Yes Sir, No Ma’am!

There’s a game I like to play other than the license plate game. It’s called the “where are you from game.”

Now that I have lived in five states in two distinct regions and have settled in South Carolina, whenever I meet someone, I enjoy trying to figure out if they are native to the South or from another region.  Living in a military and a university town as well as an area where I have met many retirees, I am constantly entertaining myself this way.

I cannot pinpoint the specific state with the exception of New York and New Jersey. With New York, thanks to my friend Dari from Long Island, I can usually distinguish a Long Island accent from an individual from another area of New York. (Upstate New York is not so easy.) I am working on the Midwest now with a few friends from Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

New Jersey has a unique accent which I have observed from my own siblings. Aunt Ar and Uncle Mart, for example, have different accents than Aunt Ellen since they live closer to New York City. Aunt El is a bit less Northern and may have pick up some of her pronunciations from Pennsylvania. This makes the “aw” sound when she serves Grandma a cup of coffee not as drawn out as the other two, who lean more toward giving her a “cup of cawwwwwfee.”

Sometimes speed is a clue, which Mark was the first to point out when he visited New Jersey many years ago. Jamie, since returning to the Garden State, the rest of the family, including Casey, has difficulty understanding you because we have lost some of our fast-talking interpretation skills. (This is not saying I talk as fast as my fellow South Carolinians, but I have now become more aware of speed and continue to make an effort to slow down.)

There are distinct regional differences in our choice of beverages, but I will only mention one of my favorites—tea. We had a new member in our book club. When I approached the table where we were all sitting, I could not hear what she was saying but was able to hear her rapid-fire conversation. “She’s from the North,” I thought. When I got closer and heard her order “iced tea,” I knew I was correct. As you all know, in New Jersey we order tea or iced tea. In the South, it is a choice of three: hot tea, sweet tea, and unsweet tea and the last two are always served cold.

The most difficult adjustment was being called ma’am. It took several years before embracing and now enjoying the respect and politeness of the title. When I saw young women such as yourselves being addressed in this manner, I got over feeling it meant “you are old.” So when a man working in the produce department of Publix said to me, “Have you found what you are looking for, Miss?” I played my game and asked, “By any chance are you originally from a Northern state?” The answer was “Connecticut.” Score for me!

We are working on teaching Bryce to say, “Yes, sir or yes ma’am,” but he doesn’t understand the male/female differences. When I say, “What do you say to Daddy?” he answers, “Yes, sir.” However, “What do you say Mommy?” may also elicit the same response.  But I am working very hard on perfecting this with him so that when he visits Aunt Arlene, he knows how to very enthusiastically and very cutely say, “Yes ma’am” to his great Aunt Ar.

You just need to go with the flow!

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