Sunday, August 06, 2006

Y'all Goin' over Yonder?

I've been reading some very well done Southern blogs today, which made me stop and think about my own heavy Southern drawl. I've lived my whole life in Alabama, so I really do talk with lots of extra syllables, plus I leave the endings off of lots of words. And I've been known to use a few colloquial terms like "fixin' to."

This caused me no end of problems as a child.

Every summer I went to visit my grandmother and granddaddy in Chicago for several weeks. My grandmother would take it on herself to try to teach me to speak correctly. The harder she tried to get me to put the -ing on words, the harder I tried not to. Yes, I was a stubborn, independent child. But I played with the boy downstairs every day (he had nicknamed me Missippi), and all my relatives were longtime Chicago residents.

Children are such sponges when it comes to learning that by the time I came home, the kids in my block would always tease me and call me Yankee! Even though I had stubbornly held onto the shortened end of -ing words, I had sped up my speech considerably and changed the pronunciation of some other words. Usually by the time school started, I'd be back to my normal drawling self, and glad of it.

When I took courses at the University of Montevallo in central Alabama, to become certified to teach Elementary School, I had to take a basic Voice and Diction class. I think you can see where this is headed. For nine weeks one summer, my family had to put up with me walking around the house enunciating every word as if I were auditioning for a news anchor's job. For nine long, excruciating weeks I didn't drawl, or drop a single ending, if I could help it. As soon as I finished that class ... well 'nuf said.

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Chana said...

don't tell my kids but i can the like a bit of stubborness. maybe it's because i'm like that and it has gotten me through rough times.

you sound like you were such a cute kid...i can't even imagen how hard it must have been to go from one accent to another...that must have gotten frustrating at best.

i just saw early this am (2 am) a movie i had never even heard off, it was with Duvall and called Tomorrow..heart breaker but amazingly beautiful. i loved their accent...

i am sure i would love to hear you talk...i sure enjoy how southerners talk..


Dirty Butter said...

Thanks, Chana, but most people just find the Southern drawl a source of jokes, not pleasure. It's strange that our slower lifestyle is so reflected in our speech, but it is definitely true.

Moobear said...

I just can't seem to help it. I have two grown sons now and for the most part they have had to drop the slang and southern cliches as it just won't proper in their professions, BUT my oldest son still loves coming home cause his wife rarely knows what the heck I am talking about. Not only is she Chinese, but a northern Chinese so she just cannot get the hang of our way of talkin. :)
Good day, anybody that can drop it, like you, my sons, Ya'll make me proud!
God Bless

jan said...

I grew up in Indiana and have lived in several midwestern states, but for two years I lived in Kentucky. I'm such a linguistic sponge that I was talking like Kentuckians did before I moved from there. Personally I think it is charming.

Dirty Butter said...

I doubt very seriously, moobear, if I could drop the drawl now no matter how hard I tried. Such changes are better left for the young.

When I taught school, I always told my students they needed to learn to speak the way the news anchors on television spoke, so they would be well prepared for getting the best jobs.

They could keep their Black and Southern vernacular for around family and friends if they wanted to, but for the work place, they needed to learn standard English.

I doubt seriously if any of them listened to me, with my heavy drawl, but I said it anyway.

dawn said...


I have had a simular experience...but in the reverse (and not as bad)
Growing up in Connecticut, I have always talked like a "Yankee". But we would go visit with my aunt and uncle in Western PA, and I would start to soften the hard edges of the words. I also would call things like lollypops...suckers, Soda became pop, and many others that I cant remember right now. I kinda miss being out there, but the thought of visiting is making me cry (last time I went was to bury my dad)

Thank you for the memory...

Dirty Butter said...

You bring up another interesting point, Dawn, and that's the different words that different parts of the USA use for the same thing. We call soft drinks cokes, usually, no matter what the brand, or sometimes colas. I know in Ohio they say pop.

I remember the first time I came home and asked a drug store soda fountain clerk (do you remember those)to make me a Black Cow, he looked at me like I was crazy. I had tasted my first Root Beer Float in Chicago, and that's what they're called there.

I didn't mean to make you sad, Dana. I've continued this post on your blog.