On New Year's Eve, I was in my kitchen, halfway listening to the pre-show for some bowl game when I heard what sounded like heavy foreign accent coming from the tv. My first thought was that there must be an intruder in the house because my husband would never change the channel from football to non-football unless there was a gun pointed to his head. So I went to investigate, only to find that the channel had not been changed, and that the man speaking was Clemson's head coach, Tommy Bowden. His Southern accent was so thick that I could barely understand him without watching his mouth. I was completely enthralled.*
I have been besotted with the South ever since reading Prince of Tides in high school and seeing Harry Connick Jr. in concert when I was 19. Mmmmm, girl! I would have given it all (if you know what I mean) up for that man and his accent! Seriously, he was so funny and charming and who doesn't love a musician? But then he shoved his Victoria's Secret model wife in my face and I thought that was really rude. And shallow. I mean, I had many journal entries devoted to him and his Southern sexiness. Many. I thought he would come to his senses eventually and divorce her, and then we would bump into each other, just walking down the sidewalk when he was in town for a show. He'd remember me from the concert in 1990, and say "would you like to grab a drink?" and the rest would be history. Then he was looking kind of old-ish on Will & Grace, and the floppy hair wasn't doing it for me anymore, but there was still a tiny spark. I think my bubble finally burst when I saw him in the Heidi Montag Us in the "Celebrities: they're just like us!" section, where he was pictured attending a Knicks game with his 10 year old daughter and they were doing a fist bump and looking all rosy and happy. So, whatever. I'm over it.
I digress. My point is this: I am worried that, with the increasing homogenization of our society, the Southern accent and all of its trappings (rules of etiquette**, funny phrases, love of mamas and SEC football) will disappear. Any lingering racism can die off, of course. But not the other stuff.
My friend Debby was born and raised in Atlanta and moved to Denver 2 years ago. She has the accent and abides by all the Southern rules of conduct, but she's not at all politically correct and has the most hilarious stories. The woman is really fucking funny. Sometimes I even have to ask her to translate herself, like when she says "they're in high cotton." This means "they're rich" or "they're doing well," fyi. She has become my tutor in Southern-ness. Are you interested in one of her lessons? Here are her most important Southern guidelines:
1. Nice girls don't drink straight from bottles or cans. Corollary - only sluts drink from bottles and cans.
2. Nice girls don't chew gum in public. Corollary - only sluts chew gum in public.
3. When a Southerner asks for a "Coke," the appropriate response is "what kind?" because Coke is a generic term for soda.
4. "Bless your heart!" often translates to "F-you"
5. "Bless her heart!" pretty much always translates to "what a f-ing moron"
6. People who don't write thank-you notes are the worst kind of trash.
I love this stuff! I'm not trying to convert to Southern because I couldn't fake the accent for long, and plus, I just don't think it's possible. I think it has to be in your blood. To all of you Southerners out there, I fear that you are a dying breed, and my friend Debby agrees; it pains her a bit that her kids aren't growing up in the South and that they will likely marry Yankees. I'm not going to encourage all Southerners to reproduce because that would include Britney and her kin, but what are you going to do about your rich (as in colorful) American subculture disappearing? Where do you see the South in 50 years? And is anyone else a sucker for a Southern accent? Chime in.
*Any grown man with the name Tommy is all right in my book, and this guy really is quite charming (and probably a big-time good ol' boy). Here is a link to an interview with him so you can hear the accent for yourself.
**Do yourself a favor and read these because they are extraordinarily funny.
For further reading, please see I Love Being Southern
EDIT: Please head on over to In(side) the Loop for a follow-up post that will leave you crying with laughter. God bless the South!