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Life in the South

When my people came to the New World, they stepped off the boat saying "the South will rise." My grandmother added "again."

Even though we live in the New South, southerners endure a fair share of criticism. I'm convinced that it stems from jealousy. The rest of the country covets our southern manners, traditions and heritage.

Southerners, after all, have successfully elevated the simile, metaphor and hyperbole from mere literary devices to linguistic art forms (usually with several extra syllables involved). And I'm not only referring to William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty; I'm talking about our everyday good ole' boy sitting on a bench, chewing tobacco and sipping "Co-Cola" outside the feed 'n' seed. He might not know a hyperbole from a simile, and he probably doesn't know what a "meta" is for, but it just doesn't "meta" if he gives the story a good spin.

And who other than a belle can say "I'm not going to hit a lick at a stick today even if a cow hooks me" or "women who whistle, like old crows, call for a bad end" with eloquence and sophistication? (And who, other than a beau, could understand what she means?)

Only southerners can experience deeply moving spiritual epiphanies during Friday night football games or on Saturdays in the stadiums of their alma maters, where the wave and a high five qualify as religious movements. Of course, only a person born below the Mason-Dixon would even begin to think that heaven cared one iota about which team won or lost.

I once listened to a radio talk show host berate a Bubba, a name traditionally reserved for first born southern males, who sought a little advice on his irreparable personal life. She got so hung up on his moniker that she never rebuked him for his authentic problems. Little did she know, since obviously she has the unfortunate circumstance of hailing from somewhere other than paradise, that we folks consider Bubba a desirable title.

One Midwesterner, exuberantly trying to capture a little of what we take for granted, shared the same affinity for "Bubba." According to an AP report from Springfield, Ill., in December 2003, a man there bubba-ed over with bubba-envy. He legally changed his first, middle and last names to Bubba Bubba Bubba.

When I meet a Bubba in another part of the country, we have a homecoming. Invariably, he originates from my neck of the woods (unless he has too many Bubba's in his name) and his kin folk know mine. If we talk long enough, we discover that my sister's college roommate's uncle married his brother's girlfriend's best friend's sister. Around here, that makes us practically cousins (to the third degree and a couple of times removed).

Other telling signs of southern roots include regional vernacular. If you say "might could," "fixin' to," or refer to your father as "diddy," you probably live down the road from the house where your mama birthed you. Very likely, you "tote" food "and such" over to her "regular like."

It's great to call Dixie home. And here's a little test to determine if you can claim yourself as a bonafide, hogtied, deep-fried child of the south.

I tell you what.

(If your brain just asked "what," or you're reading here to find out "what," or, worse, you said "what" out loud, then you, my friend, have a questionable Southern pedigree; that, or you just weren't raised right. Whichever which way, I wouldn't tell.)



Web posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004


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