The South: Mint Juleps and Mullets

What does a non-Southerner need to know to understand the South?

I confess, I am perplexed by the South. I live a mere five miles below the Mason-Dixon line, so I get a touch of exposure to what I'm going to call "Southern notions" that contrast with the image of the ur-redneck we've been fed by popular media.

These are things like a particular kind of politeness (more properly thought of as manners), and refusing charity. There's this Southern ideal of a kind of bruised gentility that causes a bit of cognitive dissonance when you realize, This was a society that owned slaves.

Are there two Souths? Someone in another thread talked of a conflict between rich and poor, and their differing attitudes antebellum. Just as there is a strong strain of hospitality and social openness, there is also a strong sense of tribalism and grudge-holding; I think of the border skirmish between Kansas and Missouri that got people's backs up in a GWJ thread up 150 years later.

EDIT: For great clarity!

So you're dissapointed that they don't meet the stereotypes? Also, with the slavery thing, I doubt you are going to find anyone still alive that owned slaves so we should be able to bypass that.

I'm going to tamper with the original post to give it a bit of needed clarity and focus.

If possible, I'd like to avoid the, "Well, I didn't own any slaves" line of discussion as there are diversionary arguments that could easily spin off from that.

Now, where did I leave my 3 meter pole...?

As someone currently being scolded in another thread for a snarky aside about the south, let's see where this goes

Perhaps there wouldn't be so much dissonance if you considered your views on the south as a "former slave-owning society" to be horribly outdated (by 150 years) and silly. There are far more influential factors such as the keeping of a "small town" mentality where politeness isn't only valued but required, and rivalries are both fierce and kill-you-with-kindness friendly.

Well of course the south isn't a monoculture any more than New England, the midwest, etc. And any culture, when you look close enough, is just made up of individuals who are all different.

In any event, the stereotypes are out there -- there are people who'll act like you're thinking. You're probably not in the place to meet many of them though.

As a Southerner who now lives in the Pacific Northwest, I just wanted to say that IMHO racism is a problem in other parts of the country, but in different ways than it is in the South. In my experience, it's a bit more covert on the West Coast. For example, it's a little more socially acceptable in the South to tell racist jokes than in Seattle. On the other hand, Seattle and other West Coast cities I've visited feel very segregated. For the most part, whites and blacks do not have the same day-to-day interactions that I was used to growing up. Everybody pays homage to diversity but I think there's a certain level of mistrust and dislike on both sides that goes unspoken. In the south.

I've also seen several instances of random hate crimes on both sides in recent years.

Anyhow, that's just my observations and experiences. Also, I wanted to add that you can find redneck culture (mullets, gunracks, mobile meth labs) in every state.

Having grown up in Wisconsin and Illinois, after moving to Raleigh the 2 things I noticed most are:

* every day courtesy (thank you's, small talk, etc.) is a little more common, but not massively so
* people here are much more likely to identify specifically as "Southern" and are much more likely to compare themselves to "the North"

Where I grew up, you didn't really think much about "this is the Midwest, here we do things like <blah>." If I thought about it at all, I assumed I was in "the North" because... I lived in the northern half of the country. I pretty much identified as "American" and rarely thought about regional-ness.

I have since had it explained by a number of Southerners that I was very wrong about me being in the North, and that when they say "the North" or "Yankees" they're generally referring to the East coast, north of the Mason-Dixon line. Not even Ohio enters into it. Perhaps this desire to compare is because this area had such an influx of Yankees for tech jobs, or perhaps it really is a more commonly Southern thing, I dunno.

I can say that since I've been here is that I don't really encounter stereotypical racism or anything like that (you do see rednecks, but I certainly saw those in corn-growin' Illinois too).

Apropos of nothing, I find it hilarious that in Wisconsin, Illinois, and North Carolina, I've heard the phrase, "well we live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, so..." when making fun of some over-the-top religious crazy news. =)

Maybe you didn't really think much about what people do in the Midwest because there's absolutely nothing to do out there?

LobsterMobster wrote:

Maybe you didn't really think much about what people do in the Midwest because there's absolutely nothing to do out there? ;)

Au contraire. There was a rich culture of talking about needing to get out of there because it was boring.

The only thing I, as a guy from Alabama, get called out on when in other parts of the country is calling everyone ma'am and sir. I usually don't have a problem with the sir as much but I've gotten chewed out a few times for saying "Yes, ma'am" or "No, ma'am" to a woman because somehow they find that offensive? I don't really get that and will always explain that I was just raised to say that and it is meant in respect.

Possibly it implies to a woman that they're of a certain old matronly age. Also, in the northeast the rare times you get a "yes, sir" or "no, mamm" usually involve a cop calling you that in a surly tone that implies he's saying it only because the higher ups force him to say it. Using those words, cops have perfected the art of calling someone "dogsh*t" without actually using the term.

Funkenpants wrote:

Possibly it implies to a woman that they're of a certain old matronly age. Also, in the northeast the rare times you get a "yes, sir" or "no, mamm" usually involve a cop calling you that in a surly tone that implies he's saying it only because the higher ups force him to say it. Using those words, cops have perfected the art of calling someone "dogsh*t" without actually using the term.

Do you have a problem with authority, sir?

Kehama wrote:

The only thing I, as a guy from Alabama, get called out on when in other parts of the country is calling everyone ma'am and sir. I usually don't have a problem with the sir as much but I've gotten chewed out a few times for saying "Yes, ma'am" or "No, ma'am" to a woman because somehow they find that offensive? I don't really get that and will always explain that I was just raised to say that and it is meant in respect.

I've run into the same problem. Granted I also grew up in a military family, so that was doubly expected.

Paleocon wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:

Possibly it implies to a woman that they're of a certain old matronly age. Also, in the northeast the rare times you get a "yes, sir" or "no, mamm" usually involve a cop calling you that in a surly tone that implies he's saying it only because the higher ups force him to say it. Using those words, cops have perfected the art of calling someone "dogsh*t" without actually using the term.

Do you have a problem with authority, sir?

No ma'am.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
Funkenpants wrote:

Possibly it implies to a woman that they're of a certain old matronly age. Also, in the northeast the rare times you get a "yes, sir" or "no, mamm" usually involve a cop calling you that in a surly tone that implies he's saying it only because the higher ups force him to say it. Using those words, cops have perfected the art of calling someone "dogsh*t" without actually using the term.

Do you have a problem with authority, sir?

No ma'am.

Just don't call me "dude".

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:

Are there two Souths? Someone in another thread talked of a conflict between rich and poor, and their differing attitudes antebellum.

That might have been me here or here or here.

It's one of those pieces of lost history that fascinates me especially because it drives American politics to this day. Also of interest is the book Albion's Seed:

Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (ISBN 0-19-506905-6) is a 1989 book by David Hackett Fischer which describes four regional British cultures or ‘folkways’ which, the author argues, were transplanted to North America during the large-scale migrations of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Fischer postulates that these cultures have persisted, providing the origin or ‘hearth’ of four regional cultures now found throughout much of the modern United States, and that the friction between these cultures has been one of the decisive forces in American political and social history since the mid 18th Century.

I like how everyone on Justified makes fun of the dude's cowboy hat. There are Yankees, there are Rebels...and then there are Texans.

Oh, and of course, the food: http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/5...

edit: how could I forget this

and of interest is the phenomenon of the American Hollow:

Question: anyone see that recent 'documentary' on like History Channel or something about the America South with the linguist talking about how the accent we associate with the 'southern belle' is basically the Received Pronunciation of the British uppper class at the time but spoken with a singsong lilt? I only caught part of it and I'd like to see the whole thing.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Question: anyone see that recent 'documentary' on like History Channel or something about the America South with the linguist talking about how the accent we associate with the 'southern belle' is basically the Received Pronunciation of the British uppper class at the time but spoken with a singsong lilt? I only caught part of it and I'd like to see the whole thing.

Parents used to say that it was people being too lazy to enunciate and bugged us contantly to point of being scary about it. What was funny is when we moved down here that it wasnt even a month before they were talking like they never left the South.

Being from America's Canada I don't have much firsthand knowledge of the South. I did however enjoy Rich Hall's The Dirty South where he takes a look on how the South has been portrayed by Hollywood.

edit:some NSFW language.

I highly recommend Stephen Fry's analysis of the South.

I just gotta say, you may be near the mason dixon line, but as someone who grew up in northern Virginia, now lives in Richmond, VA and is married to a woman who would identify herself as southern, you don't live near southern culture. You don't really get to the 'south' until you pass the sweet tea line. There's actually quite a noticable difference from where I grew up and where I live now.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

I just gotta say, you may be near the mason dixon line, but as someone who grew up in northern Virginia, now lives in Richmond, VA and is married to a woman who would identify herself as southern, you don't live near southern culture. You don't really get to the 'south' until you pass the sweet tea line. There's actually quite a noticable difference from where I grew up and where I live now.

Sounds like being Scottish and the soft tongue of the lowlanders!

mrtomaytohead wrote:

I just gotta say, you may be near the mason dixon line, but as someone who grew up in northern Virginia, now lives in Richmond, VA and is married to a woman who would identify herself as southern, you don't live near southern culture. You don't really get to the 'south' until you pass the sweet tea line. There's actually quite a noticable difference from where I grew up and where I live now.

The sweet tea line presumably starting at or near Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy?

[Re:Richmond — Tim Barry's "Downtown VCU." Best. Song. Ever.]

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

I just gotta say, you may be near the mason dixon line, but as someone who grew up in northern Virginia, now lives in Richmond, VA and is married to a woman who would identify herself as southern, you don't live near southern culture. You don't really get to the 'south' until you pass the sweet tea line. There's actually quite a noticable difference from where I grew up and where I live now.

The sweet tea line presumably starting at or near Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy?

[Re:Richmond — Tim Barry's "Downtown VCU." Best. Song. Ever.]

That song is awesome but not even in a top 5 of my favorite Tim Barry songs.

I lived in Richmond for 7 years and I've never heard of the sweet tea line but I love that phrase.

Northern Virginia really needs to be it's own state.

gregrampage wrote:
H.P. Lovesauce wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

I just gotta say, you may be near the mason dixon line, but as someone who grew up in northern Virginia, now lives in Richmond, VA and is married to a woman who would identify herself as southern, you don't live near southern culture. You don't really get to the 'south' until you pass the sweet tea line. There's actually quite a noticable difference from where I grew up and where I live now.

The sweet tea line presumably starting at or near Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy?

[Re:Richmond — Tim Barry's "Downtown VCU." Best. Song. Ever.]

That song is awesome but not even in a top 5 of my favorite Tim Barry songs.

I lived in Richmond for 7 years and I've never heard of the sweet tea line but I love that phrase.

Northern Virginia really needs to be it's own state.

+1 to Northern VA being it's own state.

Sweet tea can usually be had in Fredericksburg, which is about the half way point from DC to Richmond. I mostly consider it to be around there. But Fredericksburg is a weird place as some people have started commuting from there to DC. And some people who have no clue what they're talking about (friends who've lived in Richmond their whole lives) think Fredericksburg is part Northern Virginia. And that commute argument will not work on me. People also commute from West Virginia. The state. The biggest identifier to me, though is how people act north of Fredericksburg.

Also, what's a mint julep?

mrtomaytohead wrote:
gregrampage wrote:
H.P. Lovesauce wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

I just gotta say, you may be near the mason dixon line, but as someone who grew up in northern Virginia, now lives in Richmond, VA and is married to a woman who would identify herself as southern, you don't live near southern culture. You don't really get to the 'south' until you pass the sweet tea line. There's actually quite a noticable difference from where I grew up and where I live now.

The sweet tea line presumably starting at or near Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy?

[Re:Richmond — Tim Barry's "Downtown VCU." Best. Song. Ever.]

That song is awesome but not even in a top 5 of my favorite Tim Barry songs.

I lived in Richmond for 7 years and I've never heard of the sweet tea line but I love that phrase.

Northern Virginia really needs to be it's own state.

+1 to Northern VA being it's own state.

Sweet tea can usually be had in Fredericksburg, which is about the half way point from DC to Richmond. I mostly consider it to be around there. But Fredericksburg is a weird place as some people have started commuting from there to DC. And some people who have no clue what they're talking about (friends who've lived in Richmond their whole lives) think Fredericksburg is part Northern Virginia. And that commute argument will not work on me. People also commute from West Virginia. The state. The biggest identifier to me, though is how people act north of Fredericksburg.

Also, what's a mint julep?

Fredericksburg has Carl's Frozen Custard, which automatically makes it awesome

Tanglebones wrote:

Fredericksburg has Carl's Frozen Custard, which automatically makes it awesome :)

YES

gregrampage wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:

Fredericksburg has Carl's Frozen Custard, which automatically makes it awesome :)

YES

Never spent much time there, but drive through (up 95 and west on 3) to get to my parents. Whereabouts is this magical place you speak of?

mrtomaytohead wrote:
gregrampage wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:

Fredericksburg has Carl's Frozen Custard, which automatically makes it awesome :)

YES

Never spent much time there, but drive through (up 95 and west on 3) to get to my parents. Whereabouts is this magical place you speak of?

http://www.hollyeats.com/Carls.htm