Chapter 3: Easy for You to Say
You know that feeling you get when you first step on the tarmac in a foreign country? Part awe, part "What did I get myself into?" You get the same feeling when you move from north to south. You should have to clear customs. And in a manner of speaking, you do just that. At least there's no foreign language to master. But it helps to speak Southern to get along in the South. And all it takes is practice. Start by familiarizing yourself with the greetings.
Snappy Southern Greetings
Yankees don't take it personally when someone on the bus doesn't say hello to them. In fact, we prefer your silence. Southerners, on the other hand, make a living of being friendly and would never pass someone on the street without engaging him in conversation. These snappy Southern greetings may take a little getting used to:
"Ya'll ain't from around here, are ya?" (Like "Aloha," this is used interchangeably to say hello and good-bye.)
"Y'all ain't from around here, are ya?" is basically a rhetorical question. They know you ain't. Sometimes Southerners just want to have some fun with you. Pay attention to tone. This greeting can be hearty and playful or about as friendly as a doberman pinscher greeting you at the gate. You'll know it when you hear it.
"You sound like the Nanny!"
Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia: These accents all sounds the same to Southerners. Before you go home and wash your mouth out with soap, remind yourself that The Nanny made millions on her bad accent. What's stopping you?
"You're from New York, aren't ya?"
This greeting is not about your accent; it's about your attitude. If you tend to speak without being spoken to or -- gasp -- skip the pleasantries and get right down to business, you're considered pushy, so probably a New Yorker. And your fifteen minutes of fame are up.
Southerners do have some greetings that don't nail down your place of birth.
"Hi, y'all." (pronounced with three syllables)
Politically correct, proper, and friendly, "hi, y'all" has it all. It's equally at home at a governor's ball and a pig pickin'.
"Hey." (pronounced with two syllables)
Even some Southerners find "hi y'all" a little too, well, Southern.
Yankees find it much easier to understand Southerners when they learn to listen to what is not being said. For Southerners, minding your manners trumps telling the truth. "Tell it like it is" is not a badge of honor down here. Since Southerners don't always mean what they say, and don't always say what they mean, beginning listeners tend to lose some things in the translation.
Top Ten Southern-Fried Expressions
1. Fuller than a tick on a ten-year-old dog (nice way to end a meal)
2. Hotter than a goat's butt in a pepper patch (so much more original than "Hot enough for ya?")
3. Too lazy to yell "sueee" in a pigpen (said of Yankees, employees, or sons-in-law)
4. Nervous as a pig in a packing plant
5. Like trying to nail jelly to the wall (something that's hard to do)
6. Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then (everybody gets lucky).
7. If she gets to heaven she'll ask to see the upstairs (there's no pleasing her).
8. He wouldn't go to a funeral unless he could be the corpse (he's conceited).
9. It's so hot, the trees are bribing the rain (I have no idea what this means).
10. Scarce as hen's teeth
Ten Ways to Say "Now That's Ugly" in Dixie
1. Uglier than homemade soup (alternate: uglier than homemade soap).
2. He's so ugly his mother had to borrow a baby to take to church.
3. Ugly as a mud fence in a rainstorm.
4. So ugly she'd run a dog off a meat wagon.
5. Give me a fly flapper, and I'll help you kill it.
6. Looks like she's been hit in the face with a bag full of nickels.
7. He's so ugly he has to slap himself to sleep.
8. She's so ugly she has to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink.
9. He's so ugly they had to tie a pork chop around his neck so the dog would play with him.
10. He looks like something the cat drug in and the dog wouldn't eat.
Southern Parts of Speech
Traditional grammar teaches us eight parts of speech: nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, interjections, conjunctions, and prepositions. But Southerners would be lost without one more: palliatives. When Southerners want to contradict, take a shot at someone, or strongly disagree, they always open with a palliative or a piece of humble pie. Of course, their manner will stay soft and gentle, but when clause 1 starts with a maybe, clause 2 will always pack a punch.
- Am I wrong in thinking...(we should fire the whole staff)?
- I may be mistaken, but...(I think that's the worst hairdo I've ever seen).
- I'm not sure, but I believe...(these people against the president are uncivilized and anti-America).
- I should think...(anyone with even a basic understanding of history would know we actually won the war).
May I Help You?
Whether you're at the makeup counter or the home improvement store, you can expect service with a smile. No matter how bad the news. Southerners tend to smile broadest when they can't help you. When they don't have what you're looking for, the answer is "We surely don't," followed by a big smile. When you ask, "Do you know where I can get..." the answer more often than not is "I surely don't" followed by another giant grin.
The A to Z Guide for Building Your Vocabulary or, The Dixie Dictionary (Abridged)
All y'all Plural for you; All y'alls -- plural possessive
Usage We're awful sorry that all y'all are without power six days after the ice storm.
We're awful sorry that all y'alls electricity has been out for six weeks now.
(Approved by 90 percent of the Usage Panel; approved by only 3 percent of the people stuck without power)
Butterbeans, boiled peanuts, or buttermilk biscuits
Don't ask a Southerner to choose a favorite food that begins with b.
Usage Pass the b ___s, please.
Christian In addition to God-fearing, "Christian" is used to describe a person who abstains from alcohol.
Usage "Open bar? Why, no, dear. We're Christian." Also used in marketing to sell products. See the Yellow Pages for the Christian nearest you.
Dadgumit Socially acceptable expletive; "damn" in other languages.
Usage (Note: No need to watch your grammar when you're all fired up):
"Them Yankees is moving down here in droves, dadgumit."
Or if you're really steamed:
"Dadgum! Mama done ate the last dadgum jar of dadgum pear preserves, dadgumit."
Everwhichaway Hard to pinpoint location, may explain poor planning of the roads.
Usage "Oh, the Inner/Outer Beltline isn't north, south, east, or west, it goes everwhichaway." Or "I dropped a bag o' boiled peanuts, and they went everwhichaway."
Fixin' What you're going to do: derivative of fix -- what you're doing.
Usage "We're fixin' to come over in about twenty minutes." (If this is your builder speaking, he's lying. He's fixin' to leave town.)
Compare to fix:
"I'll fix dinner directly" (directly is a unit of time).
Combined Usage: "I'm fixin' to fix this here roof by tomorrow."
Grits World's eighth wonder. Ground corn meets religion when you see how much Southerners worship this mushy delicacy served 24/7. (Think Quaker Oatmeal on corn.)
Usage With butter at breakfast, with cheese at dinner, sliced and fried for leftovers
Hadn't ought Should not. Not to be confused with the multiple modal "might ought."
Usage "You hadn't ought to bother your sister like that." "You might ought give me a rest, dadgumit."
Ill A state of mild irritation for Southerners.
Usage "That Beverly Hillbillies reality show, it makes me right ill."
June bugs Giant, gross-looking beetles that bang against the screen door in the spring looking to come in.
Usage Damaging lawns and scaring adults. Getting one tangled in your hair is reason to "go to pieces."
Kudzu A.k.a. "the vine that ate the South," "mile-a-minute vine," "foot-a-night vine" -- you get the idea: It's green and it's out of control.
Usage Fry and eat (make a quiche), arts and crafts (make a basket), homeopathic meds (make a cure).
Laying up Loafing, doing nothing.
Usage "He's laying up till the big game on Saturday" (big game = college football).
Marshal Escort for the debutante at her ball.
Usage Two marshals per deb; marshal #1 gives his left arm, marshal #2 supports her left elbow for an easy glide into society.
Nabs Peanut butter crackers. The real Nabs (Nabisco's 1928 peanut sandwich packet) have been long gone, but don't tell that to the current generation of Southerners who insist they grew up on them. Southerners never forget their first Nab.
Usage Nabs and a Co'Cola (the small bottle, of course) perfect for a trip down memory lane: the snack reward at the end of tobacco row; in the brown-bag lunch Mama packed; while operating heavy machinery.
Ought Used instead of should, in combination with should, or paired with just about anything for emphasis, for example: shouldn't ought, might ought, ought to could. See "hadn't ought."
Usage "I ought to go now. I shouldn't ought to stay this late on a school night."
Pig Pickin' A whole pig is slow-roasted over an open pit, and guests gather round and serve themselves, that is, pick the pig. Now, there's a party! Add some sides -- coleslaw, hush puppies, baked beans, sweet tea, and banana pudding -- and Southerners are happy as a pig in, uh, pick.
Usage "The senator will be at Saturday's pig pickin' if he knows what's good for him."
Quilt As wit...
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