I’ve just returned from my youngest niece’s graduation in Boston, one of my favorite cities ever. When I noticed an absence of flip-flops on the graduates, that set me to thinking about some of the differences between East and West, North and South. Besides a greater respect for tradition, the humid East boasts two other things that I missed during my sojourn in California: fireflies and thunderstorms. And while I do appreciate the directness of New Englanders (it’s refreshing to not have to guess what people think of you), I find that I’m growing accustomed to life in a more genteel culture.
If you enter a restaurant in the South, even as a stranger, you’re greeted with a smile and called Darlin’, Sugar, Baby Doll, or Sweetie – regardless of your age. The first question will be "Sweet or Un?" referring, of course, to the way you want your iced tea. (If the server doesn’t ask, sweet is the default.) I’ve heard the ubiquitous expression y’all spoken to just one person and changed up to be all y’all when the object is two or more. Here in North Carolina, we have a special spin on it: you’uns. And then there’s my favorite (which I grew up saying in Maryland): idinit (isn’t it) and dudinit (doesn’t it).
It’s an art to learn how to use the all-purpose sweet expression, bless his heart. As long as a Southerner tacks that phrase on to the end, any morsel of gossip can be passed on and it’s been blessed and sanitized. Here’s what I mean:
- He’s as dumb as a fencepost, bless his heart.
- She cain’t cook anything without burning it to pieces. She just cain’t help it, bless her soul.
- What you said is about as useful as a trap door on a canoe, bless your heart.
- She looks about as happy as a tick on a fat dog, bless her soul.
- He’s so stubborn he could make a preacher cuss, bless his heart.
Now I’m fixin’ to get to my conclusion directly. I like to think of the South bein’ like Sweet tea and the North like Un. The West is organic free-trade green tea infused with soy, in a tea bag made of 100% recyclable materials. No animals were harmed in making it.