Southern English

I love the South, the Deep South, that is; but then, what’s not to love about the South? For one, the people, overall, are far friendlier and much more civil than people up North. I think it’s all that cold weather they experience north of the Mason Dixon Line. It chills folks to the very core, freezes their facial muscles, and makes it almost impossible for them to crack a smile.

Another thing I love about the South is the food. It is unparalleled anywhere else in this country, or in the world for that matter. Who else but a true Southerner knows how to make real cornbread, biscuits, chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, blackberry cobbler, or grits? And speaking of grits, have you ever attempted to order grits in a Northern restaurant? Well, I have, and the look I received from the waitress remains with me even today. First, her eyes narrowed to tiny slits. Her lips twisted into a sneer. And she then said, “Grits?” (Making it sound like a profanity) before she burst into riotous, snorting laughter that must have been contagious since it proceeded to spread throughout the dining room—from diner to diner—like a swarm of mosquitoes on a sultry Southern evening. Well, all I can say is that if Northerners would sit down every morning and eat a warm bowl of grits, their mouths might thaw and allow them to smile.

I also love our language. We Southerners speak English, yes, but it’s our own special English. We have so many unique words and sayings, for example, the word “ya’ll.” Nowhere else in this country do you hear people say, “Ya’ll come back now” or ya’ll anything, for that matter. Northerners, bless their little pea-picking hearts, say “youse guys or you’s guys” (I am unsure of the spelling—if there is one). As for people on the Pacific Coast, they say, “You guys,” which is a little easier to comprehend than “youse guys,” whereas Midwesterners say something, though I’m not sure exactly what; and people on the East Coast, up around Maine, simply say, “You,” both singular and plural, which is totally lacking in any linguistic color. My point is, no matter what any other region of this country uses for the plural of “you,” it simply cannot hold a candle to the little word “ya’ll,” which not only sounds good rolling off one’s lips but also makes perfect sense: You + all = ya’ll.

Another great word in the Southern dialect is “yonder.” How I love that little word. It’s so useful in so many situations. Of course, Yankees who come down South have a really difficult time getting the hang of using the word. I know because my husband is a Yankee, originally from Buffalo, New York; and when he first moved to Georgia and heard people say things like “I’m going over yonder,” he thought Yonder was the name of a town and kept wondering exactly where it was and why it was so popular, given so many people were traveling to it on a regular basis. Then again, he did eventually learn (he’s a slow learner) that yonder was not a town at all but a direction; however, after almost 20 years now, he still hasn’t learned the little nuances connected to the use of ‘yonder’ when one is indicating a direction. What he can’t seem to grasp is that there’s a big, big difference between “over yonder,” “down yonder,” and “out yonder,” etc. See, for you other Yankees who might be reading this article, it’s like this: my neighbor’s house, which is across the street from my house, is “over yonder: New Orleans, which is south of Lafayette, where I live, is “down yonder;” but outside, meaning beyond the walls of my house, is “out yonder,” just as inside the house is “in yonder.” On the other hand, “over yonder’” can be used to imply that one is uncertain of exactly where something or someplace is located; for example:

He asked, “Honey, where’s the remote.
She shrugged. “I ain’t sure. Most likely over yonder.”

And that brings me to another word, one that isn’t unique to the South except in how it’s used. It is also another word my dear hubby misinterpreted when he first arrived in Georgia, although, as with “yonder,” he did eventually learn its Southern meaning. That word is “carry.” When my husband heard someone say, “I’m gonna go carry Mama to the store,” he thought that person was literally going to go pick up his mama, sling the poor woman across his back, and lug her all the way to the nearest store.

That, of course, isn’t the case. When we Southerners say we are “gonna go carry Mama to the store,” or anywhere else for that matter, we are simply going to get in our pickup truck, drive over to our mama’s house, allow her to get into our pickup truck with us, although she might have to shove our hound dog aside and move our beer cooler, after which we are going to drive our Mama to her destination, which, in this case, is the store.

Yankees! Gotta love ‘em. But they sure could use some lessons in how to cook and how to speak proper English.

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