This morning there was a brief mention on NPR about a survey by Cupid.com that said the Southern drawl is the most attractive North American accent. If that’s true, why do so many of y’all make fun of those of us who have it? Is it petty jealousy?
A realistic Southern accent isn’t as easy to mimic as it might seem. I’ve cringed at TV actors hired more for their looks than acting ability that tried to do it and failed. I doubt some of them have ever even been to the South.
As the product of a “mixed marriage”—one Southern parent and one Midwestern—I was aware of regional accents from an early age. Dad was the only one from his side of the family to wander below the Mason-Dixon Line. The rest stayed in the Midwest or went out West. I could
expect some teasing at family gatherings. But I learned how to handle it with grace by watching how my mother dealt with it.
When I was 10, my family vacationed near St. Louis. We stayed at a campground that had a pool. There was a slide and I remember a teenage girl, about 7 or 8 years older than I was, in line on the ladder behind me. She pinched and tormented me mercilessly because she liked
hearing me say, “Quit!” which came out sounding like “Qweeeyut!” In retrospect, I should have kicked her in the face. I was positioned for it. But, she correctly assumed I was too much of a Southern gentleman to do a thing like that. And for all I knew she had an army of other teenage girls from Illinois ready to do some kind of aquatic Civil War re-enactment on me at the swimming pool.
My first year after college, I lived in Tampa, which is only Southern geographically, not culturally. All those transplanted Yankees teased me, too, but without the pinching. It was there that I was surprised to hear five words linked together in a way I never expected.
“Your Southern accent is sexy.”
Of course I just laughed because I assumed it was a joke. It wasn’t. I heard it again when I lived in Kansas City, MO. There was also quite a bit of teasing—some of it friendly, some of it downright hateful.
I’ll admit that, at times, I’ve consciously (and more often subconsciously) altered the degree of my drawl depending on the circumstances. When I need to sound smart, I cram Dixie in a box. When I need to be charming, I trot out the magnolia and mint julep until I sound like one of Scarlet’s suitors in Gone with the Wind.
Northerners eat it up. The farther from the South they’re from, the more susceptible they are to it. Sure, they may tease and mock you for it, but they’ll do that while bending over backward to
do what you ask. Just be sure to sprinkle in plenty of phrases like, “if you don’t mind,” “I’d appreciate it an awful lot,” and “you’re so kind.”
So, let ‘em make fun of us. It’s only the conscious part of their brains trying to protest while the subconscious part is being spellbound by the combination of Southern charm and words they have to work a little harder to understand.
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