Driving to work last week, I found myself behind a bumper sticker that read S.C.A.R.Y.—Southern Citizens Advocating the Removal of Yankees. I’m not sure whether I would qualify as a yankee to the driver responsible for the sticker. I was born in Indiana (yankee territory for sure, although the place where my family lives is right across the Ohio from Kentucky), and I’ve lived in Vermont and Pennsylvannia. Yet I’ve spent most of my life down south (Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee) and feel at home here. (Though, I’m so blue I scanned job listings and real estate ads for a way out of the red states sometime last November before the rational part of my brain—yes there is one—kicked back on.)
I know my high school gym teacher considered me a yankee. On my first day in a Tennessee school he called me one, with a sneaky little laugh that really meant, “Yeah, I’m laughing now, but you just try a ‘you guys’ instead of ‘y’all’ in my company and we’ll see where we stand.” Later on that week, he made me run laps around the gym because I was talking in class. I kept running until my fellow students pleaded my case to him and won, “Come on coach, she’s new. She didn’t know better.” Translate: “She’s from up north, where people talk too fast and don’t really know what the hell they’re talking ‘bout.” At that point, I wanted to flee back to PA, but I’ve gotten over that now. Kind of.
In a previous post, I refered to my status here as “not quite a yankee but not southern born,” and I suppose that’s how I’ll always feel. That’s OK. I married a true southern boy,* who will probably never leave Tennessee, at least not for some backwards place where sweet tea isn’t even on the menu. (He won’t ever live elswhere, I mean. He will exit the state on vacations and the like.)
I still waver between “you guys” and “y’all,” preferring the former when writing and switching between the two at random (with no idea why one comes out of my mouth instead of the other) when talking. Come to think of it, I like “y’all” better really. It is much more efficient and fun to say, but I can’t quite shake the yankee talk. So, bring on the bumper stickers you guys. I’m here to stay.
*Although, some people here in K-town don’t believe David when he claims he’s a native son. “Where’re you from?” asked the waitress at Shoney’s, her tone making it clear he must be from somewhere else. “Here,” answered David. And what do you think she did? She glared at him and walked away. She thought he was lying, making fun of her. Poor guy. He’s lived in East Tennessee his whole life, but even though he clearly has a southern accent, he doesn’t twang like the best of them.