Learning the Lingo
Sometimes it’s a struggle to communicate with you button-mashin’, sack-totin’, co-cola-drinkin’ Southerners. I’m just sayin’!
As you might have guessed, in my old life up north I would have said all three things differently. We don’t mash the buttons in the elevator, we press them. We don’t tote sacks, we carry bags. And I prefer to say Pepsi, please over asking for Coca Cola, which is a separate product from other kinds of pop.
Another word that had me shaking my head when I first started going with my southern-raised husband was buggy. Where I come from a buggy is that thing with four wheels that you push a baby around in, also called a baby carriage. (I mean the kind the baby can actually lie down and nap in, as opposed to a stroller.) Or you could ride in a buggy being drawn by a horse. But a buggy is not what you push around in the grocery store – that is a cart.
I have to detour here. I was recently informed that the people in Michigan use the word buggy to mean a grocery cart. But, I have a complicated relationship with Michigan. On the one hand, it is a Great Lake State, which counts in its favor. On the other hand, that school up north (The University of Michigan) is the big rival of my own alma mater, The Ohio State University. Therefore, I don’t give a d@mn what they say in Michigan, the thing you wheel around the grocery store is a cart! So there!
And then there’s hey versus hi. Where I come from, if someone says hey to you it means they want your attention, and something else important is to follow. “Hey, your fly is down.” “Hey, your house is on fire.” Something like that.
Hey means “stop whatever you’re doing and pay attention to me NOW.” Which is exactly what I used to do when people here told me "hey." It took me a while to just wave and say "hey" back and continue about my business.
But I reckon I can change. (Did you catch that?) I’m fixin’ to change. At least, I might could change. I used to could express myself without ever using expressions like reckon or fixin’ to or I used to could.
Not Stockholm syndrome, exactly. I’ve just been learning by immersion. After all, they say immersion is the key to learning another language.
And anyway, there’s a particular instance where I readily acknowledge that the South has definitely gotten it right as far as American English goes - Ya’ll versus you (plural).
Ya’ll is brilliant. It meets a need the English language has had since forever. In fact, it’s a little amazing that, with all the languages that have influenced or loaned words to English, we haven’t also borrowed a separate, plural form of you.
How else are we supposed to know, when Aunt Byrice asks “Do you want a co-cola?” whether she means “all of ya’ll,” or just “you, dearest George”?
So cheers, ya’ll. Feel free to set your co-cola right here next to my Pepsi.