Mah haid hurts just thinkin’ ’bout it y’all!

I wondered if I should duck as Jonathan drove us back over the line into New York on Sunday afternoon.
Raised here in the Yankeeiest of Yankee states, I’ve got a confession – less than a week back in the South, and it was back.
My Southern accent.
It’s nothing a good dose of “My Cousin Vinny” and a “Yankees” game won’t fix, mind you, but it’s there all the same.
The “Aahh” instead of “I.” The “way-ell” instead of “well.”
I called my poor little cousin “darlin’” three times before I remembered to call him Alex. Scratch that. I called my “po lil’ cuzin” . . . well, you get the idea.
Almost seven years after I moved back to New York (or, as any good Yankee says it, Noo Yawk), we took our second vacation last week to Jonathan’s hometown.
And people looked at me funny. They told me I talked too fast. They asked me to repeat myself.
I realized I’d spent the past seven years working my way back to where I’d started the day I moved to Franklin, Va. The place I spent my year and a half in the South trying to escape.
They thought I was plumb crazy. And if they didn’t, Mark Twain was right. The minute I opened my mouth, I removed all doubt.
The trouble is, I can’t keep my Yankee trap shut for long. So I adjusted. I slowed everything down.
In just a few days, I could match my husband twang for twang. If either of us could sing, we’d have fit right into a country music video.
I could blame the heat or the humidity, but it was just too easy to let it ride. I let the words flow off my tongue like molasses.
“Y’all,” was first. Then “cain’t.” And, well, I was “fixin’” to do something when I heard myself. Oops.
I tried. I really did. I wore my Yankees t-shirt and flashed my New York driver’s license to the store clerks. I told Jonathan we should get heroes for lunch – not subs – and moaned that we’d never find a good bagel.
But every friend I ran into, every old stompin’ ground I visited, made me too darn comfortable. I’d test out my tongue and let loose.
“My haid hurts,” I’d say. “It mus’ be the heat. Or maybe Ah’m jus’ tarred.”
It could have sounded put on. I didn’t care. It was as comfy as my holiest pair of blue jeans, the set I don’t dare wear outside of the house.
The Southern drawl has sent many an actress off to the speech coach – afraid she won’t get roles because she sounds uneducated.
But the most recognized of all American accents is the one I’ve always secretly wished was my own. While my speech is marked by the long “e” in creek and the “sneakers” on my feet, I’m not afraid of “y’all” or a drawn out word or two.
So I reckon I’m stuck – a Yankee with an identity crisis until her next Southern vacation.

Comments

  1. Well shucks that was a good column. 🙂

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