Sound Off: Southern English
Good Friday mornin’, Y’all. I’m gon’ Sound Off about Southern English! (Imagine that phrase spoken in true Dolly Parton fashion. Y’all know Dolly, don’tcha?)
Yeah we like that y’all and that Southern drawl and we just can’t help it but we just keep falling….
No, not for those boys ’round here, but into some horrible habits when it comes to grammar. That is just how it’s done here in the Deep South.
What is so impressive to me is the way we Southerners can mingle in a room full of corporate “well-to-do’s”, and really hold our own as far as charm, conversation, and even intelligence. But, by gosh, you put us in a room full of our buddies and we ain’t nuttin’ but a bunch a hillbilly-sounding rednecks. Trust me, when I’m in the right crowd of folks (usually my favorite crowd), I can be as country a turnip green. This is a natural reaction to growing up in the Deep South habitat.
Here’s the thing…Auntie Anne and Jimmie were English majors in college. Auntie Anne was a literature professor, and retired to the DEEP Deep South, which is actually way less Southern than where I live. I have always had a little-bitty Auntie Anne and a tee-nintsy Jimmie sitting on my shoulder, fussing in my ear when I say things like, “She don’t know what she’s talkin’ about!” or “I’m-mow run up the road to the store and get me some tater chips”. Once when Jimmie was in the salon getting her hair done, I was just-a-talkin’ away, having a large time with all the clients on a busy Friday, and she quietly pointed out that my grammar was atrocious (she’s always done this). I explained that, though I know better, I sometimes just have to relax and try to fit in with the natives. Nobody around here wants a snooty, pretentious, grammar-abiding hairdresser. Know what I mean?
The time when our Deep South grammar and dialect becomes a bit of a problem in the salon is fast approaching. I live in a college town, and this college brings in a lot of international students, not to mention American students from all over the United States. In the next week or two, classes should resume for the college and we’ll be seeing a lot more walk-ins. The salon where I work is within easy walking distance of the dorms, and we offer a student discount, so we do get a pretty good stream of students coming in for haircuts, waxing, and so on.
Of course, some of the international students have a different first language, so their English may be sketchy. Even for some of them who grew up mostly in the U.S., Southern English is a whole new thing to them. Sadly, I have even had American students who come from up North or out West who have had trouble understanding me or one of the other girls (Angel is probably the only one of us who doesn’t really sound Southern, and I’m not sure how she escaped it since she grew up in a more rural area than we live in now, right here in the Deep South. She sounds more like a midwesterner, until you piss her off, then her inner redneck comes out a little).
Being the goofball that I am, when I have an international (or American) student in my chair who is struggling to understand, I like to give them a little tutorial on how to survive the language around here. I’ll share some of these with you now.
Tips For Surviving Deep South Conversation
- If someone offers to ‘carry’ you to the store, DO NOT jump on that person’s back or into his/her arms. He actually mean that he will take you or drive you to the store.
- If someone tells you that she is almost finished with your haircut, and she only “likes” your neck hair, don’t freak out and wonder why they are insulting the rest of your hair. She actually means that she only lacks the neck hair, which means your edge-up is the final stage of your haircut.
- When someone asks to “barrie” a pencil, they really want to borrow it.
- Lots of folks around here have to have surgery on their “rotary cup”. To the majority of the world, this body part is known as a rotator cuff.
- You may meet someone who tells you, “I have sugar.” This person is not hitting on you, or randomly telling you what he/she has in the pantry. He or she has actually been diagnosed with what the rest of the world knows as diabetes.
- If someone has “done gone off the deep end”, that means he or she is losing his mind, having a nervous breakdown, or just forgot to show up for her hair appointment.
- If a local friend says she’ll be there “direckly” (directly), that does not mean she’ll be there right away. That could mean in the next 5 minutes, or the next 3 hours here in the Deep South.
- If someone asks if you want a ‘Coke’, and you reply to the affirmative, they will then ask, “What kind?” ‘Coke’ means Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, RC, or any other soda. Chances are, you will only get offered some sweet tea, so this one may not be so difficult.
- If your roommate asks you to ‘cut the light off’, do not chop your lamp up with a machete. Just switch it off.
- Common sentences in the Deep South include: “I seen him at the store.” “He has went the extra mile.” “I have ran the reports.” “We have went all the way to the end of the road, and still can’t find it.” Somehow, the correct use of the word ‘have’, or lack thereof, has been completely destroyed around here.
Now, if you ever find yourself in the Deep South, you ‘aurta’ (ought to) be able to keep up with the language. Glad I could ‘hep’ (help). If you’ll ‘scuse’ (excuse) me, I need to go hop in the ‘shire’ (shower) and ‘warsh’ (wash) my hair, so I can carry my butt to the beauty shop. Me and you aurta meet up again on Monday, if you ain’t busy!
August 21, 2015 @ 8:53 am
I read these out loud at work. So funny!
August 22, 2015 @ 1:41 pm
Awesome! Thanks! 🙂
August 21, 2015 @ 10:14 am
As your grandmother Frannie used to say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” But the media have been blending the nation ever since Midwestern became the default accent on the radio. Because of that much regionalism, including pronunciation, has to be preserved as endangered, and thus is done self consciously. So it can sound fake–but fun among the in group. As long as you have vinegar based barbecue, you are real to me.
August 22, 2015 @ 1:50 pm
Oh, it’s real…I usually only hear it when I listen to my recorded voice, but I know it’s there. I am certainly capable of laying it on thick, especially if someone makes fun of my accent.
Confession: When I was young , I loved to sit with strangers on an airplane and practice other accents on strangers. I convinced a man once that I was British, and had to stay in character through the whole flight. It may have been when I came to visit you my junior year of high school. hehehehe…
August 21, 2015 @ 1:18 pm
I had a neighbor who introduced herself as Ortrey. It was spelled Audrey, I was sorry su prized.
August 22, 2015 @ 1:44 pm
Right? Around here, Maurice is pronounce “Morris”. I spelled it wrong for years.
August 24, 2015 @ 7:00 am
Martie! Enjoyed your post about the deep South accent!!! So interesting how there are many different accents in the USA ! You should hear my “cawfee” and “dawg” New York pronunciation !!
Happy Monday my friend and great post!!
August 24, 2015 @ 4:44 pm
I’m pretty good at mimicking other dialects…it’s part of my charm! Lol! NY is one of my faves!! 🙂