A brief trea­tise on the art of be­ing a South­erner

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - DICK YAR­BROUGH

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

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.”)

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 protected]­yarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, 31139 or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/dick­yarb.


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