Tears and Laughter: Why I Sound Southern
October 1, 2019 | View PDF
I was recently a guest on a podcast and some of my readers – specifically my mother and daughters – listened to it. A couple of their friends who were trapped in the car with them at the time had no choice but to listen too.
The main thing we were supposed to talk about was a column I had written on the difference between being Southern and being country, but ended up we talked mostly about the wastewater situation in parts of Lowndes and Wilcox counties that were headlining the news that week.
Yep. There I was, finally asked to discuss something I had written…and it turned into a discussion about the leading septic systems choices in rural Alabama.
But, as I mentioned, Mama and the girls and some of their friends were all nice enough to listen. One of them, wanting to be polite but not sure of what to say said, “Ms. Amanda, you sure did sound Southern.”
That is a problem of mine. I have been sounding Southern most all of my life.
I think it is due mainly to the fact that I am Southern. Not just Southern, but also country. I was raised in the country. Most of my friends are country. My people are country. My family has been in Alabama since before it was Alabama. I have made it about thirty miles from where they first put down roots. I still live on a farm. What am I supposed to speak?
When I was younger I went through a phase where I tried to not speak like I was not from the country. I moved to Montgomery as soon as I graduated high school. I bought a Montgomery Advertiser and spread it out in front of me on a table at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I was looking for a job. Any job. I was about to start college. I needed flexible hours.
The classified ads of course were in alphabetical order. I started at the top circling the maybes. The first place I called was the first circle on the page, a restaurant called Country’s Barbecue was hiring on the Southern Bypass. The sign out front said they had the prettiest waitresses in town. And they did.
I was hired immediately. Not for my looks though. My boss never once called me by my name. He called me Country, because I sounded like Alabama. Nowadays, I would have been a server. But for six months in 1990, I was a waitress and personally, I still like the way that sounds better. I try and keep a servant’s heart, but who the hell wants to be called a server. It may be politically correct, but I don’t care for the term myself.
I mastered carrying a tray, but it wasn’t for me. I soon took a new job with a bank and began to tame the accent. I toned it down and took a mandatory customer service course that helped employees maintain a professional demeanor at all times. The class taught us to answer the phone without sounding…country. We would pronounce words properly, sounding out each syllable.
Typically in Southwest Alabama let that last syllable remain optional. We like to let it kind of hang loose, but for a while I got fair at not sounding Southern.
I could at least fake it if I had to.
Those days are over.
I don’t know what happened.
I moved back to the country and committed myself to being authentic.
So yeah…I guess I do sound a little Southern. Where better to speak it though?
Amanda Walker is a contributor with AL.com The Selma Times Journal, Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Alabama Gazette. Contact her at Walkerworld77@msn.com or at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.