As Southern girls living in the West, Mom and I stand out. Our Southern accents draw attention the moment we open our mouths. Most of the time, people compliment us on our accents, but there's the occasional time when we get the snub. Often, we're misunderstood and have to keep repeating ourselves over and over.
Here's a recent experience Mom had and why she refuses to mask her Southern accent.
(As told in her words)
As most of you already know, July has been an eventful months for me with moving into a new apartment and starting a new job. While setting up my Internet, gas, electricity, etc., I had the opportunity to speak with many people over the phone. One conversation was particularly interesting. The girl asked me if I was from Alabama or Tennessee. I laughed and said, “Alabama.” She proceeded to tell me that she was from Johnson City, Tennessee but had managed to mask her accent over the years.
After our business conversation was completed, I said in parting, “Can I give you a bit of advice?”
“Sure,” she said a little hesitantly.
I told her that she should be proud of her Southern heritage and her accent because it makes her unique.
A little chastened, she agreed, but added, “Sometimes it’s just easier to mask it.”
I ended the call perplexed and disappointed in this girl who was trying to mask her Southern accent to appease others. I just didn’t get it. Well, this morning I partially understood where she was coming from. In the past, I haven’t had any problem with people understanding me, even though they always ask where I’m from and comment on my accent.
But today was different. I pulled into the drive-thru of Carl’s Jr. and asked if they had steak biscuits. A young man’s voice came over the speaker. “Yes we do.”
“Good, I’ll have a steak biscuit and a coke.”
He came back with, “Did you say you wanted eight biscuits?”
“No.” I said, feeling a twinge of irritation. “I want a steak biscuit. You do have steak biscuits, right?”
“Yes, we have them.” He paused. “Do you want egg and cheese on that?”
“No,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. “Just the steak and biscuit … and a packet of mustard.”
“You want mustard and ketchup on that?”
At this point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My patience was wearing thin. “No,” I said through gritted teeth. “I just want a packet of mustard to go on the biscuit.”
“Okay,” he said.
Finally! I breathed a sigh of relief. Jeez, you would’ve thought I was speaking Greek.
I pulled up to the window and paid the amount the girl requested. She handed me the bag of food. I opened it, unwrapped the biscuit, and fought the urge to scream. A bacon biscuit! They’d given me a bacon biscuit, and there were no mustard packets.
My frustration must’ve shown on my face because the girl asked, “Is everything okay?”
“I asked for a steak biscuit, not a bacon biscuit.”
She began shaking her head back and forth and looked at me as though I were a touch loony. “I’m sorry, we don’t have steak biscuits. We’ve never had those.”
Here is where I could’ve explained to this young girl that in the South, Carl’s Jr. (known as Hardee’s) is famous for their steak biscuits. Furthermore, in the South everyone talks the same way I do. But I was hungry and growing tired of the ordeal.
“Can I get you something else?” the girl said.
I let out a long sigh. (No telling what I would end up with next if I started trying to change my order around.) “No, I think I’ll stick with what I have. Thank you.” I drove away with the bacon biscuit.
After reading this, you may be wondering if in the future I’ll attempt to mask my accent to avoid the hassle. Here’s a short answer for you: NO, MA’AM! NOT ON YOUR LIFE!
I refuse to change my accent to appease others. I’m proud of the way I talk. Yes, I may end up with a few bacon biscuits along the way, but that’s a small price to pay for retaining my heritage. I will never apologize for my accent, nor will I ever apologize for being a Southerner.
Oh, and all of you Southerners reading this—enjoy a steak biscuit for me, won’t you?