Several years ago, I got to know a fellow public speaker by the name of Franklin McGee, who lives down in Anniston, Alabama. He often tells the story of the young lady from their neck of the woods who graduated from college and went to work in the New York office of the French National Airlines. After a short time, it became obvious that her accent and use of the King’s English were going to be a major distraction for many of the airline’s patrons.
At this point, a very conscientious young supervisor took it upon himself to teach her how to develop a more refined manner of speaking. His first task was to train her how to properly answer the telephone. He taught her to say, “Air France, may I help you?”
He even suggested that she put a little more French into the title and say, “Arr Fronce, may I help you?” This young supervisor thought he was doing well until the next day when the telephone rang and he heard her pick it up and say, “Arr Fronce, may I hep ’ya?”
As I have said before, one of the great joys I have in writing and marketing this column is that I get to talk with people all across the nation. In the past several years I have talked with many different newspaper people in every state in this great country.
It’s interesting to hear and detect the different accents, like the Southern drawl down in Georgia, Mississippi and to some degree in the Carolinas. To be sure, the Cajun people in South Louisiana talk differently, as do the people up in Boston and the New England area. You can go from the Ozarks to Texas to the Midwestern states like Montana, Kansas and Nebraska, and you will find that the majority of these people all have a different accent, as well. The same is true when you talk with people out on the West coast in the states of California, Oregon and Washington.
If you have me tuned in you are probably saying, “It’s not just the accents but the words, expressions and colloquial sayings are different, too.”
I am sure you know that much of the strength of the United States comes from our diversity. In fact, the Latin phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM found on the Great Seal of the United States means “Out of many, one.” To illustrate what I am saying, I thought I might share some Texas-style vocabulary that was sent to me by Dr. Karen Robbins, who lives in that state in the town of Belton.
First I will give a saying and then, if necessary, explain what it means.
1. “As welcome as a skunk at a party.” No explanation necessary.
2. “Tighter than the bark on a tree.” Means not very generous.
3. “Big hat, no cattle.” This means all talk and no brains.
4. “We’ve howdied, but we ain’t shook yet.” This means we have made a brief acquaintance, but we have not been formally introduced.
5. “He thinks the sun came up just to hear him crow.” This means he has a pretty high opinion of himself.
6. “It’s so dry the trees are bribin’ the dogs.” This means we could use a little rain around here.
7.”Just because a chicken has wings doesn’t mean it can fly.” This means that appearances can be deceptive.
8. “This ain’t my first rodeo.” This means that I have been around for a while.
9. “The dogs kept him under the porch.” This means that he is not the most handsome of men.
10. “They ate supper before they said grace.” This means they are living in sin.
11. “As full of wind as a corn-eating horse.” This means he or she is rather prone to boasting.
12. “You can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make them biscuits.” This means that you can say whatever you want about something, but that doesn’t change what it is.
13. “We’re in tall cotton.” This means that things are going well.
Since I have a little space left, I have something else you might enjoy called “The Ten Commandments in Cajun.” This is yet another example of how people talk differently in other parts of the country.
No. 1: “God is number one and das all.”
No. 2: “Don’t pray to nuttin’ or nobody, just God.”
No. 3: “Don’t cuss nobody, ’specially da Good Lawd.”
No. 4: “When it be Sunday, pass yo’self by God’s House.”
No. 5: “Yo mama an’ yo daddy dun did it all, lissen to dem.”
No. 6: “Killin’ duck an’ fish, das OK. People — No!”
No. 7: “God done give you a wife, sleep wit jus her.”
No. 8: “Don’t take nobody’s boat or nuttin else.”
No. 9: “Don’t go wantin’ somebody’s stuff.”
No. 10: “Stop lyin, yo tongue gonna fall out yo mouf!”
Thanks for reading! Das all. Roger over and out. Sayonara. Adios. Adieu. Goodbye.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)