Ah’m fixin’ to write this blog, y’all, for the a to z challenge. It’s just takin’ me a bit.
I was born in the South and learned to speak there, my earliest words lulled by languorous rhythms of low country loquacity, dusted with the twang of the North Georgia mountains, and balanced by the “get-to-the-business” patois of Birmingham and Atlanta.
I do have to confess to some inner valley girl swirled somehow into the middle; a hitchhiker, I suppose, from UGA college days long past. It’s like, who I am.
Some of us chose to hide our Southerness. Or mask it in our daily conversations, thinking the lack of a drawl makes us sound smarter, more educated. Traveled. Worldly.
But if we are from the South (and that South can run all the way from Delaware to parts of Texas and Arkansas) trust me: we have an accent. And the deeper you get into Dixie, the deeper it lies within the dweller; the broader it becomes, the more it brands who we are.
As children, we’re all yes’ems and no’ums, fixins and done gonnas, but once we’re off to college and maybe living outside the South in some nest o’ Yankees or Midwesterners, (or heaven help us, as a lonely expat in outrageous and truly foreign parts, like New York City or Los Angeles), many of us will barricade behind the safe sterility of carefully enunciated “Americanisms,” only spontaneously dropping our “g”s in the excitement of a promotion, “y’all”in’ all up while reminiscing about our childhood, returning to our every day lives from down home holidays with gifts of fudge, divinity and peanut brittle, along with some venison sausage that we let slip, “came from a deer our Deddy shot lass Fall.”
“My voice falls into Southern drawl when I am tired, drunk, or in trouble. Too often, my accent is attacked by all three of these realities.”
― Jennifer Harrison, Write like no one is reading
Much like Jennifer, my accent seeps out of me when I’m tired (and admittedly, the other two occasions as well) plus the rare opportunity that I’m actually speaking on the phone with a Southerner, especially an older woman. It’s like a secret password: “Hey, I’m one of y’all. I know the code.”
You almost always hear my accent when I’m being charming, or flirty. Believe it or not, Time Magazine recently reported that a survey by dating site Cupid.com, voted the “sing-song honey sweetness” of the Southern accent as the country’s sexiest, and by a pretty significant margin.
Regardless, it’s part of me and defines me as a native of the Southern states of our nation. There’s history and tradition in my speech, an above-the-norm politeness and courtesy marks my words. The voices of my ancestors layer over the language of business and tech I speak daily at work; Southern “sugar” spins into words of endearment; the honeys, preciouses, sweeties, and darlins I use to address my beloveds and total strangers alike.
Oh, and I will use it to be annoying. Don’t get me wrong. The first time I sense someone is prejudging me as an Atlantan, or a Southerner in general; watching them don that patient look they might assume with the deliberately obtuse, the mentally challenged or the truly uneducated.
And then I lay it thick. Sweet as honey, slow as molasses mixed with peanut buttuh. Just givin’ them folks what they’re expectin.’
Why, it’d be just plain rude to disappoint!
“I decided to deflect her attitude by giving a long, Southern answer. I come from people who know how to draw things out. Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”
― Maureen Johnson, The Name of the Star