Yesterday I was helping a student with his essay. He was sitting at my whiteboard table which replaced my desk this year. I had my expo marker in hand and I was writing his argument. We needed to reword his premises. As I started to explain my ideas, I said “you might could change this to …”
And then I stopped.
“Ohmygod I just said ‘might could!'” I exclaimed. Everyone in the room–about five kids who come eat lunch and study or hangout in my room everyday–turned to look at me. One of them asked me to clarify. When I tried to explain to him that “might could” was not a thing, he stared at me blankly.
“It sounds right to me,” he said.
I know, that’s the problem, I thought.
This isn’t the first time a Southernism has escaped my lips. I have fully embraced “y’all”; I say it all the time, but I have mostly avoided the really, really “country” ones as we say down here.
But there was a time when I felt like everyone here sounded like they were speaking a different language.
It was a normal morning in my first Alabama classroom. There were 9th graders sitting in their desks, working on their essays or reading or something, when an announcement came over the PA:
“If you haven’t had your picture made yet, be sure to go to the theater after lunch. Again, if you need to get your picture made, come to the theater after lunch.”
I stood there for a full minute metaphorically scratching my head and mouthing “get your picture made” with furrowed brows. The kids sat there staring at their weird Midwestern teacher (who, by the way, they asked to say “taco” and “Dakota” and “Chicago” all the time).
Finally I said, “what?! What does that mean? Are you guys doing an art project or something?”
More staring. More metaphorical head scratching all around.
“Like, why are they making pictures?” I tried to clarify.
The kids tried to explain: “you know, we have to make our pictures for the yearbook.” Why don’t they just take it with a camera like normal, I thought. Finally one kid said, “Balfour is here so we can get our pictures in the yearbook.”
“Ooooooh, they ARE taking your pictures with cameras” I blurted. Why didn’t they just say that? I thought.
It’s been a long acclimation process, and while I haven’t become a true Southern gentlewoman, I have picked up a few things.
Ten years later, I still don’t say “make pictures” or “cut the lights on”, but I do throw around “bless his/her heart” and “y’all” like I was born here.
Happy slicing, y’all! 😉