Gosh dang — what is wrong with a South­ern ac­cent?

The Covington News - - OPINION -

I just learned of a book called, “Say Good­bye to your South­ern Ac­cent.” Gosh dang. What is wrong with a South­ern ac­cent?

The book’s au­thors, Jennifer Adams and Jo­hanna Chap­man, run a firm called At­lanta Ac­cent Man­age­ment. Ms. Adams was quoted in the At­lanta news­pa­pers re­cently as say­ing, “We have clients who do busi­ness around the coun­try or around the world. They want to be taken se­ri­ously.” Ev­i­dently, if you drawl and say “y’all,” you could be treated like that snuff-dip­ping third cousin on your mama’s side with all the young’uns.

A quick peek at my bio will tell you I have had a rather suc­cess­ful ca­reer and ran in some pretty fast com­pany. I don’t re­mem­ber one time hav­ing the way I speak be a hin­drance. The hin­drance was with those who didn’t take me se­ri­ously be­cause of my ac­cent. They soon dis­cov­ered they had made a se­ri­ously bad mis­take.

Not to be­la­bor the point but dur­ing the run-up to the 1996 Cen­ten­nial Olympic Games, I spent quite a bit of time in Wash­ing­ton deal­ing with a bunch of folks from Arkansas who talked very much like we talk in Ge­or­gia. They seem to have done OK, even if one of them had a prob­lem keep- ing his britches zipped.

My brother, Bob, who is the epit­ome of the South­ern gen­tle­man, was pres­i­dent of a pub­lish­ing com­pany in Chicago. He had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer, too, and when he re­tired and moved to Hall County, he sounded just like he did be­fore he went north. You can bet your sweet tea he was taken se­ri­ously. He still is. Ask his lit­tle brother.

I be­lieve I am em­i­nently qual­i­fied to say it mat­ters not a blade of pas­ture grass whether or not you put a “g” on the end of a gerund. It is more about how much you know about your sub­ject, how hard you work, how self-con­fi­dent you are, your men­tal agility, how good you are at deal­ing with peo­ple and is­sues and whether you want to lead or fol­low. Think­ing a South­ern ac­cent im­pedes you says you don’t have one or all of the above at­tributes and are what we call down South your ba- sic loser.

A South­ern ac­cent can be an as­set. You can sneak up on peo­ple who think slow talk equates to slow think­ing. My daddy used to say that Yan­kees will tell you all they know when they open their mouths. South­ern­ers will tell you what they want you to know when they want you to know it. Daddy used to say also that paint­ing lines down the mid­dle of our high­ways was a waste of paint be­cause no­body ever moves north, they all come south.

Which raises a ques­tion: If ev­ery­body is mov­ing South, why do we have to change the way we talk? Why don’t they learn to talk like us? Ms. Adams and Ms. Chap­man could even write a book en­ti­tled “Say Good­bye to your North­ern Ac­cent for Dang Sure.”

Frankly, I am tired of the con­de­scend­ing at­ti­tude peo­ple in other parts of the coun­try have to­ward the South and of those of us who live here and lov­ingly speak its lan­guage. If you don’t like the way we talk, take your ig­no­rant selves back where you came from and don’t let the door hit you in the hiney as you leave.

It’s a free coun­try and Ms. Adams and Ms. Chap­man have ev­ery right to help you rid your­self of your South­ern drawl and you have ev­ery right to al­low them to do so, but as long as I have breath, I will “carry” momma to the gro­cery store. I will say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” I will say “fixin’ to” in­stead of “pre­par­ing to.” I will eat “p’cahn” pie and leave “pee-cans” to the Yan­kees for what­ever use they choose to make of them. And I will for­ever say “How ‘bout them Dawgs” over yon­der in Athens.

If I care about you, I will ask, “How ya’ll doin’ to­day?” If I per­ceive you think I am just another ig­no­rant South­ern red­neck and you make a fu­tile at­tempt to sound in­tel­lec­tu­ally-su­pe­rior to me, I will look at you with all sin­cer­ity and say, “Bless your heart.” I will have just heaped the almighty and ev­er­last­ing South­ern in­sult on your head and you won’t even know it, bless your heart.

And you think I am go­ing to say good­bye to my South­ern ac­cent? Are you se­ri­ous? Fuhged­dabou­dit!

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at yarb2400@ bell­south.net; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139; on­line at dick­yarbrough.com or on Face­book at www.face­book. com/dick­yarb

DICK YAR­BROUGH

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