Friday, June 23, 2006

Manners of The South 101. Get a pen. You'll need it.

After our vocabulary lesson on "umpteen dozen" the other day, I thought I would provide a little more information to ya'll about southern manners and rules. Take some notes. There's a lot of them.

Keep in mind that this is only an introductory course. Neither of us have the time or the computer memory for anything more than that.

Those of you who have truly been indoctrinated in southernisms, please add your comments! This is a group effort. I think of it as community service. If we are going to be offended by people who don't follow our rules of etiquette, then the least we can do is help them learn. They can't help it.

Lesson One- "They can't help it." This term is commonly used after a southerner has just outright said something ugly about somebody.
Example: "I tell you what. The family next door is just ugly as homemade sin. But, they can't help it. Bless their hearts."

Lesson Two- "Bless their hearts. Bless her/his heart." This phrase is used after a southerner insults someone either directly or indirectly. Coupled with "she can't help it," the insult must have been a doosey.
Example: "Honey, you just can't sing. I mean, even the dogs down the street were howling. Bless your heart. You can't help it."

Isn't this supposed to be a lesson on southern manners? It is beginning to sound like another vocabulary lesson. Well, it is an etiquette lesson. We southerners aren't perfect. We don't actually like every person on the face of this earth. And, we aren't always nice and pleasant. We are just good at pretending a lot. We'll be honest with you. We'll tell you that, not only did you get hit with the ugly stick, but the entire forest fell on you. But then we have to finish the comment with "bless your heart" and "you can't help it." Because we would never want to actually hurt your feelings.

Lesson Three- Company. Whenever someone comes to your house to stay overnight you have to cook them a meal. If you can't cook, fake it. If you really can't cook, bless your heart. You still have to cook something, honey. It is acceptable to take your company out for a meal. But you have to cook at least one. (For those of you who are lost, "company" is the catch all phrase for anyone who visits your home. And it is pronounced "comp-ny.) You don't have to use your best china. Just make your company feel comfortable and special.

Lesson Four- What to do when you are the company. First, let's start with the basics. You have been invited to dinner at a friend's home. Pay attention to this- TAKE A DISH!! This point cannot be overlooked, especially if the person inviting you is southern. Ask her what you can bring. If she says, "nothing" and you really believe her, take a hostess gift of some kind. If you can't cook, bless your heart, go to Winn Dixie and pick up a pound cake.

Lesson Five- Thank you notes. Notice I said "notes," not email. If someone does anything- for- you- period, send a thank note. Not an email, a real handwritten note, on paper, with a stamp. Now, some of us have really close friends that do things for us all the time. And we do nice things for them. In that case, email is ok. We could just end up thanking each other to death to the point that we clog up the postal system.

One more for today. I'm tired.

Lesson Six- Whenever you see someone, ask her about her mama. Not her daddy. Her mama. I am not sure why the daddy was left out of this. But he was. When you run into a friend in Winn Dixie while you are picking up that pound cake for dinner, say, "Hey! How you doin'? How's your mama?" Your friend will go into her mama's latest illness or ailment or trip. She will also tell you the last time she talked to or saw her mama. If her mama lives in town, she saw her within the last week. If not, I can bet she talked to her on the phone yesterday.

Example of a typical conversation:

"Hey, Stacey! How you doin'? I haven't seen you in forever. How's your mama?"
"Oh, she's doin' pretty good. I just talked to her yesterday. You know she and daddy live in Valdosta now."
"No. I hadn't heard that."
"Yeah. They moved after mama's health got bad. You know she has the rheumatoid."
"I'm sorry to hear that...I saw Beth the other day. She looked just awful. Not a stitch of make-up!"
"You got to be kiddin' me. That girl needs all the help she can get.
Bless her heart. She can't help it."


Nancy said...

So many truths are shared in this post. I want to talk about the other side, the "dark side," the "your mama didn't raise you right" side.

Apparently, there are many people who don't know that if you want to have a party, you do not assign your guests a food to bring. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you don't feel you can accomplish the task of feeding your guests by yourself, don't have a party or ask a friend if they would like to have a party with you. (This is especially the case when hosting a baby shower or bridal shower. Guests required to bring a gift to an honored recipient should not have to feed themselves.)

As said in the post, if you ask nice Southern people over for dinner, they will bring a dish anyway, but you don't get to say what it will be.

Bless your heart, you didn't know any better, but now you do!

Camy Tang said...

This is hilarious! The funny thing is, a lot of it is similar to Asian American culture, too! The whole thing about bringing a dish to a party--oh boy, Mom would have killed me if I went anywhere without SOMETHING in hand, and preferably store-bought if I couldn't cook (which I can't) to cause her less embarassment.

I surfed over from Nancy's blog. :)

BooMama said...

I couldn't help but think of Aunt Alexandra in To Kill A Mockingbird: "There is no truth in the Delafields." And if I had a nickel for everytime my mama had told me that somebody "can't help it" (usually a result of bad breeding or thick ankles)....

Now let's address all these young Southern girls who feel the need to talk like Yankees. Bless their hearts. They can't help it.

Liquid said...

I REALLY enjoyed my visit to your blog! I've bookmarked you! :)

Anonymous said...

Ok...2010 here, but hey, better late than never!

I was actually on the quest to learn about you (and hence win the prizeless contest you posted about today), when I came upon this post.

I was raised (as opposed to "reared") in Alabama. ALL of these things rang true! I LOVE the thank you note points! To this day, I make my own children write them, and they think I'm nuts. Of course, we lived down in South Florida (i.e. "Little New York") for eight years before moving back up to the "South," so I've been re-indoctrining them.

One of my favorite Southernisms is saying "If you say so" when you know someone is wrong. It's the not-so-nice way of saying I'm right and you're wrong, but I'm gonna let you THINK you're right.

I'm off to read the rest of this blog. Should keep me busy for a long time!