What it means to be southern

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2001

There seems to be an internet e-mail going around about things that a true southerner knows.

It covers things like "how many fish make up a mess" and the difference between a "hissie fit and a coniption fit". It regales about "pot likker" and "gimme sugar" having nothing to do with a confection and how real southerners know what "cattywhampus" means.


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I thought this was pretty cute.

These are fair points of knowledge that should be retained by anyone over the age of six who has had either the grace of God to be born in the South, or the good sense and luck to have been moved here (maybe that's the grace of the Almighty as well?).

However, being southern is far more than just some snappy one liners and some sayings that fit well on the little metal signs that hang in Cracker Barrel.

Being southern means knowing what a rain crow sounds like, then being able to duplicate that sound at the supper table.

Being southern means that when you sit down to eat dinner, it's the middle of the day.

Being southern means you know the difference between a crappie and a white perch and a sac-a-lait. (okay, that's a trick question, because they're all the same fish…just different regional names).

Being southern means you can sing at least two out of the four hymns on Sunday morning with the hymnal closed.

Being southern means you can really smell rain before it comes.

Being southern means that not only can your daughter discuss the poetry of Sylvia Plath, but she can diagram a mean zone defense and explain offensive pass interference.

Being southern means you can make biscuits from scratch, in one bowl, then bake them in the pan your great-grandmother used to cook her biscuits.

Being southern means a pavlovian reflex when you see an elderly woman and a door close to each other…the door opens, the hat tips, and "howdy, ma'am" is the automatic reflex.

Being southern allows you to translate

"hiyall", "iddn't it", "iight", and "jeet" into an invitation to supper at your cousin's house.

Being southern means you understand why you wear seersucker after Easter, and never after Labor Day.

Being southern is more a state of mind that a state of body, and I don't mind that my body is firmly entrenched here in the South.