Ya’ll talk funny

Even when I was a little girl I wasn’t so sure I was meant to be a Southerner. When I wanted to put sugar on my grits, Mama swore that someone must have accidentally slipped her a ‘Yankee baby’…let’s just say that there was no Cream of Wheat at our house. It seemed that everyone else had extra syllables in their words that just didn’t come naturally to me, and I figured out early on that the confederate flag wasn’t anything to be too proud of. I must have known, even as a child, that there might be someplace out there that felt more like home to me than Columbia, S.C. did.

Now, it’s not that I don’t like and appreciate my Southern roots, but I’ve just never felt as connected to them as many of my family and friends seemed to be. When girlfriends quoted entire sections of Gone With the Wind, I just looked at them with a blank stare. I loved to read, but could never get past the first few pages of the classic. It was Scarlett…she annoyed the bejeesus out of me. (I have to admit that I was secretly pleased when I found out that Vivien Leigh was actually British, and was faking her Southern accent in the movie version!)

I’m pretty sure that I never had as much of a drawl as most of the people around me, especially Mama. I like to tell people that my mama’s accent could turn the word “Shit” into a twelve syllable long curse that scared large men…and yes, I know that her face is turning red as she reads this! Sorry, Mama…but you know I’m right!

I was surprised when I first moved to Portland and started hearing, “Where are you from?!” so often. I apparently stood out…a lot. One or two words and the natives were onto me–I guess they weren’t used to hearing anything other than the homogenized ‘non-accent’ that’s prevalent in this part of the country. Now, research will tell you that there’s a slight difference in the way people in Portland sound when compared with ‘standard American’ speech, but I’ll be damned if I can hear it. There are a few differences in the words themselves (e.g. ‘spendy’ means expensive, and ‘pop’ means soda), but nothing even close to an accent.

One of my first jobs in Oregon was working as a customer service phone rep for a national catalog company. That’s when I discovered another little thing about having a Southern accent…there are some people out there who assume that the Southern speaker’s IQ is…ohhhh…at least 30 points lower than everyone else. Yep. Now, I don’t agree with that, and to be honest, it pissed me off, but it was something I encountered on a regular basis. Of course, some folks really liked hearing a drawl and a ya’ll here and there, but I heard, “Oh, let me repeat that for you,” or “Do I need to speak slower?” much more frequently than any positive feedback. I think that I made an (unconscious) decision at that point–I didn’t want to sound like a Southerner anymore. I didn’t try to lose my accent…it just…happened. (Oh lord, I can already hear my sister winding up for an, “I’m PROUD to be a Suthunuh!” retort.)

I still say, “Bless your heart!” with all the syrup my grandmother used, and there’s no adequate replacement in the English language for ‘Ya’ll’, but beyond that, my speech is definitely more camouflaged than it was.  I still get asked where I’m from on occasion, but it’s no longer a daily event. Unless, that is, I talk to someone from back home. I’ll call Mama to thank her for a gift, or check in with my sister on the phone, and it’s as if all the Southern-speak trapped inside me drew a ‘get out of jail free’ card! For days, I surprise myself with sugary tones I’d forgotten I ever had. It fades, and I’m ok with that, but for a little while I’m once again the gal that people stop in the grocery store to ask, “Is that drawl from Texas?” I just say, “Well bless your heart!” and finish my shopping, dropping the box of Cream of Wheat into my shopping bugg…oops, I mean ‘cart’.


5 responses to “Ya’ll talk funny

  1. When I interviewed for a job in Savannah, the company sent me out a real estate agent to show me some properties in the happy event that it would be a happy event. I told her from whence I had come and she said, “Yieew tawak tiyew slawoah tah bee uh ya-yun-key.” But I am a ya-yun-key with a pride in my belief that this should be one great nation despite the errors of our predecessors. But like the war that divided us, errors are always a two-way street: The Industrial Union States did treat the chiefly agricultural States unfairly.

    The people who returned to the ideal of a loose Confederacy were honoring the legacy of our founding fathers by pointing out some of the errors of the North, which was forcing the South into financial bondage rather than allowing it to have its interests represented as a member of that great Union as it should have been.

    The War was an ugly way to resolve our differences, but it was the only release that resulted from the flaming of the noble passions of both sides. I hate the historical inaccuracies that make it seem as though the South and/or The Confederacy were the creator of all the wrongs that set us against each other. I hate the attitude that the South was beaten into submission because she was the offending party. Before American Independence, the Dutch had been the biggest exploiters of colonials who institutionalised Apartheid while Americans resisted segregation. They continued their slave trade in New Amsterdam even after it was renamed — to New York.

    Slavery was a Northern solution to the problem of paying a fair price for Southern natural resources and raw materials. Paying $100K for a slave was supposed to get you a worker for life, even longer than the opportunity of getting Welsh, Cornish or Irish as indentured servants who could slip away undetected even before political pressures put that practice to an end. Slavery also forced down labor prices that were negotiated at that time, far below any minimum wage, yet still the right of the service provider who couldn’t distinguish himself (or herself, wherever women may have had dealings) in any other way.

    The South took up arms rather than be starved into submission without a vote. England offered to pay higher prices than the Union and were fined for interference in a civil war. Those who had been our oppressors were even behaving better than the Northern Government. The war is so often “cleaned up” as the war to free the slaves. Nobody suffered from that illusion when the truth was still known. It was a war to secure the lowest prices on raw materials for wealthy northern industrialists who had corrupted the Union and turned the free confederation of American States into their stable. “Free your slaves!” they cried, after having sold them at a great profit and still offered no refund. “Free your slaves!” they demanded as they welcomed them as the lowest paid members of the Northern workforce, the lowest social caste on the planet — indeed, the first “wage slaves.”

    The New York Intellectual elite spout nonsense about the stains on The Stars and Bars, yet they are the spawn of the persecuting industrialists and the perpetuators of racial strife and inequality. These are also the people who quote socialist slogans out of context while they flaunt their wealth and call the proletariat “ignorant” under their unified, complacent mealy-mouthed breath.

    Have remorse for the errors we have made along the way while building this great republic, but do not be ashamed of the Confederate Flag because the truly ignorant try to dictate it based on the revisionist history which cleanses them of their sins.


    • Thanks for that, Ernie. I know what you’re saying, and I guess I need to qualify my statement…it was much more in the context of those I grew up with who plastered the flag everywhere for all of the wrong reasons.


      • I told a friend of mine this morning how I went on a rant about this: One of the things that we discussed was that idiots don’t belong to a particular political affiliation. I grew up with a few of those people, too, though I’m not too sure to what symbols they clung. Troublemakers seize onto whatever they can to draw a following: The Klan was like boy scouts compared to the guy who revived it and perverted it to his own use — in Greenville, Indiana (how southern is that?). Nationalism was his banner, but I guess he got more mileage from The Stars And Bars than he would have got from carrying his boy’s Swastika. Look what the Nazis did to an Indian good luck charm.


  2. Pingback: I’m a cusser, dagnabbit! | FUNNY...PECULIAR

  3. My best friend is from Arkansas, and she’s worked hard to get rid of her accent for the business world. But is comes out when she’s nervous, and when she’s drunk. It’s funny.


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