Gosh Dang! What’s wrong with a Southern accent?
by Dick Yarbrough
August 12, 2014 09:01 PM | 1824 views | 6 6 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
I just learned of a book called, “Say Goodbye to your Southern Accent.” Gosh dang. What is wrong with a Southern accent?

The book’s authors, Jennifer Adams and Johanna Chapman, run a firm called Atlanta Accent Management. Ms. Adams was quoted in the Atlanta newspapers recently as saying, “We have clients who do business around the country or around the world. They want to be taken seriously.” Evidently, if you drawl and say “y’all,” you could be treated like that snuff-dipping third cousin on your mama’s side with all the young’uns.

A quick peek at my bio will tell you I have had a rather successful career and ran in some pretty fast company. I don’t remember one time having the way I speak be a hindrance. The hindrance was with those who didn’t take me seriously because of my accent. They soon discovered they had made a seriously bad mistake.

Not to belabor the point ,but during the run-up to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, I spent quite a bit of time in Washington dealing with a bunch of folks from Arkansas who talked very much like we talk in Georgia. They seem to have done OK, even if one of them had a problem keeping his britches zipped.

My brother, Bob, who is the epitome of the Southern gentleman, was president of a publishing company in Chicago. He had a successful career, too, and when he retired and moved to Hall County, he sounded just like he did before he went north. You can bet your sweet tea he was taken seriously. He still is. Ask his little brother.

I believe I am eminently qualified to say it matters not a blade of pasture grass whether or not you put a “g” on the end of a gerund. It is more about how much you know about your subject, how hard you work, how self-confident you are, your mental agility, how good you are at dealing with people and issues and whether you want to lead or follow. Thinking a Southern accent impedes you says you don’t have one or all of the above attributes and are what we call down South your basic loser.

A Southern accent can be an asset. You can sneak up on people who think slow talk equates to slow thinking. My daddy used to say that Yankees will tell you all they know when they open their mouths. Southerners will tell you what they want you to know when they want you to know it. Daddy used to say also that painting lines down the middle of our highways was a waste of paint because nobody ever moves north, they all come south.

Which raises a question: If everybody is moving South, why do we have to change the way we talk? Why don’t they learn to talk like us? Ms. Adams and Ms. Chapman could even write a book entitled “Say Goodbye to your Northern Accent for Dang Sure.”

Frankly, I am tired of the condescending attitude people in other parts of the country have toward the South and of those of us who live here and lovingly speak its language.

If you don’t like the way we talk, take your ignorant selves back where you came from and don’t let the door hit you in the hiney as you leave.

It’s a free country, and Ms. Adams and Ms. Chapman have every right to help you rid yourself of your Southern drawl and you have every right to allow them to do so, but as long as I have breath, I will “carry” momma to the grocery store. I will say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” I will say “fixin’ to” instead of “preparing to.” I will eat “p’cahn” pie and leave “pee-cans” to the Yankees for whatever use they choose to make of them. And I will forever say “How ’bout them Dawgs” over yonder in Athens.

If I care about you, I will ask, “How y’all doin’ today?” If I perceive you think I am just another ignorant Southern redneck and you make a futile attempt to sound intellectually-superior to me, I will look at you with all sincerity and say, “Bless your heart.” I will have just heaped the almighty and everlasting Southern insult on your head and you won’t even know it, bless your heart.

And you think I am going to say goodbye to my Southern accent? Are you serious? Fuhgeddaboudit!

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb

Comments-icon Post a Comment
dixie boy
August 14, 2014
You are so right Dick, as someone travels abound the world, who would not want to associate and do business with someone who acts and speaks like the Beverly Hillbillies!
Rhett Butler
August 15, 2014
@dixie boy. Not sure what part of Dixie you are from, but if you think the way they talked on the Beverly Hillbillies bears any resemblance to "Southern Speak", you are sadly mistaken.

In fact, I doubt that anybody, anywhere outside Hollywood, talks that way, or, for that matter, ever did.
dixie boy
August 22, 2014
@Rhett Butler Have you never been to Alabama or Sow Kow-lina. My family is from the North Georgia Mountains and I had some relatives who could out Clampett the Clampett's and they thought they were hilarious. Unfortunately before becoming an area of second homes the Appalachians were a region exemplified by poverty and a lack of education and in many places still are. To be effective stereotypes must have some basis in truth. I doubt many large corporations would prefer some whose speech reminds clients of these stereotypes.
Pete Borden
August 14, 2014
Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! Seems like every now and again, some Yankee, who can't be bothered to learn to speak properly in the South, will come along and try to abolish our charming lingo.

Fact is, they are just jealous, because, outside Boston or the Bronx, they all sound alike regardless of what part of the vast north they call home.

Also, in their ignorance, they try to lump all our myriad dialects under one label "Southern Accent." They are too dense to sense the subtle differences between the way Georgia folks talk and the way South Carolina folks talk.

The best we can do is pat them on the head, while uttering "Bless your heart!" and send them back from whence they came, with their tails between their legs.
Hoss Fly
August 13, 2014
I was asked by a northerner if y'all was singular or plural,to which I replied,singular,"ALL Y'ALL"is plural..Liked your column..
Suthern Woman
August 13, 2014
Mr. Yarbrough,

Wonderful column. I have just printed out your column. I intend to give it to new neighbors and acquaintances, who move to this area and have the crazy idea that I sound funny and not them. As a 8th generation Cobb county resident, I think I have more rights here than they do.

Thank you sugga!
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