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Randy Young
Randy Young

Randy Young is the Director of the Broadcast & Video Production Department at Thomas County Central High School in Thomasville, Georgia. He writes a weekly column for the Thomasville Times-Enterprise, and has had works published in national magazines like Confederate Veteran and North & South. Randy founded and operates the South Georgia Relic Library, Inc., and hopes to open the South Georgia Confederate Soldier's Research Center in the near future.

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Dese Guys Just Don’t Sound Like All Y’all – Commentary by Randy Young

"If you are going to be underestimated by people who speak more rapidly, the temptation is to speak slowly and strategically and outwit them." -- Doris Betts, on the Southern drawl

I don’t know about y’all, but I never have enjoyed being around people who, in the words of my grandfather, insisted on “acting like somebody they ain’t.”

If you’ve lived in the South long enough, I'd bet you’ve seen the transplant along the way who just can’t help but do their worst Southerner impression in a sincere attempt to - well, better fit in, shall we say. And in the process, they come off looking more like the south end of a north bound mule than a Southerner.

Here recently, a good example of these phenomena was illustrated on the national stage when Hillary Clinton (better known as “Billary” in certain circles) was guilty of such. Seems just last week in places like Iowa, she was discussing things like energy and the middle east with the midwestern folks - widely known for not having much of an accent at all - sounding much like the Harvard graduate she is.

But then she turned around and spoke at a civil rights celebration in Selma, Alabama, and did her best to sound Southern - and ended up sounding like a bad female Junior Samples wannabe. Here, as best I can present it, is part of what she had to say as she said it:

“Ah come hare today as a sistah in werrrship. This is the day the Lo-ard made! The Lo-ard wouldn't hev brawt mey this fahr only tuh layve mey. Ya know, ah ayum a Methuhdist. So ah have wun of those meexed marrages. Ah don’t feel no ways tiiirrred. Ah come too fahr from where I started from!”

Sheesh. Part of me is surprised she didn't tell the good folks in Selma that her campaign contribution phone number was BR-549, too.

Now with all that said, in Hillary's defense, Barrack Obama, the magnetic young candidate from Illinois, did pretty much the same thing when he spoke at the same function, adopting his version of the classic Yankee politician fake "Suth'n" drawl.

Yes, I know these are politicians we are talking about here, and yes, we all know most all of them will change their colors more than a chameleon on a plaid shirt to try and "blend" in whatever environment they happen to be in. And I do understand and appreciate that in certain circumstances most people are prone to alter their verbiage a little.

But, we aren't talking about a "little alteration" here - this was more like a botched metamorphosis of manner and speech altogether.

We all know from history, Yankee politicians have had a tough time winning over Southerners. Maybe that's because too many politicians who aren't from the South apparently think we aren't very smart down here when they speak in our region. Just like these two, they either make the mistake of believing they aren't talking down to us so us "ignernt Southerners" can better understand them with their accent - or they just think we simply will buy their accent and believe they are, in fact, "one of us."

The irony they lose in the process is that most of us down here realize from experience that 'sounding intelligent' has very little to do with how smart you are. Some of the smartest people I have ever been around had - and do have, I might add - the thickest country accents imaginable, and you can be sure they never try to put on airs in any situation. They don't need to - their words are sincere and well thought out, and everyone who hears them knows it. Much like the quote at the start of this column suggests, words spoken slowly and strategically can carry a heckuva load if delivered by the right set of vocal cords.

I teach broadcasting, and in the process my students record their own voices quite a bit. I don't know how many times I've heard them berating themselves because of what they perceive as their "country" accents. It seems they equate "country" with stupid - which means, conversely, they equate sounding "city-fied" with being smart.

Folks, tell your children they can sound as Southern as Scarlett O'Hara and still be the smartest kid at Harvard - or UGA.

The funny thing is, I don't remember any Southern candidates ever trying to say "youse guys" or "fugget about it" during their travels up north to sound more like a Yankee and sound more - shall we say - 'intelligent.'

Politicians, if you really want to win the people of the South, the best thing to be is just be yourself. Trying to, again, 'act like somebody you ain't' isn't going to do anything but turn the folks down here off. We know a phony when we see one. Be yourself, let us see & get to know the real you. And while it's true we very well might not like what we see and hear, at least we'll appreciate your sincerity instead of you putting on a show and coming off looking as fake as a dime store fur coat.

In other words, a good rule of thumb to remember, as we say down here - 'the cat might have her kittens in the oven, but we know that don't make them biscuits.'

Copyright © 2007 by Randy Young
randyyoung@mchsi.com, Thomasville, GA

Related Links
Speak Southern - Joan Hough

Let's Welcome a new 'Southerner' - Lewis Regenstein

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