Not from these here parts

I vaguely recall learning grammar in middle school. Or rather, I vaguely recall being taught grammar in middle school. I didn’t actually learn it. I am fortunate that my parents speak in grammatically correct sentences most of the time, so grammar class was mostly me wording things the way that sounded most right.

Fritz is learning grammar (being taught grammar), and he is doing the same thing: resting on his knowledge of what sounds correct versus actually understanding things like what it means to combine a helping verb with a past participle to form a compound tense (huh?). Up to now, his exposure to, shall we say, unrefined conversations has been very limited. Sure, we say things like “It’s me” or “Who does this belong to?” but that’s probably the extent of our poor grammar, and we know it is improper and we don’t speak that way in formal conversations.

But, oh my, what my kids are hearing on the baseball field. “Where you at, Fritz?” I suppose it doesn’t matter that the words end in a preposition…because it’s not a sentence. It makes me cringe. Other things make me laugh: “Stop your jibber-jabbering on the bench and pay attention to the game!” Hoo, boy.

Now, not all the good ol’ boys have Southern Drawls or speak like they were raised in the hills by moonshine swillin’ elementary school drop outs. But there are a few other ways we Reitemeyers have proven that we’re not from around these parts.

That ball cap Fritz likes to wear has this logo. Perhaps you recognize our favorite football team of frozen tundra fame? Down here they have never heard of a frozen tundra. In fact, I’m not sure they even know that there are football teams that don’t have “State” or “University” in their name.

When the coach realized it wasn’t the Georgia Bulldog logo, he forbade Fritz to wear it.

Last weekend, Bill went camping with the Cub Scouts. Our tent is one of these. We are 900 miles away from their nearest retail store.

Locals shop here.

One other way we show we aren’t local: we don’t know how to order a Coke, with a capital c. If you ask for a Coke, the waitress generally asks you, “Which one?” because in the South, coke, small c, means “carbonated beverage.” A warning to Diet Coke addicts, ordering a Diet Coke might get you a Diet Pepsi without the slightest thought from your server that you might want a specific brand of diet carbonated beverage.

And we may never learn how to get a Coke without a lengthy conversation. I generally avoid “soda” (how I refer to carbonated beverages) and stick with water instead. Bill is trying to act like he’s a native, so he’s been ordering “sweet tea.” And the kids like root beer and Sprite. So far, Sprite seems to mean Sprite, and not any old, carbonated, lemon-lime concoction.

Although I don’t care if my kids think a soda is called a coke or if our supplier of outdoor equipment has a wide mouth in its logo, I do hope that my kids don’t pick up the local jargon. In two years, if my son hears, “You ain’t from around he-ya, are ya, boy?” I do hope he is able to answer, “No, sir, I am not.”

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18 thoughts on “Not from these here parts

  1. You are TOO funny!!! All those thing and more come with living in the south. Jeff Foxworthy used to do a funny comedy sketch about southern accents and how they can make even the most intelligent person sound dumb. He used the example of a brain surgeon in the OR asking for “that there scalpel”, etc. It's hilarious!! Welcome to Georgia, my friend!!

  2. What? Hasn't anyone asked you if you're “fixin' to do” something yet?

  3. He, he! This one brings me back to our days in Oklahoma, with the local “ya'll” and “fixin” (as in “I'm fixin to beat you down.”)

    Oh, I just read Robin's comment. Do they use fixin' in Georgia too?

  4. LOL!! Brings me back to our time in North Carolina.

  5. Your husband needs to get stationed up North where most of us know how to form grammatically correct sentences. The worst I hear around here are people that say things like “she don't” and “yous.” It drives me crazy. I had a friend who was from down South and I swore she spoke another language. Her dad was a Navy chaplain. I got a decent education in Southern talk when she lived up North. Bless her heart, the poor girl thought she'd get the Yankees to start using words like ya'll and Mom'n'ems. (According to my friend, that's supposed to be English for Mom and them, as in “Mom'n'ems fixin to go to the store, ya'll wanna come?”)
    I hope your children retain their good grammar while you're living in GA.

  6. Kris has the right idea. Not that you want to speak “Southern”, but to understand it, watching the Redneck Comedy Tour does bring enlightenment about the language. Plus it's hilarious.

  7. I have only this to say – “Texas born, Texas bred, when I die, I’ll be a Texan dead!”

  8. When I go home to Wyoming to visit, I often hear the word seen being used. “Oh yeah! I seen them the other day.” “Yep, I seen that show.” It drives me crazy.

  9. You know I was born and raised in GA. A “coke” is any dark carbonated beverage except root beer. That's as it should be. University of GA is a deity and no other college or university should even be allowed to use the letter “G”.

    And only snooty folk shop at LL Bean. :0)

  10. The AT ending of a sentence makes my skin crawl. (Where's he at?)
    But I'm a priss.

  11. Oh, yes. I'm a linguist and I often use bad grammar. I was raised in rural Montana (cowboy country) and a lot of it has stuck with me despite the B.A. and post graduate studies… (I can't even figure out the problem in one of your examples–oooh boy.)
    But your commentary on coke brings back memories. I grew up calling carbonated beverages 'pop' and had to learn to use 'soda' when I moved to Colorado. Then life took us abroad and we met people from all over. For Aussies, 'lemonade' is any carbonated beverage. I'm not sure what they call the drink that is actually lemonade.
    Enjoy your southern adventure. 😉

  12. While Coke is a general carbonated beverage, “I'd like a Coca Cola” should get you the actual desired brand. My big language lesson as a midwesterner living in Texas was when a coworker described what a great idea it was to combine the pantry and wash room in a house design. My thought “ewww…why would I store food in the bathroom?” Apparently “Wash Room” means laundry room, not bathroom here. Glad I never asked for directions to the wash room at a friends house before that lesson.

  13. yup, i grew up with coke meaning carbonated beverage (far west tx). i always drank dr. pepper so im not exactly sure how to get a regular coke, probably coca cola. this reminds me of a joke:
    a texan went to harvard and was looking around. he asked someone, “where's the library at?” the harvardite responded, “here at harvard, we dont end our sentences in prepositions.” to which the texan said, “oh, sorry. where's the library at, a**hole?”

    dont get all high and mighty on your new englandish to them there southerners!
    r

  14. I'm disappointed in the tone of some of the comments. I was a subscriber to this blog, and generally find the writings and the comments very uplifting but some of the comments on this entry , to my ears, smack of prejudice and maybe just a tiny bit condescending.

    I wouldn't dream of moving to a Yankee state or Italy or England or Australia and hoping that my child wouldn't be tainted by their stint there. I would think that I would teach my children to be tolerant of the culture we were living in now. I would tell my child that to the natives we were the different ones, and that different didn't mean stupid or poor or uneducated. I'm sure everyone's Yankee children can safely be deprogrammed should they forget their good grammer.

    I take it back. I would never want to have my child talk with a Yankee accent. I wouldn't want her to move to a place where it was assumed that her accent meant she was a stupid. I wouldn't want her to lose her ties to a land and culture and people that dated back to before America was America, when plenty of her ignorant ancestors with their atrocious ungrammatical accents managed to fight the tyranny of an English king and birthed this nation. How did they manage to do that without talking like an educated Yankee.

    I know, I know, if I don't like what was written I don't have to read it. And I won't. But I just thought y'all would like to know that not everyone who was a reader thought that some of the comments were so lighthearted. Prejudice is just icky.

  15. Aine,

    I'm sorry you were offended. My younger sister, who considers herself a Southernor from Virginia, was the first to write me and tell me I am a snob. And Mama on the Move, a Georgia native, did as well. They both know me pretty well, so you can trust their opinion.

    Speaking in grammatically incorrect sentences is not a Southern thing. There are people in all parts of the country who can't speak properly, and many many people in the South who DO know how to make the subject and verb agree. Mama on the Move has an English degree and knows better than I how to speak properly. I don't care if my children pick up a Southern accent, but I would mind quite a bit if they were to habitually omit verbs from their sentences.

    There is nothing laudable about bad grammar. There are no Southern grammar books that explain how to properly conjugate the word “ain't.” Middle school children in Georgia are taught the same grammar that middle school children in Pennsylvania are taught.

    I am an equal opportunity snob and the poor grammar I heard from the boys in the 'hood when my husband was the commander of a troop in inner city Philadelphia was equally grating. I wouldn't want my children to imitate their slang talk either.

    Now, if my children want to include a “sir” or “ma'am” in every sentence when speaking to adults or if they want corn bread and black eyed peas with their fried chicken, that's fine. There's plenty of good stuff in the South to admire and emulate. But the bad grammar of their baseball coaches is not what I hope they absorb.

  16. I have to say that I pretty much agree with Aine. I was trying to be the bigger person and let it roll off my back by just posting a silly saying – but it really does hurt to know that a blogger (whom I admire and consider a nice, interesting person) would meet me and automatically draw unkind conclusions about my intellect simply because of the way I speak. I am college educated and always did very well in English/Lit – but you can't take the country out of a girl who refuses to be ashamed of it. It is part of my culture and I don't want to let it go. It does make me a little sad to know that so many would see me a certain way when I would never view them in such a manner. I work in a place where I deal with people from all over the world as well as country. Not all of them speak English very well or even at all. I never make any assumptions concerning their intelligence based on that fact. It would be quite unfair of me to do so

  17. Ladies, some background: when I was 9, I moved from Ohio to Virginia. I was the one that other kids said “talked funny.” To make things worse, when we would go back “home,” THEY would say I talked funny too, having picked up a Southern Drawl.

    I lived in Virginia through high school and owe my education (a public school one which earned me a National Merit Scholorship) to dozens of men and women who hailed from south of the Mason Dixon. I did not mean to imply that people from the South WERE stupid, because I know that to be completely untrue.

    I realize that to say some of my neighbors “speak like they were raised in the hills by moonshine swillin' elementary school drop outs” is a poor choice of words, but it is a metaphor, not an assertion. Yes, use of “ain't” makes me cringe, but I'm not labeling my associates “stupid.” Regardless, it was not my intent to offend, and I am sorry that I chose such a hurtful phrase.

  18. growing up in the south, I STILL call everything “coke”, and one of my favorite memories is knowing that someone ordered a “hot tea” and was served iced tea w/o the ice!!

    I'm glad to have found your blog! We are a Catholic family w/ nearly 5 kids and have just started homeschooling!!

    God Bless, and Happy Holy Week

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