Southern accent proves elusive, again

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 9, 2001

Even an untrained Southern ear could discern something was wrong.

And if the television announcer’s &uot;southern&uot; accent wasn’t so over the top, it might not have been so noticeable.

It was somewhere between Uncle Remus and Foghorn Leghorn.

To a true Southerner, it sounded a bit too forced – and totally unbelievable.

The television piece was about a group of people rafting down the Mississippi River. The show was an episode of &uot;National Geographic Explorer.&uot; And the group was a band of people known as the Floating Neutrinos, who used a make-shift raft on their venture.

As the announcer detailed the group’s adventure, his &uot;southern&uot; lingo was laid on thicker than kudzu in the summer.

&uot;It’s only goan git wurse down ribbuh,&uot; the faceless voice said images of the Mississippi River floated past.

Now there’s little argument that Southerners talk funny to some ears.

And for those who’ve spent their lives travelling the South, subtle, unmistakable differences exist between the different Southern dialects.

Even within the bounds of Mississippi, several distinct Southern accents exist.

But &uot;ribbuh?&uot;

That’s a new one. It sounds about as foreign as a guy named Bubba asking quite politely for a &uot;pop.&uot;

Most folks know that below the Mason-Dixon Line a soda is a &uot;coke&uot; regardless of the label on the drink.

Despite how foreign the narrator’s voice sounded, he obviously meant the word &uot;river.&uot;

Now depending upon how the accent flows, the word &uot;river&uot; can come out several ways.

Sure some folks give the last syllable a little &uot;uh&uot; sound as in down by the rivuh.

Still others add a bit of lilt to stretch out the beginning of the word such as in rivver.

But &uot;down by the ribber …&uot;

Do people actually think Southerners speak like that?

If they do, it’s no wonder some of them are shocked when they realize that, yes, most of us own shoes and wear them most days.

The Southern comedian Jeff Foxworthy pokes fun at Southern dialects and red-neck lingo.

Somehow it’s a bit more tolerable – even side-splittingly funny – when it comes from one of our own.

Foxworthy delivers his red-neck jabs with a little Southern drawl of his own.

And while he’s elevated the perennial phrase &uot;yu-ont-two&uot; to the national lexicon, it’s a good bet Foxworthy’s never been down a ribbuh.

As the television show flickers past, the bad butchering of the Southern tongue continues.

&uot;Dats why dey call it da Big Muddy,&uot; the narrator continues.

At any second Br’er Fox might just jump outta dat ole briar patch.

But instead just a few more badly southernized phrases are uttered before a national audience.

&uot;Don’t unda esdamate dem … dey just may prove you wrong.&uot;

Hmm. The same could be said for Southern accents.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.