Southerners talk funny.
Pure hogwash. The Southern dialect is soft and beautifully cadenced and makes up the largest accent group in the US. Some of our most popular terms are: y’all, short for “you all;” reckon, which means “to think, imagine, or suppose;” fixin’ to, which lets people know you’re “getting ready to” do something. As in, “I’m fixin’ to tell you a few stories.”
Southerners are fat.
While it’s true that the fattest states are in the South, folks in the rest of the country aren’t exactly walking around looking like beanpoles.
Country music sucks.
Whenever someone says this, I think Bless your heart. It only takes one artist to change your mind about an entire genre. For me it was David Allan Coe.
I went to one of his shows. He was sitting shirtless on a stool — tattoos and belly hanging everywhere — swigging George Dickel from the bottle. Halfway through “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” Coe spit up on himself like a wicked baby. A performer does this and you think Well, he can’t possibly top that. Oddly enough, he did. Guitar in hand, Coe proceeded to tear the roof off, changing my perception of country music (and functioning alcoholics) forever.
Everyone lives in a trailer.
This is false. Whenever a tornado hits some small Southern town, the news reporters usually cruise over to some devastated trailer park and ignore the surrounding area. Is this bad reporting? Yes and no. On one hand, it’s not exactly fair and balanced. On the other, they are giving people what they want.
If a tornado is going to touch down, many Americans, I think, would prefer to see it touch down on a trailer park in the South. We want reporters to interview the victims. We want them to be fat with curlers in their hair, smoking a broken cigarette and jabbering things that confirm our preconceptions of what it means to be a “redneck” or “trailer trash.” In the internet age, this is video gold.
Southerners hate gays.
As a native of North Carolina, a state which has voted to prohibit any kind of same-sex union, I can see why a non-Southerner would say this. But you’re wrong. Southerners love gays, so much so that we’ll do whatever it takes to protect them from having to endure painful dinner conversations with in-laws, or giving away half their stuff when they divorce.
Please do not tell me about equal rights — I don’t have a facetious comment for that yet.
Southerners are not well traveled.
In my experience, Southerners do travel, but more times than not they tend to travel around the South. Growing up, I’d been from DC to New Orleans to Key West, but had never been north of the Mason-Dixon line. I had no interest in seeing the North until I was 21, when a college buddy from New Jersey persuaded me to drive up to visit. I would later drive across the US and travel and live in Asia and then Europe.
We’re all crazy about deer hunting.
Some, but not all. The last time I was visiting my parents, two men knocked on our door. “Good morning,” they said, and asked if they could shoot the squirrels in our yard. A strange request. The men were wearing camouflage and carrying high-tech pellet guns. My mom said okay (she hates squirrels messing with her bird feeder) and the men spent the morning stalking around the edge of our yard like cats, staring up at the trees.
The Squirrel Hunters returned the following week with a plastic container of squirrel stew, as a thank-you. It was pretty gamy, but when we fed it to the dogs, they went absolutely wild.
Southerners love their guns too much.
I did not know this was even a thing until I went off to college. Growing up, everyone I knew had like seven or eight guns in the house, no big deal. When I was ten or so, our whole family would head into the woods and practice shooting at cans set up like a shooting gallery. Our family didn’t believe in hunting — mom made that clear — but it was understood that if anyone ever broke into our home, they were fair game.
Is that too much?
We wear camo everywhere, even church.
Many Southerners wear camo the way some golfers wear golf shirts off the course. Camo is functional in that it helps hunters blend into their surroundings to fool prey. But it’s also an extension of personality, enabling its wearer to blend into certain social circles, the subtext reading, I hunt therefore I am.
But I’ve never heard of anyone wearing camo to church in earnest — even amongst die-hard hunters this would be considered inappropriate. Though that doesn’t mean it’s never happened.
Everyone in the South drinks Mountain Dew.
Not true. When I was growing up, I had a friend who was a soft drink aficionado. His whole family was. My friend’s drink of choice was Mello Yello. His older brother drank Sun Drop. His mother drank Diet Pepsi. His step-dad only drank Dr. Pepper. His oldest brother drank Mountain Dew, and though he’d already moved out, they kept a bottle around for when he came to visit.
Once, I mistakenly poured myself a glass of Sun Drop, and my friend told me, with absolute seriousness, never to drink anyone else’s soft drink without their permission. It was a house rule. After that, the bottles huddled on the kitchen table began to look more and more like a plastic depiction of his family.
Everyone is inbred.
I’ve only known one person who married a cousin. I remember she showed us her engagement ring on the school bus. People’s first question was, “You’re engaged?” followed by “To who?” We all lived in a pretty rural area, but her answer to this second question was flat-out bonkers no matter where you lived.
Everyone makes moonshine.
You wish! I’ve had the good fortune of coming across a batch of moonshine from time to time. One Christmas morning I found a jar of it in my stocking. The note attached read “From Santa” and looked suspiciously like my mother’s handwriting. Not everyone makes moonshine, though, and that’s one of the things that makes it special.
Barbecue is just barbecue.
This is just plain wrong. Barbecue, like dialects, changes with the region. In North Carolina, for example, there’s Lexington-style barbecue, a vinegar-and-ketchup-type sauce that uses only the pork shoulder. And there’s Eastern Carolina barbecue, which uses every part of the hog except the squeal. It’s chopped up and drenched with a vinegar-and-pepper-based sauce with no tomato whatsoever.
In college I took a geography course called the “Geography of Barbecue.” Best field trips ever.
Chewing tobacco is gross.
I don’t think so. I used to work at a golf course with an old groundskeeper named Jimmy. We’d talk every day, but once a month or so he’d pull out a pouch of Red Man and say, “You want a little chaw?” His voice was very kind. I’d take the occasional chew with him, and there we were, two guys sitting in a golf cart on a hot summer day, spitting into the pine straw.
Yes, old Jimmy might have developed a fatal mouth cancer by now, and yes, chewing tobacco is a nasty habit, but memories have a funny way of filtering out the negative.
Southerners are racist.
I included this argument because it is a common one. My first instinct was to exclude it altogether — an easy way out. Nobody would probably notice or say anything. But this strikes me as kinda cowardly. My biggest fear is coming back to this piece one day and seeing a hole, a place where I shied away — like a scaredy cat, basically.
I wish I had a story to tell, but this feels better than nothing.