Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Yes Ma’am
by James Glaser
April 18, 2008

When I first moved down here to the South, I wrote a column telling how polite the people in Alabama were, and they are polite. However after living down here for a couple of years now, I have figured out it isn't that Alabama is more polite than the rest of the South. What I have found is that the rural areas of the South are more polite than almost any place I have ever lived.

Yes, there are some areas that I have a hard time understanding what the people are saying, and when I first came down here I thought it was their lack of education or that these people just couldn't talk right. Now that I have been here a while, I believe it was I who was ignorant,

If I moved to a foreign country I wouldn't think that the people there were uneducated because they couldn't speak my language very well, and that should go for rural areas in the South, too. Right off, after moving here, I was hearing what sounded like a foreign language, but now that I have been here a while, I have picked up some of the dialect, and, for the most part, I know what they are saying.

The surprise for me is that these rural people who I didn't think were "with it," are actually more sincere and polite than me. I have learned that when people in the South thank you for your business, they really mean it. They really do want you to come back, and if you take the time to have a talk with them, you find that they are pretty sophisticated about anything you want to talk about. Politics, the economy, religion, it doesn't really matter. After your ear becomes attuned to their speech patterns, you find their vocabulary is every bit as complex as yours.

Sure there are some colloquialisms that stump me, but usually a couple sentences later I figure out what was said by the context of the conversation.

One thing I notice right off the bat is how polite rural teenage boys and young men are when they address any woman or a young girl. That is a good reflection on their parents. Wanda's son, Caleb, is in his mid twenties and women are thrilled with the conversations they have with him. Caleb, like so many young men down here, has a respect for women that comes through in his voice, and you and they can tell it is relaxed, sincere, and is just part of his character.

I guess Alabama caught my ear about Southern politeness because I was taking back roads. Now that I have been here a while, I see that same politeness when ever I travel on the back roads all over the South.

I have no idea what happens when you get to an urban area. Maybe it is the faster pace; maybe it is like the rest of the nation where parents have less influence on their children; maybe it is the fact that young children don't have the good example set by their older siblings. Maybe, just maybe, too many of us from the North have moved to Southern cities and have polluted the genteel atmosphere that was here before we came.

So, if you decide to travel in the South, get off the freeways and start taking the back roads. The people will welcome you, you'll pick up some new ways of saying things, and if you want, you will pick up some really nice new friends.

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