So, I was speaking with a young lady the other day about a transaction--okay, I was in the drive-thru at Burger King getting an iced tea and chatting with the headset-wearing teen--and I realized that somewhere along the way I had "put my Southern on."
That's what the Engineer calls it when I start saying things like, "whole 'nuther," and "ya'll," and my words take on a noticeable drawl, like some Brett Butler stand-up routine.
It's totally inadvertant, and it seems to happen whenever I am speaking with someone from the South who is just a little more Southern than I am. And I don't mean that geographically, because I'm in Florida. Some states just seem to fit that Southern stereotype better when it comes to speaking. You'll definitely pick up on a Southern accent, for instance, when you're talking to someone from, say, Tennessee or Georgia or Alabama. But unless I'm in conversation with someone from one of those places and "putting my Southern on", I don't think you would assume I'm from the Deep South just from the way I talk.
Native Floridians (like me) are a strange breed. We're actually in a minority in our own state, where retirees swoop down like vultures to take over our restaurants (all the way bemoaning the fact that we don't have delis down here that can compare with New York) at four in the afternoon from April to September or so, the "Snowbird" season. You would be surprised, I think, to know that most of the native Floridians I know are liberal, open-minded people, rather than the ultra-conservative Bible-belt fundamentalists we are portrayed as in the media.
I mean, honestly, I swear I don't know a single native named, "Jim Bob"! I had neighbors with the whole double-name thing (you know, like Tommy Lee or Ellie May) when I was growing up, but they were from Indiana, for crying out loud. And our sheriffs, thank you very much, are not obscenely over-weight, dumb as a stump and all named "Bubba".
I will admit that I have, yes, seen the odd (and I mean that in every sense of the word) redneck driving around in a big pickup truck with a rifle rack and a "Southern Cross" flag in the back, but that's by no means the norm here. You're more likely to see a mini-van with a soccer sticker on the back in my neighborhood.
And, as for the most obvious stereotype: nope, I'm not a racist, and I wouldn't care to associate with anyone who was. Prejudice and intolerance rub me entirely the wrong way.
I am, though, happy to embrace for myself the whole "GRITS" (Girls Raised In The South) vision of a sweet, friendly, unpretentious, great-kissin', fine-cookin' Southern girl, sporting cut-off sexy shorts and a cute Southern drawl.
I don't really know where I'm going with this post, ya'll. I think I need to start a whole 'nuther thread.