Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"...the Southern girls, with the way they talk, they knock me out when I'm down there..." (Birmingham, Alabama)

So goes the Beach Boys classic, California Girls. Everybody likes the way Southern girls talk. (Big Dog says it only works with women. When guys speak like that, it makes them sound like "Bubba." Or so he says. I beg to differ, however.)

From the time we got off the plane in Birmingham, we're surrounded by the loveliest Southern drawl and the soft, gentle disposition that goes along with it. Before I got here, I only had a few preconceptions about Alabama -- rednecks, klansmen, birthplace of the civil rights movement, gospel music... BD joked that you could find Klan outfits in local souvenir shops. I imagined a state that was racially divided, perhaps uncomfortable for an Asian. But it has been nothing but nice! All the locals are so gracious! If it weren't for the blistering heat and humidity of August, it might be a really nice place to hang out for a while.

Then, I could talk like they do without feeling self-conscious. This Southern drawl is toooo comfortable for me. It feels too natural. What is it? I don't know. But it feels "right" when I speak like this -- like this was the way I was meant to speak English but somehow my upbringing gave me another accent instead.

I'd love to be able to talk like this all the time, but I know it will be too strange anywhere outside the South. BD won't let me do it either. "It sounds too fake," he says.
How could it sound so fake and feel so right?


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