I was born in Tennessee.
And even though I’ve lived in New York City for the past decade, I still take my tea sweet, my chicken fried and my biscuits buttered. I’m proud to call myself a gun-toting, Bible-clinging Tennessee Volunteer.
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So you can imagine my befuddlement when I learned the Oak Ridge National Laboratory wanted to crack down on workers who have Southern accents by holding a “Southern Accent Reduction” course.
In other words, them government folks want to learn us rednecks how to talk right. Bless their hearts.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the government-managed facility wanted to bring in a “nationally certified speech pathologist and accent reduction trainer.”
“Feel confident in a meeting when you need to speak with a more neutral American accent, and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it,” read a notice that was sent to workers.
A neutral American accent? That sounds about as appealing as a fermented soy sandwich with a side of bean curd.
Needless to say, Oak Ridge’s edict stirred up a mess of trouble and they eventually called off the class.
“Given the way that it came across, they decided to cancel it,” lab spokesman David Keim told the newspaper.
So what’s wrong with a Southern drawl?
“Scientific American” reported in 2012 that some Americans say a Southern accent sounds “ignorant.”
“Studies have shown that whether you are from the North or South, a Southern twang pegs the speaker as comparatively dimwitted, but also likely to be a nicer person than folks who speak like a Yankee,” the publication reported in 2012.
Folks, if Southern-fried stereotypes like that don’t grip your grits, I don’t know what will.
For the record, Southerners do not talk funny. We just like to savor our vowels – let them linger for a bit.
I’m beginning to wonder if this attack on Southern diction is part of a much larger crusade to eradicate our way of life – our traditions.
A few weeks ago, a liberal reader took me to task for mentioning that Tennesseans enjoy eating catfish and hush puppies. The reader accused me of stereotyping.
I tried to explain to the guy that I happened to be from Tennessee and I enjoy eating both fried catfish and hush puppies.
It’s not stereotyping. It’s just good eatin’.
I mentioned that encounter on my Facebook page and soon my newsfeed lit up with irate readers. A fan from New York mentioned that he loved catfish. Some church ladies from Alabama said they eat their fish with a side of white beans. And a guy from Dallas reminded that the catfish are actually bigger in Texas.
Why, I even received correspondence from someone living among the liberals of the Pacific Northwest. He said they’ve been known to throw down with some deep fried halibut and cornbread.
The general consensus is that folks who don’t like the Southern way of life should just mind their own business.
It’s probably a good thing I didn’t mention that I enjoy hoe cakes, too.
I have noticed, though, that Southern traditions are under assault. They’re serving barbecue tofu in Asheville and tuna tartar at the Opryland Hotel. It won’t be too long before aspiring country music stars use spray-on tan.
Just the other day, I was in Texas and ordered a glass of sweet tea and a buttermilk biscuit. The waitress told me they stopped serving sweet tea – and the only bread product they had was something called a bran muffin with flax seed. I’m sure it’s quite tasty – if you happen to be a constipated bird.
Friends, the South is suffering from something call culture creep and it’s spreading across Dixie like kudzu. One day your neighborhood diner is serving unsweetened tea –and the next day your neighborhood is home to a yoga shop, a Prius dealership and a farm to table restaurant serving eggs delivered by an Amish midwife.
I’m a bit disappointed Oak Ridge decided to cancel the class, though. I was looking forward to watching the feds teach a bunch of good ole boys how to converse like federal government bureaucrats.
It’s not every day you get to see somebody talk out their wazoo.