If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time you know I’m a proud, homegrown Mississippi girl. Back home I’m a dime-a-dozen, but here in my DC suburb I’m somewhat of a unique specimen. Just when I think I’m fitting the mold, I open my mouth and blow my cover–I’m not from around here.
Sometimes it gets really awkward how “not from around here” I am. Who knew the proper term for something falling over wasn’t “tumped?” Certainly not me. You mean “sprawled” isn’t a verb used nationwide for things being spread-out? Absurd.
Occasionally, I even have to stop and explain common Southern sayings. The conversation skips a beat, and that’s when I realize I’ve used language that’s routine among my people, but basically gibberish to the rest of the world.
Once at the bus stop, moms were discussing that they hadn’t seen a certain neighbor in a long time. I replied, “You know, I haven’t seen them in a month of Sundays.” From the quizzical expressions, I knew a proper definition was required, and followed up with, “It means a really long time.”
Sometimes people just nod their heads in agreement, bless their little hearts. Like the time I told a friend I wasn’t going to attend an event because it was just “too much sugar for a nickel.” She wholeheartedly agreed, but later texted, “What did you mean about the nickel and sugar?”
I explained I think it means “too much of a good thing is too much.” But sayings like these were inherited, and quite honestly there was some mystery–even to me– to the idiosyncrasies of my vocabulary.
Very often I find myself talking differently when surrounded by different accents. It’s not to fit-in I assure you, it’s more like survival of the fittest–I just want them to be able to understand me. If left around non-Southerners too long, I’ll begin speaking in a quick, precise, somewhat nasal manner. Yes, I said nasal.
Contrarily, my drawl thickens when I’m back home visiting. A few days into one particular Mississippi visit my oldest child said, “Mama, you’re really talking Mississippi.” This has become a family quote. Whenever the kids hear anyone with a Southern accent–whether it’s on a cartoon or in the grocery store–they get so excited, “MAMA, THEY’RE TALKIN’ MISSISSIPPI!”
When I was a little girl, my daddy wore a t-shirt supporting Wayne Dowdy, a Mississippi politician. The campaign slogan read, “I’ll always remember who I am, where I came from, and who sent me.”
I loved that shirt, and even as a child carried a strong sense of pride and honor coming from the unique state of Mississippi. No matter what form you find me in–nasal or nostalgic–I’m always sure to throw in a promo for my home state. I never ever want to forget who I am, and where I came from.
People probably get a little tired of me always “talkin’ Mississippi.” That’s OK, because I get tired of being from a state that’s often underrated and overly scorned. Some folks will never be lucky enough to see how great my state is–her hospitable people of all races, beautiful beaches and bluesy Delta. When I’m talkin’ Mississippi, I’m just doing my part to make sure when folks meet me, they meet Mississippi.