I’m originally from the North, but I spend a lot of time with Just My Joe in the South.
And yet, I live in that beautiful, confused and bewildered in-between area, the mid-Atlantic region. Or, as I call it, Marpennsylginia.
We’re confused and bewildered because we’re caught between compulsive Northern efficiency and easy-going Southern charm.
Add to this confusion the fact that I’ve lived a commutable distance from Washington D.C. for more than 15 years. That town, as John F. Kennedy satirically pointed out, is “a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”
Thus, Washington…and the mid-Atlantic…has the worst of both worlds.
And therefore, so do I.
That is why I get confused over the little things when I travel back and forth.
Take iced tea, for example. Up North, “sweet” tea means that a little sugar might be added to cut the bitter taste. You can get it at one out of every 6.5 restaurants.
Down South, “sweet” tea means that a gallon of sugar is added for each gallon of water. You can get it at restaurants, gas stations, bathrooms, ATMs.
Okay, I’m exaggerating.
But just a little.
And then there’s the word “pecan.” The North says it with the emphasis on the second syllable, such as pa-con’.
Down South, Just My Joe has pecan trees on his farm so I try to say it as the natives say it—the “e” is a long e sound and the accent is on the first syllable, as in pē’-can.
So, because my mouth generally activates before my brain, the word usually comes out as pa-can’, thus making no one happy.
There are a host of other differences too, from fried chicken (the North rarely deep fries), to basements (the South doesn’t have them) to our opposite approach to snow removal (the North shovels; the South lets it melt.)
But wait, there’s more.
The North has double last names. The South has double first names.
The North has green salads. The South has collard greens.
In the North, you should run when you hear this: “Fire!” In the South, you should run when you hear this, “Hey, y’all, watch this!”
The North has the rust belt. The South has the Bible belt. (A clear winner on that latter one.)
Anyway, I’m left to wonder: Am I North or am I South?
And does it matter?
I guess it matters to me because I’m always middle-of-the-road. It’s like being vanilla in an ice cream store. It’s bland. It’s…well…bewildering. There’s something distinctive about both the North and the South, a distinction that the mid-Atlantic does not have. Think about it: Gone with the Wind wasn’t set in Virginia and Jaws didn’t unfold off a little coastal town in Delaware. Those two locales just wouldn’t have done the shows justice.
So, can I be both North and South?
If I determine to be North when I’m in the North, and South when I’m in the South, then it’s good that I have an eleven-hour drive between the two locales.
I need that time to do a new mind-set each direction as y’all can imagine.
Wait! Where am I? Is it you’s, or you, or youse, or you’ins, or…
We’ll explore language in Part II.
“A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps.”― Proverbs 16:9