Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY! With school starting in a few weeks, I thought it might be good to have a language lesson – get ready to learn how to speak (or understand) the language of the South!
Hey All Y’all! That‘s Southern for “hello” to a group of more than 2 of “you guys” for my Northern friends. April 1,1997 (no fooling!) we moved our family from Clemmons, NC to Charlottesville, VA, where we landed in a wonderful cul-de-sac of families with children about the same ages as our kids. Our next door neighbors (remember the dear ones who moved to KY?) had children that were the exact ages and sex as our kids: Girl, Girl, Boy. Ironically, our boys were both named Michael and thus became “the Michaels”. I digress…back to our cul-de-sac. Not one family was from Virginia (or South of the Border). We were the only “Southern” family. The other families hailed from California, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania, and then there were the Madigans from North Carolina (proudly, I might add). I was very worried about us moving “up North” away from our family, friends, and roots, but we were welcomed so warmly you would have thought we were in NC! And our first “Hey Y’all!” was met with warm smiles. We were gonna be ok.
“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is kinder or more beautiful than silence.”
It was a BIG adjustment for me moving from my hometown where I had lived all of my 39+ years, not to mention leaving all of my family and friends behind. I had to make this place in the upper hemisphere home for my family. We needed to fit in and find our way.
The kids and I started exploring Charlottesville and discovered Bodo’s Bagels. We had NEVER had a bagel – they were non-existent in NC when we left in 1997. NC had biscuits. Big biscuits. Lots of biscuits – Bojangles, Hardees, KFC. (By the way, also non-existent in the South back then: Field Hockey and Lacrosse. Had no clue what these sports were but signed the girls up to play. Learned on the fly.) Driving around town, I came across a familiar sight – a shoe store that I had loved in NC – Phil’s Shoes (precursor to Rack Room – remember this was in 1997), and when I told my neighbor that I found a Phil’s she kept saying “What? We have a Field’s here?!” She was so excited! I guess Fields was some special Northern grocery store she loved and I kept saying “Phii—-il’s”…(multisyllables). I finally had to spell Phil’s for her to understand me! I never knew I had an “accent,” even though my godson from MD would say to his mom “Talk like Aunt Les,” until my neighbor could not understand what I was saying! Kinda like pen and pin, ten and tin… sounds the same to me.
“It’s not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Audre Lourde
I loved our new house up here and wanted to send pictures back “home” to my friends and family. After all, it was April and the previous owner had planted 1000 daffodils in the back of our house that were now blooming. I was on the other side of the lake behind our house when my neighbor yelled out to me – “What are you doing over there?” To which I responded, “I am making a picture of the back of our house.” “WHAT? Making a picture? With a camera? OH you are taking a picture!” I learned quickly that no longer will I MAKE pictures but will TAKE them!
We headed “over yonder” to the school to meet the teachers. We could walk to the elementary and middle schools, which my kids did daily. We also cut off the lights, cut off the TV, cut off the car… no one else did that! And we were always “fixin” to do something or go somewhere. “Hey, we’re fixin to go out to supper…wanna tag along?” “Supper” became “Dinner” up here.
That Christmas, Santa brought my son, then 6 years old, a UNC toboggan (among other things!). When our neighbors asked what he got for Christmas, he excitedly told them he got a new UNC toboggan and promptly pulled it out of his pocket and put it on – he was so proud of his toboggan and wanted to show it off. Yet everyone was looking around, confused. Where was his toboggan they asked? He told them it was right there on his HEAD! Yes, a toboggan is a WINTER HAT, not a sled!
“Don’t mix bad words with your bad mood. You’ll have many opportunities to change a mood, but you’ll never get the opportunity to replace the words you spoke.”
It should be no surprise that I was a cheerleader in high school. Head cheerleader, actually! My fellow cheerleaders and I got together at the beach a couple of years ago for a mini reunion. It was great to catch up after 39 years! Somehow, we got on the topic of Southern Speak. Many of us live in different areas of the country now but still have our ties to NC. One of the girls shared the story of a time when she flew with Piedmont Airlines (based out of Charlotte, NC), back when they merged with US Air (based in Pittsburgh), around 1987. She and her fellow Piedmont “stewardesses” (before they became flight attendants) greeted each other with “How’s your mom an’em?” Well, the US Air stewardesses were looking at them as if they were aliens! Those Southern gals just wanted to know how the family was doing! (Click on the video below to see how a real Southern “Stewardess” and Southern Cheerleader greets another!)
“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”
When I go back and visit family and friends in NC, my Southern friends comment as to how my accent has become “Northern”, which is hilarious considering my co-workers sometimes look at me as if I speak a foreign language! And when I come back to VA after being in NC or SC, my language definitely moves south until it recalibrates. Our auditor from Chicago, who has worked with me for over 10 years and has often heard me on the phone with my Mom, comments that when I have a conversation with her, my Southern roots are out in full force. “Hey Momma…how are ya? Whadya have for supper? Whatcha fixin to do? Cut your tv on to the Hallmark Channel because there’s a right good movie fixin to come on.” (Honestly, y’all, I really don’t talk like this anymore! Do I?)
All of my southern friends know there is only one unit of measurement: right. It drives my co-workers absolutely crazy. “How many more entries do you have to make this month?” “Right many.” “How many is that?” “I don’t know…I just know I have right many more to make.” “How long will it take you?” “Right long.” “How far did you run today?” “Right far.” “How was your run?” “Right good!” “What’s the temperature outside?” “It’s right warm outside but it’s right cold in my office Y’all and I am cutting my heater on right now!” I must tell you that I have proof that using “right” as a descriptive word is legal and right (correct) because it was used in this manner in the liturgical response in the New Philadelphia Moravian Church Order of Worship Bulletin on July 21, 2013! I happened to be in church that Sunday and brought the bulletin back from NC as proof to share with my co-workers. It stays on my bulletin board at work. That’s right impressive proof if you ask me! Oh my… maybe I do still talk like this!
Another conversation with my friends and co-workers – “Hey can you ski?” “ Well I used to could?” “HUH?” “I said I used to could ski. And I might could if I tried again.” Right?! Aren’t there things you used to could do? Or might could do again if you tried?
“Those who judge will never understand, and those who understand will never judge.”
Remember, no one ever retires and moves up North! Before we moved here, a family from NY moved to our Clemmons neighborhood. I got to know them right well, and the mom asked me one day, “Why are all these people bringing cakes and cookies to our house? Are they casing it?” “No Helen, that is the Southern way of welcoming you to the neighborhood!” (I always made a Moravian Sugar Cake to take to new neighbors – yes, I might have been checking out their house, but not casing it.) Same neighbor also told me she had no idea when you were supposed to turn on your air conditioning – she did not have AC in upstate NY. (OK this could be considered a perk of living “up north”). She asked if the nightly news would one day announce “Today is the day you turn on your AC.” I said, “No Helen, they would say – ‘Today is right hot so all y’all need to CUT on your AC.’ But seriously, if you are in your house and are sweating and right hot, it is time to CUT on your AC.” Bless her heart!
Basically, we all speak the same language, we just use different slangs. But what is most important, is that when we do speak, we must think about what we are saying. Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If you can’t be kind, then just be quiet!
Y’all have a great week! The weather has been right nice up here recently. Here’s hoping it is just as nice where you are. See you next week!