Wednesday, January 25, 2006

North and South: Yall Ahn't from 'round here, are You?

I have to answer lots of questions from my yankee friends. Here at Duke, a suburb a Newark, it is often the same questions over and over.

So, here is a partial reprint of a little newspaper piece I did years ago. Try to get this right, now.....

Why is it that...
• Natives dress by thermometer, northerners dress by calendar. As in, “It’s hot; why are you wearing a sweater?” “It’s January!”
• All drivers use five second rules on green lights if the car ahead doesn’t move. Southerners wait five seconds, and then they usually wait five more seconds. Northerners immediately blow their horn for five seconds.
• So many people from up north say, “I know how to drive in snow.” We generally hear this phrase as the tow truck driver pulls the car out of the ditch.
• R’s can’t be destroyed. Sure, northerners take R’s off of some words: cah. pahk. But they add them to others: idea(r). And it always turns out right: “I have an idea(r): Let’s take the cah and pahk it over at Donna(r)’s house.”
• When a southerner says, “hey!” people stop, and say, “what? WHAT?”

Now, some advice. Southerners never say...
• “Bring that salad dressing on the side”
• “I don’t have a favorite college team; I just like to watch”
• “Unsweetened tea just tastes better to me”
• “No, you can’t feed that to the dog”
• “We’re vegetarians”

If you venture outside the narrow confines of our cities, you will need to know three things.
• Country people rarely use turn signals, since there are no other cars around, and livestock respond better to hand signals. If you see a car with its turn signal on, it was left on at the factory.
• When several vehicles approach a four-way stop, the one with the largest tires gets the right of way.
• If you leave your car, you will likely have a conversation. In that conversation, you will be called “honey” or “darlin’.” Don’t go nuts about this; we already know you’re not from here.

Next, you have to come to grips with the second person plural. The standard “you” is ambiguous. Regions solve this problem in their own way.
• Southerners say “y’all.” But it is plural, not singular. If you say, “how are y’all doin’?” to one southerner to make fun of her accent, you sound like an idiot. Correct usage: “Hey, y’all, watch this!” If you hear this, take cover and dial 911.
• Northern common folk say “youse.” No problem...that’s logical: one you and another you = 2 yous.
• Classy sorority women: “You guys”. As in, “You guys think I have an accent?” (Then she makes this amazing parrot-sat-on-a-cactus noise).

Most important: Barbeque. Now, y’all think barbeque is a verb, but it’s a noun: we grill steaks, we eat barbeque. Barbeque is a well-defined set of things: smoked, pulled, chopped pork, with slaw, hush puppies, French fries, and sweet tea. These things constitute an organic whole. You can no more have barbecue without these than you would order, “Cheese steak, with swiss” in Philadelphia.

Vinegar or tomato sauce? Don’t discuss it. Marriages, even friendships, have ended over this. Side with the host, and keep your mouth too full to respond to appeals from either faction. You can take a stand on mustard-based sauce, however: no. If you accidentally ask for mustard, use it for hair gel and say, “Look at me! I’m Cameron Diaz!”

As for me: I don’t know how to drive in snow, I have a very fat dog, and I never blow my car horn at all.


Josh said...

I love this one:

"R’s can’t be destroyed. Sure, northerners take R’s off of some words: cah. pahk. But they add them to others: idea(r). And it always turns out right: “I have an idea(r): Let’s take the cah and pahk it over at Donna(r)’s house.”

Many a time I have mocked my mom for her (mis)pronunciation of the Chicken Caeser Pita, or as she calls it, the Chicken Caesah Peter.

The Unknown Professor said...

I'm a yankee by birth, but spent about 10 years in Atlanta (not the "real" South, I know, but close enough).

Two observations:

1) Yes, hospitality is fake. Of course it is. The essence of good manners is being civil and polite the other person well when you feel like choking the living bejeezus out of them (and with good reason).

2) The quintessential Southernism is the phrase, "Bless her heart" or "Bless his heart". It is usually used after an insult, so as to make it seem like you find the fault amusing or endearing. Examples: "She's slept with half the town, bless her heart", or "He's dumb as a stump, bless his heart".

One of my closest friends is a very attractive southern gal (with a Ph.D. in finance) who now lives in a northern city. With her southern charm, she's dangerous up there. Northerners just don't know how to deal with it.

I knew I was in a strange land when I went to a breakfast joint and saw a "barbecue omelet" on the menu. Nothing says breakfast like pork fat.