Dick Yarbrough: A brief treatise on the art of being a southerner
Published 11:32 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Occasionally, I will drop in a comma where it doesn’t belong or fail to associate phrase modifiers with the nearest preceding noun and other stuff like that to see if you are paying attention. Trust me, I do this on purpose. I happen to be an expert on the subject (or is it predicate? I can’t remember which) of the proper use of the English language.
Many of you are quick to point out my (wink, wink) errors. This is my way of ensuring you are reading the column without the cost of doing a survey. There are also the calls to the editors wanting to know why they publish such unsophisticated drivel on their editorial pages, but I tend not to count those. I just hope the editors don’t, either.
I recently heard from a reader who asked whether I had meant to use a possessive as opposed to a contractive word in one of my columns. That was an excellent question and one that I plan to answer as soon as I have found a place to put my dangling modifier.
In his note, he indicated that he was a recent Northern transplant who was “having some trouble adjusting to Southern mores, values and habits.” He has obviously done some adjusting because he said he enjoys my columns. That is not usually the first thing I hear from a Northern transplant.
If he can sensitize me to the proper use of possessive vs. contractive whatevers, I can certainly help make his transition to the South a little easier. Frankly, I have not always done as good a job as I should in welcoming our new friends, and, as a result, we find ourselves dealing with a large number of know-it-all Yankees who think we talk funny and marry our third cousins. This is exacerbated by the fact that they won’t move back to where they came from because it snows there 10 months a year and all their buildings are rusted.
I told my new reader friend that I would be happy to help him understand how we do things here and perhaps he can in turn help other Northern transplants as they arrive.
First and foremost, always stand at attention when you hear Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia, sing “Georgia on my Mind.” If you choose to kneel during our state anthem, do it out of profound respect or somebody may hurt you severely.
Linguistically, never tell anyone that you are preparing to do something. The correct term is “fixing” as in, “I’m fixing to fix dinner.” And you don’t drive someone anywhere. You carry them, i.e., “I’m fixing to carry Momma to the store.”
There are also some misconceptions about Southern speech. We don’t say “you all” as rumored. It is “y’all.” The only time you hear a Southerner say “you all” is on a television show produced by somebody who has never been south of Fifth Avenue.
We don’t like to be confrontational with the exception of reminding us about losing the Uncivil War. We don’t have much of a sense of humor about that. We know we lost and tearing down our statues doesn’t help things.
If you hear someone say “Bless his or her heart,” that is about as ugly as we get, but we aren’t misunderstood. (“If brains were dynamite that poor girl couldn’t blow her nose, bless her heart.”)
As for Southern cuisine, most everything we eat comes from a hog or chicken and is fried in grease. The only exceptions are pecan pie and sweet tea. And we don’t drink sodas in the South. We drink Ko-kolers. It is not only permissible but encouraged that you put a handful of peanuts in the beverage for a rare taste treat.
In the South, we worship God and football in that order with the exception of the fall when the order is likely to be reversed. To many, heaven is considered to be Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, on a crisp, sunny Saturday afternoon and “Glory, Glory to Ole Georgia,” a hymn of praise and thanksgiving.
I hope my new friend finds this helpful. Please know that Southern hospitality is real and you are welcomed. However, if there are those Northern transplants among you who don’t like how we do things here in the South and are just going to make fun of us, y’all don’t let the door hit you in the fanny on your way out, bless your heart.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb