Monday, September 12, 2011

The Certainly Unofficial and Probably Lame Guide to Southern Expressions

Tonight I was watching Bill O'Reilly and his word of the day was "conniption."  I laughed.  In all honesty, I've learned a few words like "jackanapes" (which means an impudent or conceited fellow) but tonight's was one I know quite well. 


Oh, please.

If you were raised in the South, you know what a conniption is.  It is usually called a "conniption fit" and it is something you know about from birth.  It is a little difficult to define, but when you are in the midst of it you dang sure know it.  As a didn't want your Mama to pitch one.

There's another phrase "dang sure."  That "dang" is there for emphasis.  It is also used in "dang straight," "dang right" and "dang, girl!" 

We Southerners have a language that is all our own, and occasionally someone will compile a list of things that make us uniquely Southern.  I've actually composed a list myself.  But much like you don't notice something until your attention is drawn to it, I've spent the better part of today noticing how much of what I say would have to be decoded if someone from another part of the country was to engage me in casual conversation.

My word...sometimes I am dang close to being a redneck.

Earlier today I was talking to a coworker about how difficult it was raising children these days.  Except that she mentioned that we aren't raising children....we're "rearing" them.  Perhaps we raise crops and rear children, but I honestly couldn't care less.

As opposed to how a lot of people say it..."I could care less..."  Both are equally acceptable here in the South.  We know what you mean...and we aren't tacky enough to correct you.

Tacky?  No, not sticky.  "Tacky" is just a polite way of saying that someone is tipping the scales in the direction of being "white trash."  Being tacky means that you do something that is socially unacceptable and aren't even aware of it...or you couldn't care less.  "White trash" is just something that you can't help...and you try to overcome.  Or you just wait to be interviewed by major news outlets during any major local disaster.  I swear those people don't know how to find normal people down here. 

Let's see if an example will help.  Using paper plates at a formal tacky.  Wearing red to a tacky (except for Christmas weddings, of course).  Having unpolished/ungroomed toenails in a white sandal after Labor tacky. Going to the grocery store shirtless or barefooted...qualifies you as white trash.  Especially if you are wearing your shorts with "Diva" splashed across the rear end two sizes too small with your tube top.

Of course, of late, a lot of people have embraced tacky.  They call it "personal expression" and let if fly.  Where it once might have been thought tacky to have so many lights in your Christmas display that your house can be seen from space, it is now perfectly acceptable to have a donation box in your front yard to pay the electric bill.  Yes, people actually wait for thirty minutes to see the lights syncronized to whatever Christmas song is playing.  (And yes, I hop out of the car and put money in the donation box.)

But there are some things that are just not done...unless you want to be "discussed."

Being "discussed" means that you have either done something "tacky" or you just don't know any better...bless your heart.

There's a lot of heart blessing in the South.  It is generally followed by a statement regarding someone's lineage, looks, behavior, or current marital situation.  I've actually heard folks rip someone a new one followed by "bless her heart" - as if those three words are a magical salve to heal us of all wrongdoing in discussing someone behind her back in the first place.

Folks.  See?

Folks means your people, parents, or some random group of people.  I guess you just have to figure that one out for yourself.  I most commonly use it to refer to my people.

My people means my family.  And Lord knows, in the South, who your people are is vital information.  Most of us are related to each other by blood, marriage, or because someone was your mother's best friend in high school.  My Aunt June falls into that third category.  I've called her Aunt June my entire life.  I'm 48.  Everyone else is "Miss" or "Mr." something or another.

We call our fathers "Daddy" if we had a good relationship even if we are 75.  Sometimes we switch over to their grandpa name once we have children.  Our mothers are called anything from Mama to Sugar. 

Sugar, by the way, is a kiss.  Or what is what makes the spoon stand up in our sweet tea.

Don't even get me started on the grandparents.  There are a lot of MeeMaws and PeePaws here in the South...along with the more modern Gigi and Mimi (what my kids call my mother and Big Dave's, respectively).  Trust me when I tell you that there are a lot of Big Mamas, Little Mamas, Nanas, Grannys and Honeys down here.  Not as many Grandmother Smiths.  The funniest I've ever heard were "Moo" and "Poo." 

I do not believe I'll be replicating that one. 

We'll probably be KK and Big Dave someday.  That's a stretch, yes? 

My Aunt Pitta (my mother's sister) goes by Piya...a name chosen by my sister Linda's kids...who couldn't say "Pitta."  It stuck. 

So did "Pitta" by the way.  It is short for Patricia. 

Nicknames are something that we Southerners do well.  I had friends growing up named Big Mac and Pancake, and my friend had uncles named Junior and Red.  A lot of boys are called "Bubba" and a lot of girls are called "Sister."  I was, too, actually, until I was twelve.

I don't know if people in other parts of the country find us a little interesting or just dumb.  I do know that they love to hear us talk.  Actually, just then I should have used the word "speak" but whatever.  See?

We call every soft drink a "Coke" instead of something stupid like "pop" and we have no problem surviving heat, difficulties or acts of God.  The reason - I believe, anyway - is because we still pretty much collectively acknowledge that there is a God...and God is God and we are not.  And we survive on the roadsides and dark times in life because good ol' boys and rednecks have whatever they need to survive or help you out in their pickup trucks...right next to their deer rifle.

This is the most disturbing trend I've seen, of course...this godlessness that seems to be so evident in this country these days.  In the South, we are more open about our faith.  You can laugh about us clinging to our guns and our religion down here...I'll take that as a compliment.

And even if we have educational systems that need some serious help and we were slower with getting right with regard to race relations and prenatal care, we're good people.  Never mind that we have an apparent inability to master Pronouns 101 and our ranking as the fattest states in America is always assured.  So what if the the rest of the country thinks we marry our cousins?  Yes, we fry everything, give our children double names, and allow them to go barefoot to church, school and for formal pictures.  We pass down furniture, china, silver, and recipes.  We have deviled egg plates, and know that bringing something "store bought" to the covered dish supper (or "dinner on the grounds") at the church is just "tacky." 

But we are a good people.  A strong people.  A blessed people. 

And if you don't know what "blessed" is...come on down.  You'll figure that one out soon enough.

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