The book’s authors, Jennifer Adams and Johanna Chapman, run a firm called Atlanta Accent Management. 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 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 to the South, why do we have to change the way we talk? Why don’t they learn to talk like us? Adams and 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 Adams and 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 ya’ll 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Ga. 31139.