Wherever the Road Leads

Speaking Southern… literally

This post is completely different. I am going to read it to you. I have recorded the blog and uploaded it as an mp3 so that you can read along as I talk.

Click on the link below that says “Hear Gordon Speak”. A new window will open up and an an mp3 player will take a few seconds to load. It may start on its own, you may have to click ‘start’. Once it starts, come back to this page to follow along.

There is an introduction before the text below begins. Enjoy!!

Hear Gordon Speak

I am going to write about how the English language is used here in the South. Now, I have already gone past lesson number one. Southerners seldom will use the entire phrase, “I am going to…”

The philosophy is that if a husband said, “I am going to go to the store for bread,” by the time he finished the sentence, the bread would be beyond the “sell-by” date. There are two solutions.

In Alabama and South Carolina, the phrase is contracted to “ahmoan”. “Ahmoan go the Piggly Wiggly fer bread.” Here in Georgia, it’s shortened even more, to “ama” “Ama go the Shell Mart fer bread. I need some shotgun shells, anyway.”

Another way to avoid “I am going to” is to use the phrase “fixin’ tuh”. “Am fixin’ tuh go Dollar General.” The first time I heard “fixin tuh” was when a lady at the deli counter at Publix said she had givin up on the previous night’s football game and gone to bed early ‘”cuz I had to work this mornin’ and Alabama was fixin’ tuh lose, anyway.”

The word “carry” is used in a manner that northerners are not used to. The first time I heard it used this “different” way was a good number of years ago in rural Texas. “Bubba got his hand caught in the tractor and we had to carry him to the doctor.”

Well, I hadn’t been off the plane from Canada long, and I imagined a couple of Bubba’s friends, one supporting under his armpits and the other supporting behind his knees as the three of them huffed and puffed their way down the road to the clinic.

“Why didn’t you call an ambulance?” I asked.

“Oh, he wasn’t hurt that bad. We threw him in his pick up and carried him over to see Doc Johnson.”

It wasn’t until towards the end of supper that it all came together. Our host’s wife handed me a plate of dessert and said, “Carry this plate of apple cobbler through to TW in the living room. He gets his butt plunked down in front of that television to watch the news each night so he can come back and call Bill Clinton everything but a white man.” I never did learn what “TW” stood for but I learned that “carry” means, “take”. He and his wife lived in Farmersville, Texas and were good, good folks.

“Used to be able to” is another northern phrase that is simply too much work here in the South. It’s “useta cud”. “You useta cud git to the bowling alley in five minutes but you cain’t use the old bridge no more. T’ain’t safe.”

In the same vein is “might cud”. “Can you stop off and pick up bread on the way home from work?”, “Yeh, I might cud.”

“Momanem” generally refers to a familial home. “Yeh, this year we’re havin’ Easter at momanem’s. Least we’ll git some good eatin’.”

Haven’t figured it out? “Mom and them”, the “them”, I guess, would be dad and maybe baby brother iff’n he still lives air.

“Damyankee”. Now this one seems fairly straightforward, but there’s a subtlety only Southerners understand. A “yankee”, obviously, is anyone who lives north of the the former Confederacy, typically, though inaccurately, referred to as The Mason-Dixon Line. The Mason-Dixon Line, in fact, is a demarcation line among only four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia.

mason-dixon500

However, in popular usage, the Mason–Dixon line symbolizes a cultural boundary between the Northeastern and the Southern United States (Dixie).

confederatestates

A “yankee” comes down to the South for a visit, spends his money and then goes home. A “damyankee” is someone who comes to the South for a visit and decides to stay. Like me.

One summer when I was married, our family traveled down to Gulf Shores Alabama, on the Gulf Coast. It was hot, sweltering… it had to be pushing 100°, bright, bright sunlight off the white sand that you still had to squint with sunglasses on and humidity that would stop a train. It was beautiful.

I was in the beach house that we had rented and my wife had driven off to get something. She used her cell phone to call, saying the car had broke down, come and get me. (Now, I should go back and change that to the grammatically correct “broken down”, but I’ve been saying “broke down” for so many years now, ahmoan leave it the way it is.)

I was about to walk the mile or so to where she and the car were. I got halfway down the driveway and realized there was no way I could walk. A maal in this heat was jest too far. It was time to find out if “Southern Hospitality” was true. I went to the house next door, introduced myself and my new friend, an Interstate Battery dealer from Birmingham (Al, not Mi.) spent the next 24 hours carrying me around, helping get the car fixed.

He told the story of how Interstate was closing a facility in the mid-west and the folks who worked there could relocate to a northern city or move to the South. One person was making faces at the thought of moving south. My new-found friend said to him, “Well, don’t come for a visit, ’cause you’ll stay.”

And that’s the truth. Northerners are selling their overpriced houses along with their snow blowers and parkas and moving south in droves, buying mansions down here for what they got for their three-bedroom, one-bath ranch in Hamtramck. Yes, Hamtramck. There really is a city so named. It’s pronounced Ham tram-mick.

Well, they’d better learn how to speak, then.

“Made.” Everyone knows what ‘made’ means, right? Wrong. For example, to get a passport, you have to go to Walgreen’s to have your picture ‘made’. Not ‘taken’, ‘made’.

“Mash.” Mashed potatoes, sour mash whisky? Nope. If you’re riding in an elevator and it stops on a particular floor to let in a new passenger, he might ask you to “mash” the eleventh floor button. A moonshiner, Dale Junior or just a redneck, “mashes” the accelerator in a car to go faster.

At night, to make a room go light or go dark, you ‘cut’ the light on or ‘cut’ the light off. You do the same with heat or air conditioning. “Cut on the air, it’s getting too hot in here.”

“Hayer.” True story. Sitting in Southside Baptist Church in Huntsville Alabama one Sunday morning in the pew in front of a very refined older lady. Her family soon joined her, including her granddaughter. Says Grandmother to her little darling, “Oh maah, don’t you look so pretty this morning! Who did your hayer? Your momma?”

Now we’re not talking Honey Boo Boo people here. This woman’s clothes, wrap and jewels were worth more than the Lexus we were driving.

Okay, ahmoan finish up with the most famous Southern word ever: “y’all”.

Using the word “y’all” is a bit of an art. First off, it is not pronounced, “yoll”, (y-o-l-l). There are extry syllables in there. It’s pronounced much more like the word, ‘howl’.

“Y’all” is second person plural, it is never used to refer to an individual, although to the untrained, it may appear that way.

For example: If you were in a department store speaking to a sales clerk, you would ask, “Do y’all carry work britches?” Yes, you are speaking to a single individual, but you are asking her if the store carries a product – the store’s employees, the store’s management, the store’s shareholders. A group – more than one, therefor, “y’all”.

“Y’all” can be sub-divided into groups. “Some of y’all are Republicans and some of y’all are Democrats, but all y’all need to get and vote.”

Furthermore, y’all can be possessive. A mother may say to her two children, “Both of y’all need to clean y’all’s rooms.”

After being here a while, it begins to make perfect sense. What no longer makes sense is returning north when a waitress might ask a table of four women, “What would you guys like to drink?” You guys? Four women? Which one is the “guy”? Now I know using the term “you guys” is avoidable. She might could ask, “What would youse like to drink?”

Hopefully this might help all y’all yankees and Canadians if y’all come down to the South for a visit. Note the key word though…. visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Iceman Ogre  October 19, 2012

    Gordon, that is one of the BEST things I have ever read concerning the language conversion from up there to down here.
    It is even harder to understand when you have your own “words” from Jersey. You have to translate your Jersey word to english then figure out the best southern word to replace it. And the best part was asking my girlfriend’s(now my wife) aunt where is the best pawn shop in town? But with my accent they thought i said porn shop and no one would answer me. They just looked at me like, that damn yankee is with our little southern princess. My wife still brings it up. On occasion, my accents sneaks out, especially when their is whiskey around and she chuckles and says in her best Brooklyn accent(which is better than many real Brooklyn’ers), “Hey Mike, you’z wanna go to’z the paawwwwnn shop huh?”

    I got a friend who still has his NY accent, even after all these years. I love hanging out with him because he’s my friend but also because of the way he talks. It’s always, Hey Bro or Yo Bro, check this out, or Fugetaboutit.
    Get a few drinks in him, and its like watching Goodfellas Live in Concert!!!

    reply
  2. Chelsea B  January 17, 2014

    You’re Mason-Dixon Line is completely wrong. It actually starts through Maryland, Kentucky and Virginia are completely considered to be southern. In fact, most southern dialects originated in Virginia. You’re Mason-Dixon Line should also include part of Ohio, as well. Basically, you left out some of the most southern states from your line, especially Kentucky. How do. Know this? I am a history major from western Kentucky, I live right on the KY/ TN line, and I specialize in southern history, and have study an extensive amount of language as well. I just thought you should be informed. The language here in KY, is just like Tennessee. In fact, the dialects of these two states are nearly the same. It is the MAG states (Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia) that do have the strongest dialects. Florida having little southern dialect to none. Y’all is commonly used throughout the region, along with other phrases that our considered to be southern. I am proud of where I come from, and even more proud to be a southern lady. So seeing this, and your map can be quite irritating, because to be honest, it’s quite wrong.

    reply
    • gordon  January 17, 2014

      I thank you for the correction on the actual Mason-Dixon Line, and I can see that “my” red, supposed Mason-Dixon Line is very inaccurate. I have changed my post to get it closer to actual fact. I thank you for taking the time to point out my errors, and for the education.

      reply

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