Friday, October 5, 2012

Whaddaya Mean, I Tawk Funny? AKA Lost in Translation

When we first moved to Virginia, it was to an area that was previously a very rural farm town.  People had a definite accent, and my accent was nowhere near the local norm.  I started listening more carefully to the way things were pronounced, and began slowly softening up my NY accent to make it more palatable to the locals.  When in Rome, right?  What I wasn’t taking into account is there’s some things, no matter how well you pronounce them, that just aren’t the same here as they were in NY…like, oh, say…Tea.  If I order a tea up north, I’ll get it hot with a side of lemon or sugar and cream.  Order it here and I get Sweet Tea.  If I get BBQ anything up north, it’s covered in thick BBQ sauce slathered ON the meat.  Here?  BBQ is not so much a sauce, as a religion and ordering BBQ more often means you’ll get pulled pork that’s been slowly smoked over wood chips, and then served up with a vinegar or mustard based sauce, depending on the region.  Sometimes, you even get a choice.  Order a “Cawfee” up north, I get a coffee, here, I get a coffee and a mighty strange look.  (I’ve since learned how to pronounce the word, thanks)
The phrase “Y’all” is used, along with “All y’all”, and if you hear a woman say “Oh Hell No!” you’d better look out because she is ticked off about something, and someone’s gonna get a piece of her mind, bless their hearts….in areas of New York where I’ve lived that would have qualified for an almost polite "no, thank you."

Then, I learned that there were completely new phrases and words for things that I had been completely ignorant of.   I won't lie, more than a few of these have made their way into my own everyday speech now, and I'm trying to teach my mother the value of just saying, "Bless your heart" for the annoying people in life.  But that's a blog post in and of itself, so back to the delightful Southern phrases I've been blessed to learn.  Speaking of blessed...

"Bless your heart/Bless his heart" - there's a dual meaning for this, I've discovered.  I've had people say it in a completely sympathetic manner "Poor thing!  Bless your heart." and I've heard people say it in a more sarcastic, sometimes even catty manner, "Well, maybe she just isn't cut out to be a waitress, bless her heart."  Very often for a particularly annoying person or as a response to said annoying person, they'll just say, "Bless." 
“Cattywampus” meant crooked and was not a plant that grew down by the lake.  
“Fixin” didn’t mean repairing, but to be on the verge of something, as in, “We were fixing to leave, but that truck here parked all cattywampus and now we’re blocked in”.  
“Gimme some sugar” was not a request for sweetener of any kind.  
“Hoecake” is not a pseudo-affectionate nickname for a woman with questionable morals, but rather a small cake made from cornmeal.
“Hoppin John” is not a man, nor a dance, it’s a traditional (delicious!) Southern dish most often served on New Year’s.
“Hankering” has nothing to do with blowing your nose.  It’s a strong or persistent desire.  Which would explain why, when someone commented, “I’ve got a hankering” and my reply was, “Oh, do I need a tissue?” they looked at me like I was crazy. 
"I ain't one to talk" is almost always followed by "but" and that person is one to talk, and tell you everything you never wanted to know about people you probably don't know anyway.  
“Like to” (in some instances) does not mean you actually would like to, but rather you almost did something, as in, “I like to die when that truck almost run us off the road”.
“That dog won’t hunt” doesn’t refer to a dog or hunting, but an argument or line of thinking that won’t work.  
“The Civil War” – don’t say it.  Just…don’t.  ‘Round here it’s the War between the States, the War for Southern Independence, or the War of Yankee Aggression.  I have, happily, never made this snafu myself thanks my husband’s very careful warning, but if you ever want to hear a room go so quiet you can hear a pin drop, go on ahead.  But y’all will probably be labeled as “Yankees” if you do!  

Till next time....