Note: My sister recently wrote this on her blog, starlitsea.wordpress.com, and I enjoyed reading it so much I want to share it here.
Howdy, stranger! Welcome to the South! Come on out on the porch, get yourself a sweet tea, and I’ll tell you some things about livin’ down here while we wait for the fried chicken to cook.
We Love Our History
A lot of folks would love for you to believe that Southerners used to be evil, greedy slave owners. Yes, there were Southern slave owners, but there were also Northern ones. As a matter of fact, the first state to legalize slavery was Massachusetts, and many Northerners considered their slaves to be like cattle and worked them to death. The terrible evil of slavery was not exclusive to the South; both it and the North had a hand in it. Also, the Civil War was not about setting the slaves free. Abraham Lincoln himself said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.” It was about states’ rights. The Northern congressmen wanted heavy taxes which would greatly benefit the North, but the South declared these laws unfair. Southerners didn’t want to bear the tariff burden so Northern congressmen could fill their pockets with money. The South agreed that some taxes were necessary in order to sustain the government. However, so that no state would be overtaxed, they suggested that it be localized. When the government told the South to “tell its story walking,” states started to secede. Southerners weren’t going to stand for another form of “taxation without representation.” Thus began the War for Southern Independence against “…a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness…,” said Robert E. Lee. That type of Union, Lee stated, “has no charm for me.”
A couple other interesting facts to note is that the Civil War did not stop Northerners from importing and selling slaves. Even after the North fired on Fort Sumter, New England slave traders were bringing in their slave shipments to make money. Also, secession is not illegal. The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The United State’s founders didn’t want Americans to get trapped by tyrannical government. If they needed to escape, they could.
The Confederate Flag
Southerners are not ashamed of the Confederate flag. We do not consider it a symbol of violence and hate. It represents a part of our history when we fought for freedom, and it brings to mind the fallen Johnny Rebs. The bonny blue flag that bears the single star was hoisted high by peace-loving folk, not cruel, bloodthirsty brutes. We are not ashamed that we fought for our liberty; we are a proud people and treat the Rebel flag with respect.
Our Own Dialect
Southerners have a slow, drawn-out drawl which can vary depending on what state you’re in. There are, however, a few words and sayings that all Southerners use almost daily when speaking.
- The plural of you is y’all. I use this word every day without even thinking about it. “Y’all come over to our house.” “Do y’all like pickles?” “Y’all come back here!”
- When Southerners speak, they leave the “g” off of words ending in “ing.” Fishing is fishin’; walking becomes walkin’.
- “Bless your heart” can have several meanings. It can be used as a sympathetic term or as a polite way of saying you’ve been stupid. “She had to have surgery? Bless her heart!” “You walked into that mud puddle? Bless your heart.”
- Despite what your teachers have told you, ain’t is a word in the South.
- Over yonder: a short distance.
- A fair piece: a fairly far distance.
- Might could means just what it says. “He might could go.”
- “I’ll be there directly“: I’ll be there soon.
- “Where’re your people from?” The questioner wants to know from what specific town, city, or county your relatives are from.
- “Madder than a wet hen.” Have you ever seen a wet hen? They are terribly angry!
- Hush your mouth: shut up.
- “I Reckon“: I suppose
- “Fixin’ to“: going to. “I’m fixin’ to leave.”
- Yella: yellow. “There’s a yella flower.”
- When most Southerners say “Coke,” they do not mean the Coca-Cola soft drink. Coke means any and all soft drinks.
TIP: If you’re a Northerner visiting the South and want to blend in, don’t use those Yankee phrases such as “Do you want to go with?”, “Ayuh (to mean yes)”, “soda pop,” etc. These are foreign words to a true Southerner and will immediately tell them that you aren’t from around these parts. And please don’t say the full “ing” at the end of words or talk through your nose. Drag your words out; take your time; and use the above listed Southern phrases and words. Even with your best try, however, folks will probably guess that you aren’t from the South, but they’ll “bless your heart” for your efforts.
Southern Hospitality and Religion
If you’ve been to the South, you’ve probably noticed that folks are pretty friendly – smiling, waving as they drive by, and making small talk with strangers while at the store. That’s what’s called Southern hospitality. Southern people aren’t strange or stupid; we see the good in everybody and show it in our friendliness.
Down South, we value manners. Many men still offer ladies their seats as well as open doors for them like true Southern gentlemen. Many Southern children are still taught to say “no, ma’am” and “yes, sir” to their elders. That “Southern genteelity” that you’ve heard about is still very much alive.
The South has been dubbed the Bible Belt for good reasons: it’s full of churches, and the people aren’t afraid to talk about God. Most are religious and not a bit ashamed of the fact. Also, don’t be surprised if someone asks you if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. And, if you ever sneeze in a populated area, expect at least five people to say, “God bless you.”
I have found that Northerners do not have some of the foods we Southerners do. Down South, we love our
- Biscuits and gravy
- Poke salad
- Fried okra and grits
- Fried chicken
- Catfish and hushpuppies
- Chitlins (boiled pig intestines; yeah, I know, that does sound disgusting! 😀 )
As for drinks, we love us a glass of iced tea. Be aware that some Southerners pronounce this “iced tay.”
We’re Proud of our Relations
Southerners love to talk about Uncle So-and-So, Cousin Such-and-Such, and trace our lineages back to famous people in history. Don’t be surprised if someone from the South informs you of his relations with pride. Let me just go ahead and state mine while we’re at it: I’m related to Rebecca Boone and Buffalo Bill. 🙂
Have a Seat; There’s No Hurry
Southerners are laid back and easy going. We love to sit on our porch swings, sip iced tea, pick our guitars, and listen to the crickets and tree frogs as the sun sets.
The South is known for its country, bluegrass, and gospel music, whose styles have been passed down for generations. Country songs often have lyrics about front porch swings, fried chicken, cowboy hats, and even sweet tea. I myself am the proud player of the banjo and play in a small bluegrass band with my siblings consisting of guitar, banjo, and fiddle, and my brother is working on learning mandolin. The South’s traditional music is an important part of its culture and something every Southerner loves to hear.
Fun Fact: Many people ask what is the difference between a violin and a fiddle. Well, a violin has STRINGS and a fiddle has STRANGS.
80 Degrees Ain’t Nothin’
Southern summers are hot, reaching up to 100+ degrees. We’re used to sweating, though, and can handle it much better than the cold. Put a Southerner in a Northern winter and you’ll never hear the end of complaints. We love our summers sunny and our winters mild.
We’re All Cowboys at Heart
In the Southern country, many people own farm animals. Many own chickens, and don’t be surprised if you see a pig wallowing in someone’s backyard. Even some Southern city dwellers still live as good ol’ country boys and gals with cowboy hats and boots.
Southerners love their rights and aren’t afraid to say so. Many keep guns for self protection and hunting and are proponents of gun rights. We love God and family, independence and freedom, history and music, barbecue and sweet tea. We’ve got genteel manners and Southern pride, and to quote the song “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”:
Well, I wouldn’t trade my life for diamonds and jewels,
I never was one of them money hungry fools.
I’d rather have my fiddle and my farmin’ tools.
Thank God I’m a country boy!
If you’d like to learn more about the South, I recommend these books:
- The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South
- The South Was Right!
- The Real Lincoln: A Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
And, if you want to hear authentic Southern accents, don’t waste your time on a modern movie’s depiction because they are just plumb wrong (bless their hearts!). Watch The Andy Griffith Show.