English Is a Strange Language

by Gina Burgess

Especially Southern English!

Standing in the kitchen, the TV suddenly got unbearably loud. (What’s actually meant here is that I was standing in the kitchen, not the TV.) A commercial. Either the station or the network designs it this way so that we can hear the commercial from anywhere in the house. I thank them for this, otherwise I’d be all confused when I go to buy something at the store.

The commercial was about a non-stop flight to Jamaica. But, that isn’t how they said it. “Fly Blankety Blank Airways non-stop.”

I wonder how you get to the place you want to be if they don’t stop?

We are supposed to say alleged before some criminal act if the criminal hasn’t been convicted yet. However, an AP story read “a crime rampage allegedly included a shooting.” I’m wondering did the rampage include the shooting or not? Were shots fired? Then how could it be alleged? But then some still ask the question, “When a tree falls in the forest…”

We Southerners are famous for our lack in perfect use of the English language. So how do we communicate so well? It is perfectly plain to us when someone asks how our mother and family are doing.

“How’s Mamanthem?”

Pronunciation and how it is written aren’t even close. How it is written is “Mamma and them.” The term actually means this: “How is your Momma and family?”  But we instinctively take our friends’ mothers as our mothers, and our friends’ family as our family. It is better, more respectful, and full of love—sweeter than the tea we drink.

Unfortunately, Southerners have problems with grammar, too. Big surprise. Which is probably why we have no problem understanding what “Yeetyet” means. It is proceeded by “Didja.” Southerners will almost always have a repast available no matter the time of day. So, when asked, “Didjayeetyet?” the polite response would be, “Whachagot?” (However, most of us are refrigerator friends meaning when we visit we already know where the cups are and just naturally reach for the half and half in the fridge without being asked if we want coffee.)

Have you ever heard “Please be patient, our operators are working as fast as humanly possible,” while on hold on the phone? I wonder is that faster than Speedy Gonzales? How is it compared to baboonly possible, or should we compare it to a snail’s pace? We are humans, and I’ve seen some humans that snails would beat in any race. What is the point of that phrase—humanly possible? How about “before quick can get ready”? Or how about “like a duck on a June bug”? That makes a whole lot more sense, right?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it like white on rice.

Share This Post

2 thoughts on “English Is a Strange Language”

  1. According to the book “The History of English” ALL English is strange, not just southern accents… Likely because the language has so many influences. For instance if you’ve ever been to England you’ll notice a similar difference between northern and southern accents. Northern England was invaded by the Angels (where the name England comes from) so they say “oop” instead of “up” while southern England was invaded by the Saxons. Then Danelaw comes in with King Canute (except for the most northern part of England, north Yorkshire and above), then the Normans, etc. So English is strange because of all the invasions influencing the language. So why does the US northern and southern accents sound different? the north was invaded mostly by England, while the south was invaded mostly by the following: England, Spain, France (as Cajuns), Africa as slaves, Hispanics esp. Mexico. Plus the Native tribe accents.

Leave a Comment

You might also enjoy

Want help building your readership?

Sign up for a FREE 30 minute video consult with Tom Blubaugh, Readership Building Coach