries. It serves as a symbol of unity and civic pride, and its message is so popular that Saporiti has also painted “I Believe in Nashville” murals in other neighborhoods. Don’t confuse this with “We Are Nashville,” which became a t-shirt slogan after the devastating flood that left much of Nashville underwater in May 2010.

Never Forget Swarmageddon

You may hear folks talking about the Swarmageddon with a look of fear and disgust, and that’s because they’re referring to the swarm of cicadas that invaded Nashville in 2011 after 13 years of living underground. While they were big, ugly and a bit loud, they were ultimately harmless – they didn’t bite or sting, after all – but that didn’t stop everyone from complaining about them. Ask any longtime Nashville resident about that summer, and you’ll almost certainly see them cringe and recall how terrible the Swarmageddon was.

Paris: The One in Tennessee

When you hear someone say they’re from Paris and they don’t have a French accent, don’t be confused. They’re probably from Paris, Tennessee, located about 120 miles east of Nashville.

Eat at SATCO

SATCO stands for San Antonio Taco Company, a must-visit Tex-Mex restaurant on 21st Avenue near Vanderbilt University. If someone asks you to go, just say yes – you won’t regret it.



Jessica Walker Boehm