What makes us Southern?

Rather than continue to hijack Zeldar’s thread I shall start another. In identifying ourselves as Southern USA Dopers, the question occurred to me, what makes a state Southern?
South of the Mason-Dixon line would include Maryland, which stayed in the Union although a slave state, and I don’t consider to be Southern.
Missouri, on the other side and Union, I consider to be Southern. What could be more Southern than Mark Twain?
BTW, did Missouri and Kentucky secede, or not? :slight_smile:
My own noble state of Arkansas fielded the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (CSA) which fought the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (USA) at Fayetteville, Arkansas in a microcosm of the terrible war in 1862.
West Virginia seceded from Virginia when Virginia seceded, but has the accent, the grinding poverty and the geography I consider to be Southern.
I don’t believe true barbecue to exist outside of the South.
I’m interested in the opinions of all Dopers, what do you think makes a state Southern?

Ginger of the North: What’s the deal with Canadians and the South? I’m thinking of The Band all Canadians save for the Arkansan Levon Helm. They had songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

Is being Southern a matter of birth, blood, residence or state of mind? My antecedents have been stomping around the Carolinas, Arkansas and Texas since long before the Revolution (the first one). I was born in Southern California, if that helps any.

Geography, of course, but tradition and culture even more. IMHO, panhandle FL is Southern, but Miami and the Keys, not so much. I lived in Maryland, and it didn’t feel as Southern to me as Tennessee (where I was born and reared) or North Carolina (where I lived for many years).

I am from rural Northwestern Louisiana and although I live in Massachusetts now (probably semi-permanently too), I am most definitely Southern and identify with it strongly although I have few of the negative stereotypes associated with it.

Southerness or lack thereof is a readily identifiable atmosphere. It includes ways of speaking mannerisms, and customs. Whenever I drive South down I-95 through the northeast and pass through northern Virginia, things start to become Southern very quickly. The first couple of times, I didn’t even think about what was happening until I noticed a weight being lifted from me. I didn’t grow up within about 1000 miles of that area yet there was that definite sense I got when I went into a gas station or a restaurant. You get that same feel through that ark that defines the South and although it can have some fuzzy borders, even outsiders can usually pick up on it readily.

The South is both despised and very popular at the same time. There is no shortage of people packing up their Northerly homes and making the move but the negative stereotypes are still alive and well. People in other parts of the country tend to revile Southern politics but yet marvel in how the region can keep a lock on the entire nation’s political structure almost single-handedly.

Kentucky didn’t secede, but the Jackson Purchase thought about it. There was actually a convention held in Mayfield to discuss seceding from both Kentucky and the Union to join Tennessee. However, the Union captured Paducah shortly thereafter and put an end to the discussion. Had they gone through with it, the Tennessee River would have been the border.

A true Southerner knows how to make sweet tea and redeye gravy, can identify at least 4 members of the SEC and refers to any carbonated, sweetened beverage as a “coke.” Unless it’s a Sun-Drop.

Young people that use “Sir” and “Mam” are the defining characteristic to me.

I can’t figure out what the Security and Exchange Comittee has to do with anything though.

It’s the food-- that glorious amalgam of foods and cooking styles: from the southern Indians (corn, beans, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, pit barbecue), from the English (cabbage, pork, biscuits, gravies) and from Africa (okra, yams, sorghum).

Being born and raised in Mississippi, I’ve got the answer to the question easy … we are automatically Southern (like it or not). I’ll second Dan’s comment about “sir” and “ma’m” … we even say this to little kids (trying to instill something in them I suppose). Other things which make it seem to be the South …

When the best parking place is not the closest, but the shadiest
When every vehicle on the road pulls over to let a funeral procession pass
When passing anyone on the sidewalk, young or old, you get a “hey, how you doin?” (and a tip of the hat from older gentlemen)

It also feels tied up with hot velvety summers, when even at 2 am it’s 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity. We still have a lot of ‘wilderness’ here. There are still places in Mississippi you feel as though time forgot:slight_smile: It’s like my Daddy says: drive for 20 minutes from any town, and you’re back in the country.

The South is taste and smell, a paradox of lightness and heaviness, pain and promise. It’s been a very poignant place, in the history of our country. I’ve lived here 44 of my 46 years, and frankly would not live anywhere else.

If this question had been asked 50 years ago the answer would have been much easier to give. Back then (mid-50’s) segregation was still in sway, McCarthy had the attention of the country on the Communists, Ike was playing golf and building interstates and most Southerners were of The South – born and bred, and pretty much off by ourselves doing our thing.

Then things started changing. Yankees either moved in or began wresting the political power away from the Southern way of doing things. Wallace and other leaders tried in vain to hold onto the antiquated ways of looking at the non-white citizenry and became the laughing stock of the rest of the nation as a result. That blot still exists. It just won’t go away in spite of Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and dozens of other Southern politicians whose policies and efforts have been national and not regional.

Hollywood shifted gears from glorifying The South (a la Gone with the Wind) to making fun of it (a la Tobacco Road, God’s Little Acre and even The Long Hot Summer). Tennessee Williams was all in vogue since he (as Southern as you can get) was assisting in the sub-human depiction of our people.

The comes Civil Rights and the Yankee invasion. Nothing strikes me funnier than the transplanted Yankee trying to adopt Southern ways. Talk about your basic misfit!

As one born in an army hospital in NC, spending the first 18 years of my life in Alabama and the rest of it (so far) in Tennessee, my amusement with Yankees has replaced any real venom towards them. I mean, they’re human beings, too. And whatever it is about them that makes them feel superior is just so much fun to watch and hear. We Southerners all know why the South continues to be a fascinating place, and all Yankees can do about it is be jealous and poke fun at it, and travel to it when the weather gets shitty.

That’s cool. I’d rather live in that fancy house on the hill than drive by it and throw rocks at it and call it names like ignorant, inbred, backwards, bible-thumping, under-educated and all the other adjectives that seem to be Southern property.

Before leaving the impression that I bear ill will towards other parts of the country, I’d like to say that my travels into other areas (I’ve yet to get out West) have shown me that hospitality and charm are not exclusively Southern. Plenty of other places know how to treat people right. And due to various influences, not all Southerners behave the way the “Southern lady or gentleman” stereotype would have outsiders believe. There are trashy types, rednecks, hooligans and all the rest of the undesirables. Just like everywhere else. But the South does seem to me to have a sense of its history of “easy living” to make those undesirables a distinct minority.

One last thing. It may not have been original with Billy Bob Thornton, but he’s the one I heard it from first: if not for The South, there wouldn’t be any American music. Just think about that.

Vehemently defending the right to use Sir and Ma’am as a form of respect REGARDLESS OF AGE. I tell my 11 month old Yes Ma’am. It isn’t an insult, by god.

Knowing, to the very fiber of your being, what grits are and what a good biscuit is.

Being willing to slow down a bit, just because.

Having insane family members who you readily tell stories about. (See Sampiro)

Knowing, that like food, stories are best told with a little something extra.

Having any relative who improves the taste of their cooking, by sticking their thumb in it.

Considering the Tar Baby to be nothing other than a story you were fond of as a child.

Knowing damn well that most folks think that you are racist the moment you say you are a southerner.

Ya’ll. Until the day you die.

Not right when you go into someone’s home or business and not being greeted.

When the worst possible thing you can say to someone is “Are you from New York?”

Biscuits N’ Gravy

“Sir” and “Ma’am”, the food, the accents, the geographic location, but also its past as a slave-holding, Jim-Crow law state. Maryland might not seem Southern to a lot of you, but since it’s the furthest South I’d ever lived, it sure as heck was a shock to my system. I’m sure that if I go hang out in rural Georgia or Louisiana my system would adjust to Maryland quite easily.

Its people’s manners. The weekends I have spent in Southerner’s homes have been the most pleasant I have ever spent, and the most close to what it’s like in Western Canada.

Maryland is an anomaly, due to its proximity to Washington, DC; people from all over the world live in the Maryland suburbs and that, of course, contributes to our culture. We’re a Southern state full of Yankees and Foreigners (like me!).

Never underestimate the power of Levon, I guess. You have to remember that to a lot of Canadians, Toronto is the South. Hell, even Edmonton is South to a lot of people!

I have often described our (Southern) people as having much to be ashamed of and much to be proud of. Only a few of us have the sense to distinguish the one from the other.

IANAS, but I’ve spent time there and have Southern friends. Southernness to me is:

a) A deeply, deeply Celtic Protestant cultural heritage, even if you aren’t descended from such folks. Part of this is the idea that certain absolutes shape your life. Blood. Honor. Land. Force. God.
b) Even if an individual repudiates one or more of these absolutes, they’re likely to do so in an, absolute “rebel” manner - no compromise.
c) The central importance of music and stories, and a consequent respect for the arts that runs deeper than it does (say) in the Midwest (where I’m from).

I was born in Maryland and a good portion of my family is still there. I have described it as the “Southernmost Northern State and the Northernmost Southern State” but I usualy just say it’s a mid-Atlantic state, which confuses people who aren’t used to the East coast :slight_smile: Of course, here in Texas, when people try to get snarky about me not being a Southerner I like to point out that if you are standing on the Mason-Dixon line (the traditional dividing point between North & South) and go south, then the first state you’d step into would be Maryland, so I refer to it as the “First Southern State” just to annoy them.

When you’re Southern, you don’t cuss the little old lady driving 25 mph under the speed limit. You just say “Bless her heart” and go on about your business.

Southerners say “sweet tea” and “sweet milk”. “Sweet tea” means lots of sugar - we don’t like it unsweetened. “Sweet milk” means you don’t want buttermilk.

Being Southern means you have listened to Jeff Foxworthy and realized he knows some of your relatives.

I will soon be experiencing the joys of living in the South. Born, raised, and lived all my life in Chicago, retiring September 2 and currently looking for a place to live in Chapel Hill NC. I’ve been averaging a weekend a month in the area for the last year and a half getting used to quaint native customs like being polite to total strangers, chatting with store clerks & waitresses like we’re friends, and drinking sweet tea. I expect that it won’t be long before I pick up the language and start muttering about damyankees (Bless their hearts) and referring to the War of Northern Aggression.

You need to get a sign for your porch that reads “I wasn’t born Southern, but I got here as fast as I could!”

Some Southerners don’t believe children born in the South of Yankee parents are true Southerners. “If the cat has kittens in the oven it don’t make 'em biscuits”

A true Southerner carries the South with them where vere they go. When I lived in L.A., Denver, and even up North, I still said Yes Sir and Ma’am, y’all, held doors for anyone (not just women), tend to stop and look around because life is just so damn interesting, etc …

One of the nicest places for good manners that I’ve been outside of the Genteel States was New York City. I rather liked it there.

The South is NOT stupid, backwards, inbred, racist, intolerant, or any of those other bad things. Yes, some people do have those traits here. Some areas have a lot of those people. But so does every other place in this whole damn country. North, South, East, West, inland, coastal, big city, small town, or country…, people are people. Try wrapping your mind around that truth, South bashers.

I love being to remember cherished childhood memories of Texas and the South. I love the fact that I can still go to places that bring back those memories. I cringe when I hear the casuyal racism that comes out without hatred but with a definite, almost inborn bias. I love the trees, the skies, the nights. I hate the big freakin bugs, and leaving footprints in the street as you walk across it (hot asphault). I love the good people there. I hate when the bad freaks get noticed and cause a negative label for all of us.

Yeah, I love the South. I love being Southern. I love being from or in Texas.
NCB - Born and Bred Southern, Texan by the grace of God.

This was my reply in a similar thread that I’ll synopsize in a rhyme:

Slaves, size and heat,
mistrust, Protestantism, defeat.