contributed by Dr James Everett
LS Cultural Committee Chairman, Maybinton, South Carolina
8) More endangered words. Here are two more endangered words to add to our list. Let’s try to use them whenever we can.
8.d) Tote. Southerners usually tote rather than carry. Northerners tote up figures on bank accounts, but Southerners tote the pitcher of tea to the supper table. We Southerners also tote water and tote packages and tote the vegetables from the garden in summer. Southern students tote their books to school. Southern policemen tote guns. Southern workers tote their dinners to work. I reckon you would also have to say Southerners have been forced to tote the national guilt-and-shame burden all alone for a great many years now, like poor Atlas toting the world on his shoulders and no one else to share in the load. We have, however, never heard of a Southern card-toting Communist, a Southern restaurant called a tote-out, or a Southern vehicle called a tote-all. Just as well too.
As for 8.e) Mash, have you ever gotten on the elevator in a Northern city (like Atlanta or Charlotte) and been glared at or looked at cross-eyed for saying ‘Mash three please’? One wonders whether it is the word mash or the good-mannered, foreign-sounding please that causes the amused or shocked looks or the smile of superiority or scorn. Probably it is a combination of both—too much to bear in the impersonal zombie-like atmosphere of an elevator cube. Southerners mash buttons rather than press them. Press just sounds too elegantly prissy to describe such a mechanical process. We mash potatoes too, rather than whip them. (Why punish potatoes? They haven’t done any wrong. One reckons though, that when a culture [non-culture?] hates itself, why should its potatoes escape the scourge?)
Our Category 8 can up to this point yield a kind of ultimate Southern sentence: Children should be raised to help their mammas set the supper table and tote in the food.
Category 9. Pronunciation. 9.a) Rations. Most non-Southerners pronounce rations with a long a to make it rhyme with nations. Southerners usually say rations with the a softened to the a in at and cat.
9.b) I. Most non-Southerners pronounce the personal pronoun I like eye, with the long vowel ringing in the air like an annoying, high-pitched bell. Southerners usually pronounce it like ah, a quieter, more comfortable, less egotistical sound. We all know that the Southerner often converts a word’s final syllable er into ah. But both these two above-listed pronunciations also provide clues to why the Southern language is softer, more pleasing, more musical, and less harsh and abrasive than some other English tongues.