It’s always been interesting to me, as long as I’ve lived up North, to pick up on some of the perceptions that folks up here have about folks from my original neck of the woods, way down in the Southernmost tip of South Carolina, as far South as you can be without crossing into Georgia. So let’s get some things straight right up front to avoid any potential awkward exchanges later.
I’m from South Carolina, but I didn’t grow up on a golf course.
I’m from South Carolina, but I don’t much care for “You might be a redneck if . . .” jokes or Larry the Cable Guy.
I’m from South Carolina, but I don’t follow NASCAR.
I’m from South Carolina, but I don’t go home to Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head.
I’m from South Carolina, but I’ve never owned a Confederate Flag, nor condoned the flying of same.
I’m from South Carolina, but I’m not stupid.
The last one’s the one that kinda chaps sometimes. I’ve lived up here and worked in voice-sensitive professions for long enough to have modulated most of my native drawl for the most part (the Low Country South Carolina accent involves moving your jaw as little as humanly possible, because it’s so hot and stewy down there that any extra effort induces sweat), but there are some stock words and phrases that give me away as a “Say . . . you’re not from around here” fellow whenever I utter them, which is often, because there are no suitable Northern words to replace them.
1. Reckon (“Well, I reckon I’ll be going now.”)
2. Fixin’ (“Well, I’ll be fixin’ to go soon.”)
3. Ain’t (“I ain’t going nowhere.”)
4. Y’all (“Y’all wanna go with me?”)
5. Alla’y’all (“Alla’y’all quit making fun of the way I talk, now, or I reckon I’ll be fixin’ to go alone.”)
(I’ve also recently been informed that my pronunciation of “tomatoes” is laughable, too, but I don’t say that enough to include it in the list).
When those words slip out in conversation with someone who doesn’t know me from up here, I can oftentimes see in their eyes that their assessment of my intelligence drops ten point with each utterance. When that happens, I generally throw some big, fancy, words into the mix, just to compensate: “Well, alla’y’all better get going soon, else I reckon I’m gonna have to heap some obloquy on y’all and objurgate your forebearer’s honor.”
I got this message loud and clear soon after we moved up here, when my daughter was in a school play in elementary school in the North Colonie district. There was a family of characters in her play who were a bit dim-witted and confused. How did the cute l’il tykes demonstrate their relative feebleness to the audience? By speaking with thick Southern accents, of course. Hilarity ensued.
This is why I don’t much care for the whole redneck humor thing that’s big from Peoria to Plattsburgh of late. If you didn’t think a Southern accent made someone stupid before hand, odds are you’re gonna think it once you’ve sat through a Larry the Cable Guy set. It bugs me that that’s what most folks think passes for humor in the deep South. And it bugs me even more to think that that’s what people believe real Southerners are like.
You know what kinds of Southern-bred humor I like? The kinds produced by folks like Stephen Colbert, Amy and David Sedaris, and the late Molly Ivins: smart, sharp, incisive and insightful. It does my heart good to have their words (and voices) heard all around the country, just to let folks know that that you don’t foresake your right to be clever just because you were born and bred down South.
So I’m from South Carolina . . . but I won’t apologize for it.
And I’m happy to make my home here Upstate . . . and I promise I won’t apologize for that either when I go home and my relatives tell me I talk like a Yankee!