The first few times I crossed the Mason/Dixon line were when the kids were little and we road tripped it to the coast of South Carolina. Every year was an adventure as I attempted to communicate with the inhabitants of this foreign land. I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying to me; the thick southern accent made all the words blend together into alphabet soup. I was always in desperate need of subtitles. No wonder Southerners think Northerners are all asses; we say, “pardon me?” at least five times after everything said to us. Eventually, and after several “pardon me’s” the Southerner in question would look at me with pity and slow down their speech pattern enough so I could put together the gist of what was being said. Along with the accent of the South is a vocabulary and lifestyle that doesn’t match the north. Here are some of the lessons I have learned while living in the South.
When asked what beverage you want at a restaurant, don’t request, “ice tea” if you are looking for what I consider ice tea (unsweetened). Sweet tea is “ice tea”, and “unsweet tea” is unsweet tea. So unless you specify otherwise, you will go into diabetic sugar shock before you finish your first glass of southern ice tea.
Barbeque is something you eat, not something you do. If you are cooking outdoors you are “grilling”.
There is no such thing as “carry out” or “take out” food. It is “call in”. The first time you phone to order you will be confused. “Yougottacallin?” is what you will hear, but you will not have any idea what is being said because of the accent, nor will you know what the hell a “callin” is. The first time I did this I felt like I was in a comedy skit. “Yougottacallin?”. “Pardon me?” “I sayyyed, yougottacallin?” “I don’t understand. I would like to place a carry out order please.” “Okay, yougottacallin”. “Pardon me?”
There are no grocery carts; there are buggies. And you pay for your items out of your pocketbook, not a purse.
Ma’am and sir is not an option, it is a rule. I never understood this one until I moved South. I always thought that saying “yes ma’am”, was somehow ridiculous, rigid and formal. It isn’t. It is merely a gesture of respect. No matter what color your skin or what occupation or social status you enjoy; everyone shares ma’am and sir. I’ve grown to like it and find myself using it often. I’m just not sure at what age one becomes a ma’am or sir.
We eat supper, not dinner.
This next one took me awhile to embrace. When children interact with adults that are not strangers, but family friends, they become “Miss or Mr __________ (first name). This practice carries into adulthood. I wouldn’t dream of addressing the woman across the street as just “Betty”. She is older than I and not a close friend, so I should address her as “Miss Betty”. And I do, out of respect for southern tradition.
We say “hey” down South when we greet one another. And we hug……Steve is still getting used to that one.
If anyone under the age of 80 says, “bless your heart”, they are totally dissing you. Example: “why isn’t that a colorful dress…..bless your heart”. Translation: “your dress is hideous and probably too short or the wrong style for the occasion”. But you smile back and say “why, thank you, what a lovely party. Bless your heart for putting on such a wonderful evening.” Translation: “I see your bless your heart and raise you with an even lower blow”. Listen to Miranda Lambert’s song “Only Prettier”; it is about how southern women politely tiptoe around social discord. Hilarious.
Bubba is a nickname for brother…..and there are a lot of Bubba’s down South.
There are several ways to use “y’all”. “Y’all have a good day”, can be both singular and plural. “How was y’alls meal”, is possessive. “All y’all are welcome to join us”, seems excessive but makes sense when used in a group setting. I still sound like a poser when I attempt any form of y’all so I continue to stick with the Midwestern “you guys”.
Head just slightly out of town and you will find that the mullet is alive and thriving.
In the South, talking to strangers is perfectly normal. I was in an elevator in Chicago a couple of years ago and forgot I wasn’t in the South. When I chatted up the man next to me, he eyed me like I was mentally unstable and casually put a hand over the pocket containing his wallet.
In the South you “feel blessed”, not “feel lucky”.
Yes, life in the South can be quite a departure from living up North, but now that I understand it, I really like it. It is interesting just how different cultures can be within the same country. I “feel blessed” and “lucky” to have been afforded the opportunity to experience both.
Pictured is my youngest daughter, Bridey, who embraced the culture from the very first day we moved South.