1. Not all southern accents sound the same.
Take the word “HILLS” for example. This is what it sounds like by regional accent:
Charlestonian: rhymes with “pills,” has 1.5 syllables, and comes from the chest/throat
Eastern, TN: rhymes with “peels,” has 1.5 syllables, and comes from the nose
Effingham, GA: rhymes with “peels” and has 2 FULL syllables with the emphasis on the HE-ills
2. You can predict whether the tide is high or low with your eyes closed – by smell.
In the movie Monsters, Inc., Mike is getting ready for a date and asks Sully if he can borrow some “oderant.” Their exchange goes like this:
Sully: Yeah, I got, uh, Smelly Garbage or Old Dumpster.
Mike: You got, Low Tide?
Mike: How about Wet Dog?
Sully: Yep. Stink it up.
The fact that “Low Tide” made the list of oderants with smelly garbage and wet dog was totally lost on me until we moved here.
Our realtor told us some people like the smell of the marsh and I thought she was crazy, but it grows on you – like the smell of cow manure. Not all cow manure smells bad. Sometimes it just smells like home.
3. Goody’s Powder and BC Powder are staples in southern medicine cabinets.
My first few months at Vandy went like this:
Me: “Have you taken anything for your [headache, back pain, stomach ache, gout, vomiting, heartburn, ringing in your ears, etc.]?”
Patient: “Oh yeah, I took 3 or 4 Goody’s”
Me: “You took what?”
Goody’s is a powdered mix of aspirin, Tylenol, and caffeine and people down here eat it for all that ails them.
4. Chik-fil-a is A THING.
It’s what people give up for lent. It’s the fast food people get multiple times a week. Every afternoon there’s a line of cars wrapped out of the parking lot and a line of people at the counter too. When we first moved here, my husband would say:
“I don’t get it. It’s a chicken sandwich, people!”
But, now we wait in those long lines to get our kids their chicken nuggets and waffle fries at least once a week.
It’s a thing. I can’t explain it. It just is.
5. There are big roaches and there are little roaches, but there’s no such thing as no roaches.
When we first moved into our house, I heard an army scuttling out of sight every time I turned on the attic light. The floors were covered with what looked like tiny chocolate sprinkles or cinders from shingles – except no one eats ice cream in the attic and we have a tin roof so it didn’t make sense. I had to face the fact that it was roach poop.
Roaches (both small and big) are harmless enough, but they do cause a fright scurrying up a wall at night and make a cringe-worthy crunch when you step on them.
I un-invite these guests with pesticides, but our 2-year-old keeps inviting them back with trails of food on the floor.
6. “Buggies” aren’t just for babies.
I have had several exchanges that went like this:
Kind person: “Do you want my buggy?”
Me: “Your what?”
Kind, patient person: “My buggy.”
Me: “Uh, no, but I’ll take your cart if you want me to.”
7. The food warms your heart and swells your waistline.
Southern culinary classics include biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, okra, collard greens, and peach cobbler. When I took my first bite of a praline, I thought, “Hmm. It just tastes like butter and sugar.” And when I couldn’t stop breaking off pieces and eating them, I realized that sweet buttery flavor is exactly what makes them so addictive! I’ve hosted a Low Country Boil and made my own banana pudding. I love fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. I’ve gained 15 pounds. Southern food is a friend to your soul and the enemy of your favorite pair of jeans!
8. Kudzu is everywhere!
As a lover of southern fiction, I read numerous references to the ubiquity of kudzu. I looked for it for months and thought, if it’s everywhere how come I haven’t seen it? I spent some time with google images and realized it is everywhere. Alone, it wouldn’t look like much, but it adds a blanket or canopy of green to things that are already green. Lushness upon lushness. Organic decadence and excess. It’s nature’s way of saying sometimes more is more.
9. Poisonous things like warm weather too.
I never saw a poisonous spider or snake bite in the E.D. in Michigan. Down here I’ve treated a number of patients with brown recluse and copperhead bites. I am sure to stomp around outside and make lots of noise so they know I’m too big to eat. The worst snake bites I have seen have been on people who were trying to pick them up (and I’m not that stupid) so I don’t worry about them too much. Just a little.
10. Southerners may be as sweet as tupelo honey, but they move like it pours: slowly.
Everything is slower in the south. Urgency is an acquaintance rather than a well-known companion. People talk slow, drive slow, eat slow, serve slow. What’s the rush? You wouldn’t think you’d get used to this, but you do. The pace grows on you like kudzu and you barely realize it until you’re blending in.
Photo credits: cover, J. Stephen Conn creative commons license.