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Y'all talk right now, ya hear? - Michael Davis

We in the South have a special vocabulary and manner of speech.

It's much lampooned by our great Southern humorists like Lewis Grizzard and Jeff Foxworthy, but we're apparently not the only ones who talk funny.

As I was scanning the news the other day, I came across a story reported by Reuters and taken out of the state newspaper about the government of Shanghai, China requiring citizens who speak bad Mandarin to attend speech classes to learn how to talk right.

I'm not sure that would go over too well here. In fact, I'm sure it wouldn't.

The effort is an apparent attempt to homogenize the different dialects spoken in Shanghai ahead of some sort of World Expo in 2010. I guess it would be like when the Olympics came to Atlanta and the whole world was watching Bubba on TV with a plastic cup of beer and a camouflage hat with mesh in the back.

A spokeswoman for the government told the newspaper that "Chinese see Shanghainese as a foreign language."

Well, to some of y'all from up north, Southernese may be a foreign language.

Coke, down here, is not a proper noun. It applies to all forms of sweetened, carbonated water. And tea applies only to the variety sweetened with so much sugar your spoon stands on end. We like our tea crunchy down here.

And having "et" is something you've done in the past at the time of consuming a meal.

I've done some traveling in my life, but I was always warned that when you order tea at a restaurant up north, you got the bitter, unsweet variety. And I've done my fair share of waiting tables and when asked for tea, I learned real quick to ask which kind because so many of Yankees had come down here and didn't know what tea was.

I have, however, broadened my horizons a bit and learned to drink my tea unsweetened, as much as it shames me. Whenever I go to lunch or dinner with people, especially people from the South, I get funny looks when I order it, and I don't dare order it with a lime.

There was a country song on the radio a while back that was sort of a nostalgic look back at the "way it was back when." It talked about how a hoe was not a streetwalker but a garden tool and the only thing that blew was the wind. You know, back when.

If the government ever came down here to tell us we had to stop saying "y'all" or "et" because it wasn't part of the official lexicon, it might start Civil War II. And we would prob'ly win it this time.

Michael Davis covers government for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or at mdavis@henryherald.com .