I was born in the South and spent the first couple years of my life living in Anniston, Alabama (on Ft. McClellan army base). So, when I meet Southerners I typically get a pass on being a full-blood Yankee.
"Oh, you're a Southern girl," they often say, like I've been accepted into some sort of private club.
"You don't talk like a Northerner," they tend to point out. Which can be a tricky one to explain, since I was born in the South, raised in Pennsylvania, and grew up in New England, and my accent is a hybrid of all three of those regions. It's also quite interesting having two sisters, and that all three of us speak and enunciate differently.
So, last night when I met three peach farmers from Macon, Georgia we had quite a banter going about the didactics of speech and language, and how depending on the speaker or the context, there are certain sayings and words that stick and there are certain things that should just go unspoken.
"That boy of yours," for instance, as young lads, was never a good indicator of what was about to follow, usually with them being in some sort of trouble.
I learned that, "Bless your heart," is reserved for their mothers' and grandmothers' generation, as a symptom of genteelness.
And saying, "Yes, ma' am'" or "Yes, sir" is just the everyday respectful response, unless of course they have an affinity for you, then they call you "Darling" or "Sweetheart".
This was a point of interest particularly, since as a young woman I'm okay with certain people calling me by pet names, but not others. Which I think is my Northern side coming out. Typically people in the military use the formal address, because in training they are taught to be respectful of their superiors. And when they are back in civilian life, this training continues. Living in a port city, with many military men and women coming and going, you get used to being called "Ma'am," even when you don't feel old enough to deserve the title.
Now, if a young woman who is clearly years younger than me calls me "hon" or "sweetie, it sounds a tad bit condescending. And even when I'm managing or training girls in the restaurant industry, I always try to break this habit early, because there are truly women out there who take how they are addressed, very seriously. Plus, it comes off as sounding like we work in a two-bit diner, and I'm sure these girls don't want to be called Flo or Dotty in return.
But I have to say, the best part of the whole conversation was when we all agreed that Bob Ross, the painter from PBS, was a mastermind.