by Marshall Dean
Gertrude Stein, a famous author during the first half of the last century, once wrote, "a rose is a rose is a rose." I'm not sure what she had in mind but I know that "A Yankee is a Yankee is a Yankee." I know that if you were born somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you can live forever in the Deep South and never really become a true Southerner.
I know because I have spent over 40 years of my life (almost half of it!) residing in Alabama. Most of it was by choice although the U.S. Air Force arranged my first two trips to Alabama. The first visit was a short six-week course at Maxwell Air Force Base during a very hot summer in 1953. The next visit turned out to be a long-term stay. I attended the nine-month Air Command and Staff College in 1961 - 1962. During the longer stay we decided that this was the area where we wanted to live. We have been Alabama residents since I retired from the Air Force in 1967.
We have never regretted that decision; however, we have learned that any Yankee settling down in the South must be prepared to make some adjustments. For example, Southerners are naturally friendly and outgoing. Invariably when you meet and exchange a few words with a native Southerner, he or she will ask, "Where are you from?" This is not a question about where you are from now. It is simply a polite query about what part of the world "up North" you hail from. Sometimes the question is phrased more directly: "You ain't from around here, are you?"
I have always wondered how they know that "I ain't from around
here." I don't think it is the way I look because it happens even when I am
wearing the same brand of blue jeans they are - and an Auburn sweatshirt.
So, it must be the way I talk. I don't sound different to my own ears but
my midwestern dialect must be the tip-off. I have actually tried to learn
to "talk Southern." The first phrase I added to my vocabulary was "you-all"
which I found should be pronounced "y'all." I now use the phrase frequently but it still doesn't sound right to someone who entered the world saying, "Howdy, how
Someone suggested that I should learn to talk like a "redneck" but hey
couldn't give me a precise definition of "redneck." I did discover that
redneck talk is known for its quaint and colorful phrases. Some of the
phrases can be printed in a family newspaper or magazine [or web site] like this one. For instance, "He's as country as cornflakes" or "It's so dry, the trees are
bribing the dogs" or "He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on
the way down." Other redneck sayings often refer to parts of the anatomy and
are not suitable for printing . . . or polite society.
Marshall Dean is the author of a weekly column, "Rambling Prose," which is published in the Wetumpka, Alabama, Weekend. The column is written “from the sunny side of the street.” He is also a frequent contributor to several Web sites including Vocabula Review. E-mail Dean at yoe43K
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