Thursday, July 31, 2003

on being southern...

The frog tried to look as big as the elephant, and burst.
-African Proverb

I spent many years "erasing" my accent in my teens and 20's. My parents grew up farming and scraping by in the Depression here in East Tennessee. I would consider them "country folks" to a certain extent and I desperately wanted to have nothing to do with that. So, I dedicated myself to battle the stereotype of the Southerner-undereducated and uncultured.

All this work to de-Southernize made me quite weary. The strange thing was the more education I received, the more I didn't care about my "Southern-ness." In fact, the more educated I became, the more my interest grew in Appalachian culture, so much so that I constantly irritate my parents for stories of their families during the Great Depression. The stories are often very poignant, touching and sometimes terribly heartbreaking.

These days I love both laughing at and being Southern. It is a great enigma to be Southern. I catch myself saying goofy things at times like "he was flyin'!" when I see someone speeding down our street, or my favorite original "(s)he can bite my big fat white southern-biscuit-eatin' ass." My accent also changes greatly according to my anger level. Moderate anger brings out my strongest accent as in "buncha da-a-a-mn rednecks!" But, lo and behold, if you really piss me off, I articulate with such clarity that it's like a personality change. When I saw the dead duck (see the post: friendly geezers and putrid half-humans) I was articulating like a mad Shakespearean actor.

My accent also changes depending on who I am talking to. I hide it a bit when I'm talking to a Yank, er, I mean, Northerner, but I really let it hang loose when I'm talking to some 90+ year-old farmer in overalls sellin' 'maters on the side of the road. I think my accent has become an element of slang that I put away when I feel the need to be more proper. It's merely an accessory--a little Southern chaaaaam to hang from my bracelet.


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