Fellow Southerners: Let's Talk

The Deep South is a different country; they do things differently there. So let’s talk, fellow Southerner Dopers!

Okay, so the first debate will be what compromises the Southern United States. A lot of ink and blood has been spilled on this subject. I think its reasonable to define the South as a geographical area extending roughly from Virginia on down to east Texas, including the Florida Panhandle, which areas share a similar culture, cuisine, history, and dialect.

Onto more interesting topics: your family, eccentric, certifiably insane, or both?

Favorite Southern artists and writers? Gotta be Truman Capote for me.

Got any Confederate ancestors? Got any Union ancestors?

Are your parents Southerners or Yankee transplants? Believe it or not, it makes a difference. One of my Americorps teammates is from Arkansas, and has a thick Southern accent. To anyone else she probably seemed as Southern as could be, but I picked up pretty quick that she didn’t drink sweet tea, had never eaten pecan pie, etc. – it didn’t surprise me at all when she told me that she had Yankee parents.

Speaking of accent, oh the [aː] – the ‘ah’ in Ah – how you confuse others so. I asked one of my teammates “Anyone got a lighter?”

“A ladder?”


Now, to me, the two words sound distinct. Lighter is [laːter] and ladder is [läːder]. But all they hear is “lah-dahr”. I’ve also gotten into trouble over the famous “ice/ass” confusion, but once again to me they sound totally different: *ice *is [aːs] while *ass *is [äːs] (or at least that’s the best I can transcribe it – ass is actually sort of like “Ai-ess”.)

You more of a blues person or a jazz person? Me, I love the blues but I’m from Mississippi, so that’s just genetic memory.

Weirdest question someone’s asked you about your home state. I think for me it was the little girl in California who asked me if we spoke English in Mississippi. That or my Maryland friend who was convinced Mississippi was located under Oklahoma (!?).

To me, the Deep South is Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle. The South in general can also include Arkansas, Tennesee, parts of Kentucky, parts of Texas, South Carolina, and parts of North Carolina and Virginia.

Eccentric but with some pockets of true insanity.

Miss Eudora, hands down.

Some of each. I have relatives from Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, and the Virginias.

Mom was a midwesterner and Dad is from Kentucky. So we kids are the first Deep South generation.

I like them both, depending upon my mood. I reckon I prefer jazz by a small margin.

I was at a professional meeting on the MS gulf coast, and an out-of-town gentleman was ranting about how all the bridges in the state were “straight”. I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, but I pointed out to him that there was a bridge in Jackson which, at the time of its construction, had the most horizonatal curvature of any federally funded bridge in the U.S. I got the impression that he didn’t believe me.

What compromises the Southern United States is, and always was, slavery.

What comprises said states is probably best defined by the states that passed ordinances of secession, but there’s room for opinions to vary.


Family – eccentric with pockets of phobias.

Fav Southern writer – Shelby Foote.

Ancestors – the woodshed is full of Confederates.

Parents: Baltimore, MD, and North Carolina.

Disclaimer – born in Maryland, live in Virginia; some would say I’m not a Southerner. Accent relatively neutral (raised in several states, including Mass and Illinois as well as VA and MD).

What is “The South”?: I pretty much go with the map of the Confederacy.

Family: boring, mostly

Favorite Southern writer: Alton Brown

Confederate/Union ancestors: no idea

Parents: South Carolina natives, like me

** I think its reasonable to define the South as a geographical area extending roughly from Virginia on down to east Texas, including the Florida Panhandle, which areas share a similar culture, cuisine, history, and dialect.**

I agree, but have see the southern parts of Kentucky, Ohio, and W. Virginia to be fairly Southern in culture. And, the panhandle of Florida: probably extends more into mid-Florida. And then there is Chicago, which has a huge Southern influence from Black Southerners moving there: guess it would be termed an outpost, or colonial (heh), culture there.

** your family, eccentric, certifiably insane, or both?** eccentric, but they moved West, definitely a connecting reason there.

Favorite Southern artists and writers? Samuel Clemens, William Faulkner, Miss Eudora, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote, Flannery O’ Connor, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, Harry Crews… Walter Anderson, William Eggleston, Birney Imes, William Christenberry.

Got any Confederate ancestors? Got any Union ancestors? nope, see the above moving West part.

Are your parents Southerners or Yankee transplants? Transplants, early Californians, both, divorced before all moving to the South. I also lived in NY, and Maine as a kid, been in the South since 13. So, nope, my Daddy didn’t hunt here, but great granddaddies did some. My adolescence “took”, though, and I consider myself more Southern in outlook (happily), than Californian. In the 13 years I lived in MSPI, though, I knew I could never steep enough in an Oxbow of sweet tea to be considered Southern at all. And, I’ve been in the South long enough to smile at, and appreciate the distinction.

Accent Been here since 13, so have an accent, which my California relatives fall to the floor laughing at, but not a gorgeous drawl, at all.

You more of a blues person or a jazz person? Both, when it’s good, but in Mississippi, blues music was my study, at a deep good level. That was the biggest blessing in life ever.

My definition of the South is pretty much a map of the Confederacy with tentacles reaching into West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Maryland’s technically Southern, but I’ve never considered it such.

I don’t know much about my family, with my mom being a foster child, and my dad having an extended family I don’t have much to do with, so I have no clue if I have any Confederate or Union ancestors.

My mom’s from New York City and my dad is from Reliance, Tennessee, a small town in Polk County, which is the Southeastern-most county in Tennessee. Going back a couple generations, my maternal grandfather was an Italian immigrant, and my dad’s family were from Western North Carolina, making them literal hillbillies. However, my mom’s as Southern as anyone else I know, and has one of the thickest accents in the entire family, even though she only moved down here when she was seventeen.

My accent, on the other hand, is pretty light. I work in a national call center, and in three years, only a half-dozen people have correctly guessed I was Southern. 99% of the people calling (dozens a day, so thousands over the years) have assumed I was in the box store I do support for “just up the road”. I also lived for two years in Oregon, and only one person there ever thought I was Southern, and it was because of a word I used, not my accent. I forgot what gave me away, though.

I’m more of a rock, country, and folk kind of guy, though I do like blues well enough.

I can’t think of any weird questions about the South off the top of my head, and can’t really think of any particular Southern artist I especially like, either. I don’t really pay attention to it, though I do get a small sense of parochial pride any time I find out someone I already like is a local boy or girl.

On another forum I frequent, which cannot be named per SDMB rules, what is and isn’t Southern is a constant topic of vicious flame wars. You have the people from Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, etc. who are anxious to be recognized as Southerners, and others from those same states who are just as anxious to NOT be recognized as Southerners.

I’m not the Grand Arbiter of All Things Southern, so I tend to let people self-define. That being said, I’ve never heard anyone describe Chicago as a Southern city, nor have I ever met Chicagoans who considered themselves Southerners, and I’d have to say that it is not, in fact, Southern anymore than Detroit or any other Midwest or Northern city that got a lot of Southern emigrants decades ago could be considered Southern.

elelle, I’m confused – are you saying your family is all from California? Or that your ancestors were Southerners who moved to CA and then back to the South? I’m all kinds of befuddled.

No, I here ya with that befuddlement. My particular ancestry includes southeastern immigrants who headed to California at the turn of the century, who lived before that in Tennessee and Mississippi, some white, some Cherokee, by all good accounts. I can’t know what is real beyond what’s been passed down, but, that’s what happened here back yond; people were in a flux of how to survive. Mine, as far as I have by word, were from the South, then went West mid-1800’s.

Mississippiene(Humpback…:wink: Understand your comments about Chicago, but I do know that Chicago was a great repository of Blues music, and a place where Blues music could develop due to people being able to get better jobs there. Actually, that was a huge force of that development, so, I see it as being a place where the culture of the South could be further nurtured and developed. It wasn’t in isolation, though, there was a constant train of what could be and what is between the lower south and Chicago. It’s a beautiful rhythm between here and there, and that continues

I’m originally from West Tennessee, but moved to the more cosmopolitan (snort) Middle Tennessee when I was liberated from parent types. I absolutely was not compromised at that time. Tennessee is not part of the Deep South. It is Mid-South, especially West Tennessee which has more French influence than Middle Tennessee.

I am an eleventh generation Southerner. The ninth generation, my grandfather, was a Confederate soldier who fought at the Battle of Stones River. He was later imprisoned at Camp Douglas in Chicago. That’s where the largest mass grave in the United States is.

He was a fairly old man when my father was born and my father was middle-aged when I was born. I guess I should have been Victorian or Edwardian.

I’m related to three writers – two of them Southern, one of them successful. (The other was from Southern Scotland. Does that count?) But for the most part I’m not a fan of Southern fiction in particular. Flannery O’Conner when I’m in the right mood. Sampiro when I’m out of sorts. Sam Clemens always – but we have to share credit for him. I like poetry. That’s very Southern – reading it, writing it, memorizing it, reciting it. Grandmother used to recite it in the fields to entertain her children as they worked.

The most beautiful dialect that I ever heard was from my mother-in-law. She was from Prattville, Alabama near Montgomery. Words just curled from her tongue like silk ribbon from a spool. Her voice was so elegant and fresh. She loved music and had seen Rachmaninoff play once. I envied her that. She filled her life with concerts, lectures, books, church, and enough mischief to make her a mystery to her own sons.

My mother’s first cousin was a writer. Early in life he was a friend of the “Vanderbilt Fugitives.” In later years he lived with his brother. Neither of them had married. Finally the writer was left alone. When he died in the small town where they had lived, some of the men in the town went into the apartment where they had lived, moved out everything they had owned and burned it on the sidewalk. My mother never told me about this; I found it out only in recent years. I think she must know though. She was one of his heirs and was very fond of him. Back in the 1930s he had shown her some ways to jazz up her piano style on a couple of songs. She passed those same “tricks” down to me. I think about him when I play those old songs. Thank God people are generally not so cruel to men who are gay these days. I guess that he was. I think the people in the town assumed that he was.

I had another cousin that lived about forty miles away. He was a lot older and I never met him. He was closer to my grandfather’s age. He was really smart and kept coming up with crazy ideas. He left Tennessee with one of his crazy ideas. He got fired from a job and decided to try putting his crazy idea to work. He became one of the richest men in the country. (He also invented something else which seems totally unrelated and most people are unaware that it’s the same guy.) His last name is now one of the most hated names in America because he is associated with corporate jerkism even though he has been dead for many many years. I am a mere poor relation with a first cousin once removed who works for the company. That’s the only connection left. He also has the same last name as another Southern writer that I am kin to.

That’s my mystery and it’s as far as I will go.

I’m a jazz person, but you can’t be from West Tennessee and not have the blues in your blood. After all, we were just north of Mississippi. You just keep following Highway 45 out of Mississippi and you will go right past the house where I grew up. And the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio trains came through the back field. Got to have the blues.

ETA: If you’re a real fan of Miss Eudora Welty, you might try staying at Hope Farm B&B in Natchez, Mississippi. The woman who owns it (or used to?) was a friend and Miss Eudora stayed there quite a bit.

I’m a Kentucky girl by birth, and I don’t consider myself as Southern, so I can’t answer most of these questions. But my hubby, who is Mississippi born and bred, has his opinion about which states are considered Southern. His list includes Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Florida is a Yankee Penal Colony and is excluded. :smiley:

I get that a lot, too. Our customers know our call center is in Mississippi, but get audibly confused when they hear me on the phone. I have closer to a midwestern accent, and do not sound like the other CCRs. I believe it gives me a distinct advantage when doing a QA: I have no problem understanding many different accents.

To me, the best parts of your culture isolated themselves to the Mountains, Southernfolks is Mountainfolks… yous to the flatlands are just gentrified oceanfolk. Borderlanders of the North and the Appalachias left you to your plantation and Royalist life.

Chicago, Illinois ain’t no way, no how a Southern city. Having been to both, I can see why Southerners might be desperate to claim it, but we find the insinuation detestable. Please stop trying to make it. Thanks.

Detestable? Really?
You’ve missed ellelle’s point. I think she’s saying that there is a place of Southern-ness within Chicago from all the southern people who moved there.

She certainly isn’t trying to insult you.

I’ve not read the rest of the thread, but Horse puckey. Maryland and Delaware were slave states.

I am speechless.

Now I feel bad. So, how about this: you can claim the entire state of Indiana for Dixie.

:rolleyes: Here’s one Southerner who isn’t desperate to claim any city or state.

Bless your heart,

I’m from Spain and one of my big frustrations re. English is that on one hand I get Americans who think I’m from “just up the road” (sometimes having known me for months) and on the other some people (usually HR types) refuse to ever consider my English “good enough” on grounds of, well, being from Spain. I’ve had a few instances of problems with definitions in this same board (the last one this same week), but I see “natives” have them too in the three languages I speak decently. I didn’t even start speaking Catalan until I was in my early twenties (by which time I’d been able to “pass” in English for about five years), but those people instantaneously assume Catalan is my mother tongue when they hear my mother is Catalan. I guess it makes their life simpler.

Southern Ontario count ?