A northeastern girl's guide to living with GRITS

Just back from the capital city -- my hometown (more on my trip in an upcoming post). After living in Atlanta for over a decade, I will always be a Washingtonian. Although DC is technically part of the southeastern United States, I consider myself a northeastern girl. I think most Washingtonians would agree that DC feels more like the north than the south. When people ask where I'm from -- either here in Atlanta or away on vacation -- I say "DC." When someone asks if I've read the paper, I assume they are referring to The Washington Post.

It was tough leaving a city I had lived in and loved for 31 years. Moving to Atlanta was a bit of a culture shock. Thankfully my dear high school friend Heather lived here. Heather introduced me to lots of people, including some of her southern deb friends. I had never really met anyone like them. Except of course girls I met from Texarkana (had never heard of the place) who worked in DC during the Clinton years. Don't get me wrong, these were some of the most endearing and hilarious people I've ever known. I was just used to hanging out with overachievers and trust fund deadheads.

I now have many friends from southeastern states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Texas. For purposes of this blog post, I will collectively refer to them as GRITS (girls raised in the south).

Last year I read an article in Atlanta Magazine's Southern Issue -- "Don't you See? We Gossip Because We Care." -- by one of my favorite southern authors Kathryn Stockett. In it she says that southerners are genetically predisposed to talking about each other. By this she means talking trash. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Kathryn said she didn't know just how southern she was until she had lived in NYC for 16 years. She laments that New Yorkers aren't good liars, are unjudgemental and don’t have a natural talent for good grocery-store gossip. "You go to a party and nobody’s snickering to their friend about how hungover you look or that so-and-so’s cheating on such-and-such’s husband." Southerners are just more fun, according to Stockett. "We enjoy breaking rules and acting up and the occasional gossip, even at the risk the talk might be about us next week." Does any of this sound familiar?
  • Join the Junior League.
  • Go to Bible study.
  • Monogram everything. [I once saw a girl wearing a monogrammed sports bra. No lie.]
  • Have unusual spellings of their first names (Kathryn), first names that are last names (Taylor), double names (Jane Ellen), surnames as middle names who are called by both names ("Hey Mary Harris!").
  • Pledge a sorority.
  • Drink sweet tea (See "tea" below.).
  • Make pimento cheese (usually an old family recipe).
  • Love bows.
  • Wear sun dresses.
  • Wear pearls.
  • Love pink & green.
  • Marry young (by northern standards).
  • Tailgate in style at sports events and steeple chases.
  • Refer to their elders as Miss ("Ms." isn't a word in the southern dictionary.) or Mr. followed by their first name (Miss Maureen).
Bless her/him/your heart: Prefix or suffix to an insult usually followed by backstabbing. 
* Source

I'm the first to admit that Washingtonians are geographically predisposed to gossiping, backstabbing, mudslinging and scandals. That's why I gave up gossiping for Lent. Easter has come and gone, so I can resume talking trash about people as along as they are "blessed." See glossary below.

Kathryn Stockett is a true GRITS. I've found that there are some tell-tale signs, so they are pretty easy to peg. From my personal observations, true GRITS:
You can also tell true GRITS by their lingo. Here are some common words and phrases I've heard followed by their meanings:
-- You know, it's amazing that even though she had that baby 7 months after they were married, bless her heart, it weighed 10 pounds.*
-- Bless her heart, she’s so blind, she couldn’t see the moon shine.*
Buggy: Grocery cart.
Coke: Any carbonated soft drink.
Sounds like "fur": For.
Daddy: Dad.
Fixin': (vb.)  About to do something. I'm fixin' to to get drunk.
Girrrl!: Say what? No way! or Shut up!
Hey: Hi.
Hey girl: Hi Maureen.
Holler: Yell or call. Don't holler at me. or I'll give you a holler.
Mama: Mom.
Might could: Might be able to... or You could...
My word!: Oh My! or OMG!
Parking deck: Parking garage under or next to an office building or shopping mall.
Pitch a fit: Have a fit.
Sugar: Term of endearment. 
Tea: Sickeningly sweet iced tea.
Tore up: Upset.
What's that?: Say again.
Wreck: A car accident. 
Y'all: You all -- 2-4 people. 
All Y'all: You all -- 5 or more people.

Bring it on GRITS. Do you agree with my observations? Did I get anything wrong or leave anything out?

7 comments:

  1. I love this! I got a preview of southernisms by being brought up in the north by a southern mother. The looks I got when I said, "y'all" in NJ! Also, is "parking deck" really southern? I say that. I also say, 'What's that?" My favorite version of "what's that" or "say again" is "do what?" which I heard a lot in Alabama.

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    1. I never would have guessed that your mom is southern. I had never heard of a parking "deck" until I moved here.

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    2. I was taught to say "pardon", if I didn't hear something the first time. People from the north always seem to get thrown off by that and say "what" and I say "pardon", and... now I just say "excuse me" :)

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  2. I prefer to say that Southerners are great storytellers, rather than just gossips, and you absolutely cannot let the truth get in the way of a good story. A true southern women isn’t afraid of the skeletons in the closet- as a matter of fact, we brag about out crazy family members and are proud of the women who came before us and lived to tell the tale.

    When in doubt, dress-up not down – and cover up, girl, because less isn’t more.

    Your children should call any women their mother's age Miss or Aunt: Miss Maureen or Aunt Maureen- I don’t have one single aunt by blood, but I have 5 “Aunts”, and they are, of course, my mother’s best friends. My children have a gaggle of Aunts, and they love them like their own.

    Southern women may be the first to talk behind your back about something small, but they can take a true secret to the grave. And, if you are a true friend, a southern girl will get even with anyone who speaks one word against you… even if it was the truth.
    Although we learn to act the part quite well and quite young, I have never met a true southern woman who was actually meek. Southern women know when to use their charms to get what they want, but don’t be fooled, they are always 100% in charge of every situation. True southern women DO talk politics and have led the charge for change in the south, and they don’t keep quiet when there is injustice of any kind.

    Sadly, it still matters where your family came from, when they got here, and how many of them fought in the revolutionary war and died in the civil war (I have known my lineage as long as I can remember), but that’s because we are slow to change. Hell, we are slow to do a lot of things, but… gossiping isn’t one of them.

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  3. Hey Maureen - It's Li. Funny post! Have you seen this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUFL2GT1-2g

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  4. Hey Maureen,

    I love this! You have a great appreciation for our nice girl Southern vernacular! I can't help but hear Elise saying "Hey girl!" or "Girrl!" as I read your list. Any way you slice it, I'm awfully glad you decided to join us down here in God's country.

    You may enjoy this link. It contains many of the age old sayings.
    http://www.quotemountain.com/sayings/southern_sayings/nacular.

    Enjoy! Deanna ( not Sam Ozio :))

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