I didn’t grow up in the South, but as we say, “I got here as soon as I could.” When I moved to North Carolina, the first time, in 1964, I admit, I was totally culture shocked. I found myself having to ask for translations of our English language, much like I have to do with my Australians.
People “cut on” the lights, and “toted” their sacks, and got a “buggy” when they went to the grocery. More than the phrases, though, was the delivery…the soft sounding vowels and the dropping of the final “g” at the end of gerunds. Then I moved away after a dozen years, and when I would order (times before online ordering) from Hanes on the phone, I would engage the operator just so I could hear her talk. I would tell her I was homesick for her accent, and she would remind me that I could come back anytime.
When I finally did come back thirty-five years later, I knew that Thomas Wolfe was dead wrong…you can come home again. I also found that the Southern Drawl, as I had known it, has been watered down. The influx of transplants, like myself, has changed the accent, and I am hard pressed to find the voices of my misspent Southern youth. Still, I never get tired, even at my age, of being called “Baby Girl” and “Darlin’.” The lights are still “cut on,” the “buggies” are still stacked at the grocery, and the sacks are still “toted,” thankfully.
During the time that I was away, I was never accused of having a Southern accent, though I was accused of having Southern pronunciations…specifically, “m’arm” for my arm. Imagine my surprising myself just yesterday, when I was talking to a friend, and I actually found myself saying, “All y’all,” with the accompanying arm swoop, I might add. I knew I was slipping into a drawl when I would say, “Hail Mary, fulla Grace,” but “all y’all” even took ME by surprise!
Yes, I got here as soon as I could. And I prolly got back here, as soon as I could, too, bless ma heart.