I have come to realize that the English language is used very differently here. For instance, the word precious. It’s a word I’ve known and used on occasion but here it is used daily. Everything is “precious”. Babies are “precious”. Couples in love are “precious”. A thoughtful gesture is “precious”. You are “precious”. Yesterday, I heard a cute bikini described as “precious”. I spent the first several months befuddled by the common use of this word and swore I wouldn’t be so casual with such a “precious” word. Nearly a year later, I have conformed and use precious to describe all kinds of ordinary, everyday things.
Interstate. Another word I am very familiar with. I vowed I would never use the word “interstate”. And I meant it. I dug in my heels and just decided that this was one thing I was not going to concede to. Freeway: that’s the word I have always used. To my dismay, people here do not know the word freeway. It isn’t that they don’t use it. It’s that they don’t know it. So despite having made a solemn oath to uphold the word “freeway” when referencing the six lane highways that travel across several states, I again have kowtowed to the regional vernacular and now say “interstate”.
Perhaps I should address the question I hear asked in your thoughts, “Does she have an accent now, too?” Put me in a professional situation and I remain accent free. However, if you find me a little under-rested (an all too common occurrence) or a little lazy, articulation flies the coop and that drawl edges its way in just a bit. This could be the tell that metamorphosis from SoCal girl to Southern Belle has begun.
While we are discussing things that are unique to Southern ways, let me say, there appears to be a particular reverence for the deceased here. The first time I saw all drivers pull over to the right and stop, I was completely confused. It wasn’t for emergency vehicles. In fact, emergency vehicles racing to a burning building do not travel such a clear path… but funeral processions do. The peer pressure I felt, being the only one not pulled over, compelled me to pull over. But I have to ask the question: Is it really necessary for all three lanes of traffic to be stopped if a funeral procession is traveling down just one of those lanes?
It isn’t just the recent passing of a person that garners such respect. Graveyards stand in the middle of modern day real estate developments, untouched and undisturbed from where souls were laid to rest. Frankly, it is just odd to walk down the road passing a fast food chain, a tire retailer, a small old graveyard, and then the grocery store. Other parts of town have subdivisions developed around small burial grounds. I’m wondering if the city planners couldn’t manage the rapid growth more creatively than developing around these graveyards. Did they not see the movie Poltergeist? But this is the South, and they respect the dead.
Though I’ve been here nearly a year, there are some things I may never quite adapt to (like random graveyards in the city) and other things I settle right into (like catching fireflies….which I finally got to do this past week!). This is an exciting time for me. The final chapters of the story of my first year in TN are being written. 39 days. . .