Everybody has a different way of speaking.  The language we learn, the place we grow up in, and the culture we are from all affect how we talk.  So someone from New York does not sound the same as someone from Mississippi, for example.  Speech patterns, words, all that sort of thing are very different in the South. The language is the same and yet it’s not.

The difference was one of the first things I noticed when moving down here.  Now not all Southerners sound exactly alike.  The accent is not the same in all parts of the South and I’ve known people from places like Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina who have hardly any accent at all.  Such is not the case in the Delta and Mississippi in general.  Around here, people speak with that drawl stereotypically associated with people from the Deep South.  Yes they say “y’all” a lot.  Sometimes people add an “s” as in a waitress walks up to a table and says “How y’all doing?  Can I start y’alls off with something to drink?”.  They also don’t curse as much … or really at all compared to New Yorkers.  People will actually be offended if you drop the f-bomb which was kind of hilarious at first.

People speak slower too.  And softer.  I didn’t realize how loud and fast New Yorkers can talk until moving down South.   Some people really sound like they’re speaking in slow motion which can be frustrating.  But it’s in keeping with the slower pace of life in the South.  And not everyone talks like that anyway.  My next door neighbor for example has a very loud voice.

But for the most part I can still understand people.  There are a few exceptions, but generally language hasn’t really been a barrier.  The words people use are similar enough to what I’m used to.  In fact there are a few things I haven’t heard people say.  For example everybody knows that Southerners refer to all soda as coke. Except of course around Cleveland where RC Cola is the drink of choice (even at Delta State which has an exclusive contract with RC). That is probably due to the presence of the Nehi Bottling Company which has been distributing it locally since the 1920s (see this profile of them in the Mississippi Business Journal).   Also the relatively large population of transplants to the South around here means there are plenty of folks who are from places up North or out West.

The language differences don’t really bother me.  Up North people laugh at the way Southerners speak. However the way we sound is probably as strange to them as they are to us.  I offer up the New York accent as evidence.  So as with anything else, no one manner of speech is better than any other.  America is an incredibly diverse place and I am grateful for the opportunity to explore it.

Article by Mike

Mike is the Head of Discovery Services for the Delta State University Library. He has lived in Cleveland since May 2013.

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