Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Languages of the South

Every week my wife and I go to a lovely Chinese restaurant for some good food.  It's our favorite place. The odd thing is that the cook who works the 'hibachi grill' is not Chinese or oriental of any ethnicity.  He's Hispanic. But more than just Hispanic, he speaks hardly any English (or 'Mericun' if you're of that line.) 

Now, I'm not going to get into any rant or lecture on speaking the language; I'll consider that said, and move on.  The problem comes in letting this nice (and talented) cook know the special way in which we'd like our meals cooked.  I've tried speaking plainly and clearly, knowing how Southerners chew their diphthongs and create whole new idioms and phrases just in not moving their lips.  But this hasn't worked. I don't speak with a southern accent, a fact which neighbor Bubba seems to find daily delight in pointing out, but this is also not the problem. What to do, what to do...


When we were in High School (out west, Colorado to be exact) we had to have a language credit in order to graduate. While most of my classmates chose Spanish, (Colorado is a huge magnet for the Spanish speaking immigrants coming up from Mexico...) I chose to be different (hey, it was the 70's, being a rebel is what I did.) and chose German.  Ja, ich spreche Deutche! Ich studierte zwei Jahre in der Höheren Schule. In retrospect, Spanish would have been a much better choice. In the 30 years since graduation I've used my German in conversation exactly twice. (Thrice if I count the two sentences above.) The number of times that Spanish would have been helpful...well, I've lost track, but I'd expect it's close to daily.  

My lovely wife was raised in the Southwest.  She understands a lot of Spanish, but does not speak it. Oh a word or two here and there, (she's taught me the good curse words plus a few) and perhaps a phrase or three, but when it comes to asking a Spanish cook in a Chinese restaurant to add more Teriyaki and leave off the garlic -nothing in her language toolkit works here.  I'd ask in German, but you know, I don't think he'd catch on at all. 

Finally, we turned to the Internet.  A nice translation page gave us the translation of Garlic to Spanish, "acho"  (which, if you're wondering is pronounced more like the word 'sock-o' and not like a big sneeze) so it wasn't that hard to put together 'mucho teriyaki, sin acho' for our new favorite chef. And yes, every time I use it, I'm back in high school, only this time I'm selecting Spanish for a language, and not German.  (Oy , solch eine schlechte Entscheidung!)

So, now along with the usual curse words and a few menu standards, I have my Chinese Cook - Spanish Instructions Phrase. I'm now MULTILINGUAL.  Now, if I can just master Y'all in such fashion, Neighbor Bubba would stop laughing at my 'non-accent.'

Such is Life in the New South. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Southern Idioms and Weather Predictions

A lot of people have clicked on my little blog post about the use of the word "Y'all". It got me to thinking of some of the other phrases and words used by Southerners that the rest of the world may not.  So, I am starting to search for these.  If you want to send me one you know of, click here..

This first one, is a phrase that comes from a woman I knew who grew up in Georgia. (No, not eastern Europe, the state in the South!)  It's the phrase "She's a-comin' up a cloud.."

What's it mean, Marv?  Well, when looking into the sky, one can tell when the clouds indicate that a storm is on the horizon and headed your way.  These clouds are the indicators, and the phrase speaks of them.  Who the 'SHE' refers to is probably Mother Nature, but with a Southerner you just don't know for sure.

So the next time you are out discussing the weather, you might notice the accumulated dark clouds and calmly remark to your assembled friends "Looky yonder, y'all; she's a comin' up a cloud."

If they look at you like you're grown a 2nd head, don't blame me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The War of Northern Aggression

Most every high school graduate in the US has grown up on the story of our Civil War.  And if you ask most of those graduates, they will tell you that the reason for the war was slavery.  The Union fought for equality and the South wanted to keep their slaves.  In part, this is true, but in whole, it's more than that and it's the reason that most Southerners refer to the Civil war as the War of Northern Aggression. (Not me, I always sound like Yosemite Sam when I say something like that; but other people do - other Southern People - and with good reason...I think.)

Now, I'm not going to get into a long dissertation about this as many other political historians have probably already discussed it and discussed it better.  But I will make it easy for you. To whit:

The Southern states decided that the idea of a central constitution would cause the state governments to become forgotten and eliminated. (Seems like a logical thought: Government forgetting the little people, sort of like today...)  Because of this, the South had decided to secede from the Union. Yes, that's the MAIN reason, not the slavery thing.  Ok, so slavery was widespread in the south, but the main reason for secession was the government thing.  And it was not a bad idea really, and since the Colonies had seceded from England citing similar issues, they felt that the Declaration of Independence supported them in this decision. The Political power of the north, swollen with citizens and money, wanted to dominate the South, which was rich with resources.  The South decided that secession from the Union was their only option.  The North responded and the war began.  It was really about control.  Slavery? Yeah, but really? Not so much.

There is a definite undercurrent of dissatisfaction here in the south with the way that the war is presented, in that much of the honor and forward thinking of the South is left out of this part of our history. Oh you won't find large protests, bearded men wearing camouflage, marching about carrying poorly spelled signs. The whole thing is more of a known undercurrent knowledgeable Southerners keep like a Civil War Sabre hanging on the wall over the fireplace where it waits for someone to ask, just ask about its history.  

So, there it is.  If you want to read a really good discussion on this subject, click here.  For more of my Southern Stories, and wry humor and digressions (not that bad, are they?) you can click on some of the great blog entries to the right there.  

And, for the record, I don't have a Sabre, I have a very rare Kool-Aid Bottle. With a history.  So ask, just ask...  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Hat By Any Other Name

I'm going bald. My brother Bubba will be ecstatic to hear this, as he went bald many years ago and has always held it against me that my hair lasted longer. Regardless, my head is now more exposed to the elements than ever before and here in the South that means sun and southern sun means sunburn. It's time to cover the exposed scalp.

But. Finding a hat to wear is much harder than it used to be. It used to be that you could find a good hat with the logo of your favorite team, favorite sayings and even representing television shows and movies. What I find now, in most stores are like the display above. ADVERTISING. Ok, so most hats we bought before advertised teams or television shows, but now we're talking BRAND LOGOS and most are logos for sports equipment and clothing like the pic above. Oh sure, if you take the time to go to some special place like the stadium or college book store you can find (and pay dearly for) a hat with the right team on it, but I want to find what I'm looking for locally (and no, not Walmart!)

Aside from the visible scalp problem, the Southern Man must have a hat. This heat is oppressive and the southern sun even more so, and even if you do have a natural pelt of thick fur on the top of your head you better have a hat. Now, I do have my old pith helmet with the duck tape repair and even a new one with no duck tape to replace my recently broken one (-thanks to my brother Bubba) but you can't wear a hard plastic pith helmet to the Auto Parts store - Ok, so well maybe you can, but you'd get some pretty heavy stares and maybe even a few caustic remarks. And, I can't go wearing same said helmet out shopping with the wife without her wanting to snatch it off my head and toss it in the trash! Not what I'm after. I just want to protect the pate from burn and heat. So, what to do?

It used to be that these hats were handed out almost with every handful of change when making a purchase. Heavy Equipment, feed stores, auto parts, heck even the local bars and boutiques were giving away hats. (Called baseball caps, ball-caps or trucker's hats depending on your point of view...) Where are they now? I need a hat, but don't want to be wearing the same hat that Justin Beiber might wear or that some douche might wear backwards*! (If anyone sends me a Justin Bieber hat, expect me not to wear it, but to use it to wash my car and store it on the roof of the shed! I digress, but anyone would where JB is concerned.)

There are a couple of these hats hiding in my closet. One is a hat given to me by a heavy equipment company I worked at once. Another is from the Peterbilt company also where I worked for a couple of years. I have one that is from a resort I stayed at in 1996 and a few others, but all these hats have one thing in common. They are old and dirty. It's ok to wear an old and dirty hat when visiting the auto parts store, but when out shopping with the wife, a dirty hat tarnishes your whole appearance.

In the end, I guess I will have to start looking in the sale bins and haunting the thrift stores for the better quality leftovers so that I can get the hat I truly need. Perhaps a John Deer hat to go with my lawn mower, or maybe a Jeep. Only time will tell.

* For the record, anyone that wears their hat backward is wearing it wrong. Yes, I know it's a fashion statement; but the statement it's making is "I don't know how to wear a hat!" The wide part that sticks out is called a BILL and is for shading the sun from your eyes. The little band in back is for adjusting for size and does not go across your forehead. Let's change this now, Bubba! 
This does NOT say you're cool!
It says you're wearing your hat wrong!