My Southern Identity: The Rise of the People of the Swamp and on Losing “Ya’ll”

I had a friend once who would refer to the south as the Dirty, as in the “Dirty South.” I thought this was an interesting way to call my area of the country, but whatever. So, that at least explains the title.

 

I do not know how to preface this. Normally, I say that yes I am unfortunately from the South. I do not mean this in a bad way, but people just get the wrong impression about me. They stereotype so easily. I do not have a southern accent, and people oft ask me where I am from. They cannot believe that I am from the deeeeeeeep south and that I ‘”jist dahn’t tahhllk lak theeeeiiiis” in syrupy saccharine voice.

if only life were like this!

 

As a result, I become some weird anomaly. I cannot be from the south because I do not sound like I am. However, ask anyone from the NE and I do have a slight accent. Go figure. That said, I was born in Florida, lived in DC area for a couple of years-I suppose as I learned “to talk” which is often my explanation though DC is technically below the Maison Dixon Line. Then, we moved to Louisiana when I wee high. Essentially, I spent my whole life there. Of course, I escaped ASAP once I went to college in Virgina. Once there I sounded normal, I had a slight twang much like any of the other girls from the northern/southern states. The real southerners were from the Carolinas. My word, those girls are vvveerrreee southern. And those from  Tejas too.

Ok back to me. However, growing up in Louisiana without a twangy southern accent is like being drinking iced tea in the south without lemon or sugar. You just don’t do it (though….I do, of course). People poked fun at the way I talked. I would laugh if off but didn’t this people know that PEN rhymes with LEND… or that  it has a soft e and that it does not rhyme with PIN which is a completely different thing?? When they said it, it sound almost like peeing, or “peein.” Thus, “Can I have a Pen” “He be needin ah ppeeein to get er number” could easily be misconstrued by someone who does not speak Southern as a young man needing to pee in order to get a girls number. Le sigh. So you can see my difficulty with this?

These are the only fish I have ever caught.

(Note- One time a girl was asking me about a poim we had for homework. I was like wha? And she was like the poim! the poim!- It took me a good five minutes to figure out she wanted to know about the poem we had for homework….I rest my case)

(Double note- The people from Duck Dynasty do not seem to have a strong accent. This is the only thing about the show I find appealing.) 

OK so the purpose of this post was not to rant about being southern but not being southern. Its more of an expression of myself being southern  without actually having any real affinity for it despite being born and bred in the South. Hence, why I live in France. But that’s another story.

Anyway, I have noticed that there is a riding number of people who seem to be representing the South on the small screen. Everything from Swamp People to Honey Boo Boo, the South is all over the internet and TV. One popular show, Duck Dynasty, even takes place in my home town. It is a little weird to see these so-called ‘swamp’ rednecks in my backyard…literally. Anyway, I was not sure where I was going with this…..but, it seems like its going to turn into a mini rant.

 

People from the South are not ALL REDNECKS. WE DO NOT EAT ROAD KILL, We do not SHOOT GUNS, or wear camo, or eat alligators. Yes, a Bayou maybe across the street, but that does not mean that we get out dinner from it. Clearly shows like Duck Dynasty are staged. It is meant to be a farce with the families as the actors. For example, in one episode the family “buy” a vineyard. I can tell you right now they ‘didnt buy no vineyard.” In fact, I had not even realized there had been one in my area. I am def. going to have to check it out once I get back home.

Landry Vineyard in the Monroe area, who knew?

I guess I just do not understand why people find this part of the world so fascinating. At least a third of the population (if not more, this is just a…guestimate) live in the Southern states. I watched Honey Boo Boo for the first time the other day…and I have no comment. Really, I cannot be bothered. However, when it comes to shows like Tru Blood or Duck Dynasty (especially these two as they take place in northern Louisiana where I am fromor Swamp People, that I feel grossly misrepresents the South. Sure, regular people are not as entertaining, and I know it is to show an alternative life style. But still. These people are representing my home town. My town is sooooo not the swamp. I guess I just do not understand the obsession as a whole.

I cannot tell you how many people ask me in France and at college if I had a pet alligator. I used to just go along with it and tell the kids that I taught that I ate snakes and lived in a boat house on the bayou. The french kids ate it up. I know that goes against my complaint and that just feeds into the stereotype, but it was really funny to see their faces hahaha.

just your average Tuesday night in Louisiana
YUM- A typical Louisiana Thanksgiving dinner.
All things aside, NOLA is really nice. As much as my family wants me there, I am just not ready to move back yet. Even if I did I doubt it would be NOLA even if it is pretty European in feeling and with plenty of French influence. When people ask me where I am from I just say Nouvelle Orlean because its just easier. Its like saying your from NY even if your really from Newark.

 

After all this is said and done, I am from the South. I am a Southerner, and I always will be. However, the longer I am away in another country the harder I find it using things like “y’all” and..well, no, that’s it. I still say it, but it sounds so unnatural and like I am trying to hard. However, if I say HEY YOU GUYS, that just sounds weird.

As I grow older, I am starting to appreciate being from the South. Our people have manners and we are warmer, I think. I am not sure when I will go back because at the moment I am indentured to France, but when I do, I hope I gain back the little bit of a Southern twang that I once had.

yay! Im southern!

 

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