You say tomato, I say tomato ...

Posted 11/13/19

Just this past week, three friends and I returned from a fun, exciting excursion to The Big Apple. As Gail, Debbie and Beverly will attest — we covered a lot of ground and made so many …

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You say tomato, I say tomato ...


Just this past week, three friends and I returned from a fun, exciting excursion to The Big Apple. As Gail, Debbie and Beverly will attest — we covered a lot of ground and made so many acquaintances in record time.

For three of us, the characteristic that always makes us unique in New York City is our undeniable Southern drawl. Apparently a few more patient Northerners enjoy listening to our drawn-out, rural dialect.

Some public staffers assumed we hailed from such locations as Alabama, Tennessee or Texas. Only “Good Morning America” Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee correctly guessed we were actually from North Carolina.

During the week, we discovered that some public officials smiled or secretly snickered when we began conversing. Oftentimes, we were asked to repeat what we had said. In retrospect, they were not questioning our content as much as wanting to confirm how we pronounced certain things.

Despite our geographical distances, we had no difficulty deciphering what the Northerners were trying to say. In fact, Debbie was the only member of our ensemble who was a native New Yorker — deriving from upper state New York near the Buffalo area.

One evening we became slightly perplexed when Deb exclaimed she needed to replace her nylon. For us Southern gals, we paused dutifully for her to complete her sentence —after all, nylon is an adjective for us — nylon what? We later laughed when learning it is a Northern synonym used for pantyhose.

While we greeted our group with a “Hey, y’all,” New Englanders opt for the salutation, “Hi, you guys.”

When ordering a soft drink, those hailing from the North tend to call it a “pop” or a “soda” while we refer to it as simply “a drink” or a “Coke.”

New Yorkers simply can’t comprehend our verbiage, “We’re fixing to head back to the hotel.” The term “fixing,” to them, means only repairing an inanimate object.

It isn’t uncommon for country residents to answer a posed question with, “I reckon so...” If you could only imagine the bewildered expressions of New Englanders who tried to translate that ...

Most of us understand the phrase, “mashing” the buttons inside the elevator while Yankees opt for “pressing the buttons.”

Those of us born South of the Mason-Dixon Line often utilize the words, “foot” or “shoot” as exclamatory interjections such as, “Well, shoot, or ... Well, foot, our luggage almost fell off the baggage carousel.”

While out shopping, Southern folks identify athletic footwear as “tennis shoes” versus Northerners’ use of the term, “sneakers.”

Perusing a New York menu, we order “subs” while New Englanders order “heroes.”

When asked to lower the volume, have you noticed Southerners ask to “cut it down” while our northern counterparts request we “turn it down?”

Apparently Yanks perceive the phrase, “Well, bless your heart” as patronizing or condescending. That cannot be further from the truth. Hard to believe, but for Southern folks, “Bless your heart” is really a term of endearment.

We did run across additional, noticeable pronunciation variations, which include:

  • A bike “route”: Does it rhyme with root or out?
  • “Caramel”: Is the flavor pronounced in two or three syllables?
  • A Crayola “crayon”: Do you say cray-on or a crane?
  • Southern “praline”: Is it pray-leen or prah-leen?
  • A ballpoint “pen”: Do you say pe-yun or penn?

    I stumbled across a quote penned by the ever-popular, native North Carolinian, Charles Kuralt, when conducting some research. The late journalist once quipped that, “A true Southerner will never say in two to three words what can better be said in 10 to 12.” Well, bless his heart and, can we get an amen?!

    Kim Lambert is a former reporter with The Daily Record and former editor of The Angier Independent.

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