Southern Talk Gotta Love It
by Lili Richey Willard
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When I moved south in 1998, from the up there world of Yankee-ism, I was amazed, and dismayed, by the language I was hearing. Oh, no, not the lovely, southern drawl. I love accents! But by the tortured mispronunciations of my English language.
I am a frustrated high school English teacher...meaning, that's what I always aspired to be, but when the opportunity was there to accomplish that thing, of course I did not take advantage of it. I would make my own way in the world. For someone who loves to read, who is fascinated by the English language totally, that's a true cop-out if ever I heard one. And here it came from my very own mouth! You see, I have this uncanny knack (many call it a weird-ism) where when you speak to me, or if I speak, I actually visualize the words. Yeah, that's right, the words...letters, periods, exclamation marks, the whole works! Everyone tells me I am tea-totally weird, but yet at the same time, these very people are the ones who are asking me to pen their letters, spell something for them, proof read their shopping list..whatever! So I guess that's a compliment in a far sided, left of center, strange way.
Anyway, back to the southern move. We were not here even a week before my 10 year old son was saying, "I want some drink". What? You are a child...you cannot have alcohol! Well, turns out he had picked it up at school, the calling of a drink of water, pop, milk, cough syrup, simply "drink". Then here he comes, running up to me in a store and asking me for "50 cent". What is that? Is that a new form of currency I had not heard of yet, or is it left over from the Confederacy? No,well, it was explained to me that that's how they say it here...cent. Not cents. Now, this one drove me crazy, and still does!
Hello! It's plural! More than one...not lonely...definitely not a solitary penny. It's ADDITIONAL! I go to a bank, get some change back, which the nice lady teller dutifully counts back to me, because we know that the southern folk would never hold back a "cent"....and she says "25, 75, 95.....CENT". No...no...it's all I can do to hold my tongue, not to blurt out something like, "where did you learn to count?" Isn't there more than one penny there? Did they leave the word plural out of the New Southern Dictionary? What the heck is going on here?
There are other examples, other idiosyncrisies of the English language that I have encountered in my 11 years down "heah". But these two are just the plug in my nickel, the puddin' in my pie, the bread on my butter...or is it butters? I am getting confused now! What is really getting kind of scary too is that if I don't hear those words, drink or cent, then I am disappointed! Isn't that just grand?
I love the south. I am so happy I moved here. And I still get called a dirty Yank, all in good fun, and people I've become close to will still talk about how you can't trust those northerners, forgetting I'm sitting there and that's where I hail from, but I love all of it just the same. No, it's true. The south is gracious, lovely, hot, historical.....and definitely hysterical when it comes to the English language! Yup!
So, I thank my LORD for bringing us here, to the laid back, slower paced,wonderful world of Southern Drawl, where the hospitality is good, the company is gracious, and the weather is mild in winter and hot in summer,as it should be. He completely knew what He was doing when He created
this wonderful, historic, lovely place...talk and all!
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I enjoyed this article and could identify with it. You positively have a gift regarding the English language so do not call yourself weird. Personal example. I sang a lot when I was younger and when I sang, whether alone or in public, I could hear an orchestra in my thoughts...then my younger son who is professional keyboard player told me that when he plays, he hears harmony...God gives us special gifts for us to develop and use. You are truly blessed.