“You talk funny!” These are the three words that follow me around like a smelly goat the minute I step my big toe out of the South. I open my mouth to introduce myself or ask something innocent like, “Could you please tell me where I can find the restroom?” and the world stops. I get a thousands questions fired at me concerning my origin and why it is that I talk with “such a funny accent.”
Now I’m well aware that we Southerners don’t talk like the rest of the world. While everybody else is spitting out the information as fast as they can formulate the thoughts, we refuse to get in a hurry. We take the time to roll our words around and season them up just right before letting them out. I, for one, fail to see the problem with this way of speaking. I’ve never understood why the world gets in so big of a hurry anyhow (but that’s a topic for another discussion).
A southern girl to the core, I have one of those thick drawls that would give Scarlett O’Hara a run for her money, and I’ve never seen the need to change the way I talk—no matter how much ridicule I get. Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the commotion “my accent” causes, and there’s not much a person can say that ruffles my feathers. However, there was that one time ...
I’d been standing in line at a fast-food restaurant, drooling over the life-sized picture of the double cheeseburger that was plastered on the hanging menu. (Patience is not one of my virtues, and I could’ve sworn I’d stood in line so long that I could actually see my fingernails starting to grow.) And then it happened! It was finally my time to order! “About time, I muttered, stepping up to the counter. “I’d like a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a large, chocolate shake,” I said.
The girl just stood there, dumbfounded.
Thinking she hadn’t heard me, I repeated the order—a little slower this time, “One cheeseburger, onion rings, and A LARGE CHOCOLATE SHAKE ... please.” And then I gave her that trademark, southern smile that’s been known to take me far in life.
She kept standing there, her mouth gaping.
“Hello? I’m trying to place my order. This is a restaurant, right?”
That seemed to shake her out of the stupor. She gave me this condescending
smirk and said, “Where are you from?”
“I looked her straight in the eye. “Alabama.”
A snicker, followed by a roll of her eyes. “You talk really funny.”
As I said earlier, it takes a lot to get my dander up, but I had one of those out-
of-body experiences where the hair on my neck stood on end, and I had this primal urge to jerky this overly pierced girl up by her zebra-striped hair and teach her a thing or two (never mind that she outweighed me by at least fifty pounds). Lucky for me, years of southern grave came to my rescue. “You mean you’ve never been to the South?”
“No, she mumbled.”
“Well, bless your heart! Maybe you’ll get there someday.”
And while she was trying to decide if she’d been complimented or insulted, I
took the receipt from her fumbling hand and moved on down the counter.
One of my pet peeves is when people try to alter their way of speaking to please others. I met a girl from Mobile the other day, and she told me how she has been trying to change the way she talks so she won’t stand out as much. That’s a real tragedy! Just ask my husband, Patrick. A Georgia boy, Patrick has lived in so many different places over the years that he has lost much of his southern accent, much to his chagrin. I only have to open my mouth, and people know I’m southern. Then they look at Patrick and say, “Why don’t you have a southern accent?” He hates when that happens.
Patrick is proud to be a Southerner, and he doesn’t care who knows it. One day he went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. He ordered “beans and greens.” For those of you that aren’t from the South, that’s code for cornbread, turnip beans, and a large, tasty, bowl of pinto beans with a chunk of onion on the side. A little while later, the server returned and said, “You must be from the South.”
“Well, yes I am,” Patrick said, glad that someone finally detected his southern twang. “Could you tell from my accent?”
“No,” she said, “you don’t sound all that southern, but I can count on one hand the number of times someone has ordered the ‘beans and greens.’ People out West just don’t order that. We wonder why they even keep it on the menu.”
Southerners, speak your twang proudly. Don’t try to blend in, be unique. And the next time, someone says you talk funny. Hold your head up and flash them the biggest smile you can because deep down, they’re only wishing they could speak the same way too.
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