(Now don't get me wrong. I LOVE the lilting sound of a good Southern drawl. I have lived my entire adult life in the South and would not live anywhere else. Everything you've heard about Southern warmth and hospitality is true, and one of my goals in life is to be a true Southern lady. Yes, I grew up Northern, but I was wooed by, and then ran as fast as I could to the altar with, a Southern man, after all. Or as we say here, "Suthun mayun." There was something pleasing, comforting - almost as much as chicken fried steak or biscuits and gravy - about the velvety way in which he first whispered, "Ah love you.")
Here in Small Town Texas, I'm learning things are not much different. I've come to expect the usual abuses, such as the word "ain't" (not to be confused with the Southern version of "can't," which is pronounced "cain't"); the use of double negatives ("I ain't got no gase in mah core," (translation: I don't have any gas in my car); and the use of "them" as a subjective personal pronoun, often paired with the word "there," as in, "Them thar critters has been gittin' in mah dawg's food!" (translation: Those critters have been getting in my dog's food!).
Perhaps the only thing that really gets to me is the almost universal inability to use the past participle correctly, as in, "I ain't never ATE so much in all mah lahf." (Translation: "I have never eaten so much in all my life!"). OOOH, it's like fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard of this Words Girl's internal grammar archive.
Of course, grammar (the murdering of which my children understand is, and NEVER will be, acceptable, no matter how deep in the back woods we live) is only a small part of the overall picture of Small Town speech (or "pitcher" as folks would say here). I'm happy to report that the right stuff IS being taught in our schools, although even under the best of circumstances, there's just not much you can do about the drawl.
But even when one does have to look past some language irregularities here, I must say I find Small Town's way of speaking rather charming.
There's the way people say Thanksgiving (it's not ThanksGIVING, it's THANKSgiving) or insurance (not inSURance; it's INsurance). The way it's a RED light, not a stoplight. You're not "going to"; you're "fixin' to." Or the way people's Moms are "Mother," or "Mama."
Another thing is how people give directions. Now, when we lived in Big Suburb, we gave directions like this (please note: these are fictitious street names. Please do not try to Mapquest them to find out where I used to live):
"Take Highway 68 to George Street. Take a left and go three blocks to First Street. We are the fourth house on the left."
Here in Small Town, this is how people give directions:
"Take the highway and turn north at the Quick Mart. When you pass the McDonald's, go 1.2 more miles and turn west at the Old Miller place. Cross the railroad tracks and go past the pond, and you'll see our red barn on the left."
In addition to the vagueness, please note the general overuse of the word "the" in the above set of directions. This is absolutely one of my favorite Small-Town-isms.
I used to notice this when we'd visit family in Oklahoma. People would say, "I'll meet you at the Burger King." Or, "Call me when you get off the interstate." Or, "He's waiting for you at the Walmart."
I always thought that was so funny. Near Big Suburb, there were several interstates, so we had to give the name (or number) of which one to take. THE interstate? Hahaha.
And why not just say, "I'll meet you at Burger King?" Well, DUH, it's because there is only ONE Burger King, so it's THE Burger King!
Ah, yes. I'm learning.
So today I'll go grocery shopping at THE Brookshire's, and maybe I'll take Ruthie-4 out for a treat at THE McDonald's.
Because I might run into some of the nicest people I've ever met who live here, and besides, Ah ain't never ate such good french frahs.