I grew up in Virginia, though my accent, apart from a few words and phrases, is almost indistinguishable from my friends from California, Massachusetts, and Michigan. For many Southerners, especially in the Upper South, all that remains of that once rich linguistic heritage are such expressions as “y’all,” “yonder,” and “if I had my druthers.” For that, we can thank nationally syndicated television and heightened levels of migration within the United States, among other national trends.

It’s a sad phenomena, one you might think that establishment elites would bemoan, given their obsession with diversity and inclusion, and their declared desire to protect endangered cultures. But, you see, as a sign of their not-so-subtle enlightened hypocrisy, it’s only some cultures that have value. And regional dialects across Dixie — especially if they are associated with working-class whites — are not high on the list of endangered sub-cultures worth saving.

Not long ago, I spent several hours with an old family friend who grew up in rural southern Virginia, in a county that straddles both the Piedmont and Tidewater. Even that distinction, I found, was one somewhat lost upon me, given that this woman, born during the Second World War, quaintly referred to the Tidewater region of the Old Dominion, as “the low grounds.”

The reason for the visit, I confess, was a bit selfish. Several years ago, the woman, whom I had not seen for more than a decade, left a voicemail on my phone, communicating a message for my mother, whom she was having trouble contacting. Hearing her accent as an adult, I was stupefied. Even my Georgia-bred wife was confused by it. It wasn’t just the non-rhoticity, though that certainly stood out — it was the curious pronunciation that was indelibly Southern but sometimes almost British or Canadian (this YouTube video gives an idea of it).

I was desperate to talk to this woman, who, having spent almost her entire professional career in Northern Virginia (beginning in the 1960’s when it was still the South), retained a form of speech that seemed a historical relic. Over homemade biscuits and later lunch at an old local diner in Northern Virginia, I sought to understand her story, one that straddled two very different worlds: one of an ancient, venerable Southern heritage that traces its lineage to early English immigrants, and another that has accommodated itself to colorless, conformist modernity.

Her father farmed. I asked if agriculture was his profession. “Well, I don’t think he would have called it a profession as such,” she chuckled. “It was more what he could do, what was available to do.” She paused thoughtfully.”  I’m sure if he had had the opportunity, he would have gotten out of there” (“there” was pronounced something akin to “they-yuh”).

She had little knowledge of her ancestry, though she was fairly confident that some had their origin in the Georgia penal colony. For generations thereafter, strange doings in the family would be credited to that disreputable past. And there certainly were some “touched” kin, including an uncle who lost his young bride, but refused to remove any of her possessions from his Virginia home. Whenever young female relatives would visit him, the uncle would comment on how they were not nearly as beautiful as his deceased wife. “Have you ever?” she decried.

My friend attended university in Richmond in the early 1960’s. She received a bad grade in one course, the professor writing in the margins: “You’re the reason the Russians are winning.” Reminiscing on her time in the former capital of the Confederacy, she commented on the removal of Confederate statues from Monument Avenue. “I understand why Lee, Jackson, and Stuart had to go,” she said. “But why their mounts? Those were some impressive horses.”

Her antipathy towards her own Southern heritage bears explaining. Her mother, though a churchgoer, was a notorious gossip and virulent racist. The local public high-school was not segregated until after she graduated. Local discussions of Brown V. Board of Education often occurred outside the local church, with mean-spirited comments directed at “those people.” As she grew older, and experienced more of the world, my family friend’s little town in southeastern Virginia seemed more and more parochial and ignorant.

There are many such people like this woman — indeed, there is a profitable cottage industry of books and movies about Southrons who have come to “see the light” regarding their home, full as it supposedly is of bigots and slack-jawed yokels. Some such folk — those who earn a living (and perhaps fame) by repudiating their own kin — are deserving of our censure. But I’d wager the majority of “reformed Southerns,” as it were, are pliantly (and compliantly) seeking to survive in a culture that has little but condescending (if hypocritical) disdain for Dixie.

Of course, for such people, as it is with my family friend, their most interesting (and charming) qualities are those defined by their Southern upbringing. Their manners, their tastes, and their accents all reflect a certain breeding that is found only in the old Confederacy. It is ironic as it is sad: embarrassed by a heritage snidely mocked by our elite class, “reformed Southerners” seek to assimilate to the characterless culture of the “nowheres,” even while it is precisely the “somewhereness” of repentant Southrons that makes them a curiosity, periodically trotted out to play a familiar caricature. “The South remains stuck in an archaic, contrived world of quixotic, unenlightened backwardness, and I should know, I grew up in it!”

I don’t doubt my family friend’s experience of Jim Crow Virginia was a troubled one. But spare me the attempt to place it in a category somehow dramatically different from Boston, Los Angeles, or Portland, all of which have their own checkered histories when it comes to race relations. I speculate the attempt by the elite institutions of our culture to place in the South in some unparalleled category of dysfunction has more insidious motives: to malign and cast in the dustbin of history a society still influenced by traditional beliefs about religion, government, and gender, among other things. To defeat the South is to conquer the last major holdout to our secularist, “rolling revolution” as scholar Scott Yenor calls it.

Despite my family friend’s distaste for her own Southern upbringing, I cherished my time listening to and learning from her. She comes from another world, one increasingly disappearing from our post-industrialist, anonymizing landscape of chain-store stripmalls and soulless suburbs. That her supposed cultural “allies” aren’t rushing to preserve her story — and so many others like hers — tells you all you need to know about the priorities of the supposedly “diverse” and “inclusive” Left. I wish she could see that for herself.

Casey Chalk

Casey Chalk has degrees in history and education from the University of Virginia, and a masters in theology from Christendom College. He is a regular contributor for New Oxford Review, The Federalist, American Conservative, and Crisis Magazine. He is the author of The Persecuted: True Stories of Courageous Christians Living Their Faith in Muslim Lands (Sophia Institute).


  • Earl Starbuck says:

    I am sick to death of the South being America’s whipping boy. We are made the scapegoat and condemned so no other section of the country has to acknowledge, wrestle with, repent of, or address its sins.

  • Billy P says:

    This embarrassing union’s treatment of the South and their latest evil reconstruction efforts is just further proof of an abusive relationship, one we were forced back into unconstitutionally at gunpoint and at great cost of human life.

    I have always contended that when the distinct cultural identity of the South and our traditions, values and beliefs becomes more aligned with the northern US, this empire and Lincoln’s “nation” falls. The South as a people and a voting bloc has stood in the way like a regulating governor of everything the northern elite has wanted to impose on the people of this country.

    But, voting is nearly useless now given the level of sellout in Washington DC. We merely delay the inevitable voting these days.

    Politically, it cannot be saved if we become like the northern elite or share their values so we are looked upon favorably…and it shouldn’t be saved.


    As far as accents though…. whenever I hear another real southern accent, especially if it is from a younger person, I rejoice a bit, they’ve somehow beaten the odds and held on to that piece of their heritage…I can almost hear Dixie playing victoriously in my mind…and I find it comforting that here is another one of “our people”… I do hope they haven’t chosen to sell out their ancestors… but it’s a reminder that we are still here and, in some ways…still surviving despite the best efforts of some in this country to eradicate us, our way of life and every ounce of our past.

  • Gordon says:

    I don’t like this woman, accent and any accompanying charms aside.

    Her lack of interest in her ancestry makes me think she’s dismissive, elitist and mean about her father accepting his life on his farm because of having nothing else to do. She certainly knows her father but, at least in times past, farming and living in the country has been honorable and rewarding life, even if by default. Questioning, measuring against other ways of making a living is normal. My own father, a VMI engineering graduate, occasionally said he wished he’d gone to law school. Yet after decades of thinking about it, I’ve never imagined he would have done anything but farm. Living in the country is its own reward and getting near a city only from necessity is a bonus.

    In my benighted state of being, never having traveled far, not having any friends from California, Massachusetts or Michigan – and still with an accent – perhaps I’m only making do. Knowing my ancestry, living to a degree, still, among the same people and helping with continuing the community into the future, it seems like I’m living beyond the actuarial tables; it provides, at least, spiritual immortality.

    With her disdain and lack of curiosity for her family it seems Casey Chalk’s friend is limited to temporal pleasures and to the dates on the headstone.

  • James Persons says:

    We have lost our accents, to a great degree, and yet 159 years later, we are still an obstacle to the Lincolnian hegemony’s agenda. It’s why they take down our monuments. Taking down our monuments will never change our Jeffersonian beliefs and understanding of the Constitution and have not changed our identities as Sothroners when you get down to the nitty gritty, and the Yanks over the last 8 years have outed themselves to such a degree that they have only bolstered the number of people aligned with our beliefs. As for self loathing Southerners, I have know a few in my 8 decades but only a few. Also I am originally from Birmingham AL of the Bull Connor, German Shepard, fire hose days and neither I nor any one of the multitude of my peers were raised to be bigots. Using the ‘N’ word would draw a sharp rebuke from adults, and we were taught to treat Black people with respect, and I never knew of anyone who’s family was in the Klan. When my father’s job took the family to northern New Jersey in 1963 I found out that the North was even more segregated than the South, they just didn’t have official Jim Crow laws. In the 5 years we lived up North I saw exactly one/1 Black person. I also heard the ‘N’ word much more often than I ever did in the South, among numerous other racial and ethnic epithets. My family was in the lower half of the middle class economically so this was not an elite class anomaly. We traveled to numerous Northern states at that time and I did so later while in the military. Yep, its true, the North was so segregated that the vast majority of them had to travel to an inner big city to even SEE Black people. I had several Northerners ask me what Blacks were like while on active duty. LOL Can you imagine? These Yanks had so little experience they came to me to find out what Black people were like. I told them they were just like us, but their skin was darker. I could go on and on with real life Yankee anecdotes but will end this … at least for the time being.

    Deo Vindice

    • Joseph Wolfersberger says:

      I was born and raised in New Jersey, however my mother was a a many generation native Floridian.(Something that is very rare indeed. Which qualifies me to join the Florida Pioneers group on Facebook since my ancestors were.in Florida prior to statehood)

      And thankfully we were raised to never be ashamed of our Southern roots. I used to be really bothered that I was born in NJ when I was a kid. I hated being a Yankee.my brother and I were the only Yankees in the family. My parents moved to my dad’s hometown on the Jersey Shore when she was pregnant with me, a couple born , mynolder sister was born in Jacksonville. Even my dad was born in Dallas.

      My brother and I even picked up Southern vocabulary mixed in with our native not quite New York)North Jersey not quite Philadelphia/South Jersey dialect . We put our purchases in a buggy at the supermarket it was never a shopping cart to us.

      My dads parents were from New Jersey. His mom’s parents were Ukrainian immigrants from what is now far western Ukraine but was then Austria-Hungary not Russia like the majority or.Ukraine ( No one ever even heard of “The Ukraine ” when I was a kid in the 70s ) my grandfather’s mom was descended from Dutch settlers in New.Netherland and was not pleased her son decided ro marry not only an “immigrant girl but a Catholic!) I was very excited to find out that my grandfather’s dad came from the Shenandoah Valley of.Virgiana . So I was Southern on both sides.
      ( Hearing all those different dialects as a a kid made me keenly aware of how people spoke. I have a pretty good ear for languages, dialects and accents . You can often tell not only where a person is from but also their parents. I can also pick up someone who “gor rid of’ their accent. There is always a tell

      I ended up with a BA in Spanish, I am fully fluent in Spanish and can muddle my way through some Portuguese .

      Anyhow, now I have written a novela of my background ( some would say useless and rambling) details. This essay made.me think of a couple things with Southern accents up north. One from my life and one related to me by my Mom .

      In 1987 my senior year old high school I worked at a Kmart store. One of the ladies in the clothing department was an African American woman named Barbara who came from somewhere near Tallahassee ( maybe Havana or Monticello or Madison. I don’t recall) Ans there was a couple times I was able to help “translate” so the NJ Italian girls with gigantic 1980s hair could understand what she was saying.

      My mom started taking ballet lessons at age 2. She apparently was good enough to be with the San Francisco Ballet at age 16 or 17. And of course ballerinas with the San Francisco Ballet DO NOT sound like they were born and raised in rural Alachua County FL. She told me about flying from SFO back to Gainesville she missed a connection in Chicago. Having to spend hours in there terminal waiting.

      One of the janitors was a middle aged black man. He probably was looking out for a young woman traveling alone. They talked for a moment and he was able to discern the minimal evidence of a hidden Southern accent.

      Keep in mind this was probably 1959-60 so rade relations were not at their best. He told my mom that he had.moced.ro Chicago from Mississippi years earlier for work, thinking it would be so different from the segregated South. But he thought it was worse as far as race relations. He missed the Southern people hhe thought people up north were mean and cold .

      I have heard and read many accounts with very similar sentiments from different decades a d different locaions

      • James Persons says:

        Fascinating. I think you should write your book if for no other reason than for your descendants to know about your time on earth and what you personally experienced. I’ve been passing on to my children written things and historical events of my life so that they will have available, along with my grandchildren, information about what life was like during my time and things I experienced and no just be a name on the family tree that they know nothing more about. Since I was a child I have wondered about my ancestors, what they were like as people and what their lives were like.

        I love reading about others’ personal experiences because it give insight into experiences beyond my own, like what Yates shared in his post. That was wonderful IMO.

        About North Jersey, I actually loved the 5 years I lived there. True, Yanks aren’t as warm and outgoing as we Rebs, but we Alabamians don’t much care for folks from GA. LOL Just a little Sothron joshing.

        Thanks for sharing with everyone Joseph.

        Have a Dixie Day!

  • James Persons says:

    Also, never forget this:
    Dr. Martin Luther King said the following during the 1966 Chicago Open Housing marches: “The racism and segregation in Chicago is worse than anything I have ever seen in the South. Never in my life have I seen such hate, not in Mississippi or Alabama.”

    Chicago was as emblematic of the Noth as Birmingham was of the South, but the Yankees didn’t talk about it over and over ad nauseum for decades.


    • Yates says:

      In Chicago Black communities it is referred to as talking ‘Country’, and it is well established that it can make you a target and get you hurt or killed, if you speak with an identifiable southern slang, as opposed to urban diction.

      My mom had a female friend from the state of Mississippi, (I dont recall what city and have zero familiarity with the deep south) but one notable observation of this article that a lot of people do not realize is that there is not a single southern accent, for Black or White Southerners.

      My mom never lost her sing-song Appalachian Highlands accent, which is immediately and easily recognizable from her friends Mississippi accent. If you listen to a Coastal Gullah Black Southerner, it is not ever close to an Urban Black speaking pattern, and has no similarity to Black Southerners from Western regions of the South.

      It is very common in my experience to work to ‘excercise’ traces of these linguistic ‘artifacts’ from your speech patterns in the industrial midwest, in my own personal experience not only at home but with Black and White Southerners relocated to these northern cities, not only because it can be dangerous for you in some neighborhoods if you are seen as a hayseed or easy mark, but because it also will lead some people to dismiss your credibility or see you as not ‘one of them’. My dad would turn on Chicago-ese speech in a given location or work place, and at home or in conversations with family or other Southerners use his normal speech pattern (also Appalachian).

      I think probably the most common reason to alter your normal speech pattern for most of those who relocated out of the south is simply the reason that my dad did, which is entirely for the purpose of economic gain in a work place where this speech pattern would mark you in the eyes of many of those around you as less capable, or make you stand out in a way that could only hurt you, but would never help you.

      Really good article, my complements.

      • James Persons says:

        Thank you, Yates. This is really interesting information that I did not know about and I think you are most certainly correct about the economic gain explanation.

        Thank you very much for the compliment. You are very kind.

  • Paul Yarbrough says:

    I have told this story more than once but for the sake of the thread of Mr. Chalk’s article I’m going to throw it out once again.
    About twenty-five years ago soon after I took on the magic of carrying a cell phone (called such at the time) I had walked into an independent convenience store (here in Houston) for some odd or end item. I was the only customer and there was a single clerk at the register. She was a middle-aged short Vietnamese lady. She had a nice smile and was quite polite. As she checked me out my cell phone went off and was quite clear as to the sound of the tune. Almost immediately she looked up and in her broken English remarked: “Oh wat a pritty song…I luv dat.”
    I had forgotten to turn the ringer tone on “silent” and it startled me at first. But because of her remark I immediately replied: “I love this song, myself. Perhaps one day you will love it as much as I do. I hope you will.”
    She handed me my change, smiled broadly and said “tank ju.”
    She didn’t have the accent but she had the heart. I hope she still does.
    Oh, the ring tone for my cell phone was the same then as it now for my so-called i-phone or android or whatever it is.
    The “song” she loved. My ring tone, then and now?

  • David LeBeau says:

    A highly recommended reading from the Abbeville Institute by John DeVanny titled “Secession of the Heart” to Casey Chalk’s friend. According to DeVanny (2016), “the Good Southerner” is the ultimate secessionist, for he has undertaken a secession of the heart.

  • Valerie Protopapas says:

    Every time I see or read something like this I remember the comment I read years ago (I don’t know who wrote it!) about a Southron who saw a man in Boston picketing the bussing of his white child to an inner city black school. His sign simply said, “The South Was Right!” And, indeed, as we can see so many year later, he, too, was right.

  • Ryan says:

    Maybe some northern elites can give this lady her honorary yankee merit badge. She would love that, but not realize that she will never be one of them and has instead alienated her own people.

  • My grandfather spoke with a tongue that included old Elizabethan English, some Southern drawl and abundant Black English. All rolled together as though they were one tongue. My mother spoke considerable Black English and was able to communicate things to us not as easily communicated using the King’s English – like when she tucked me in at night “yo Momma done love you so much, you the bessus boy that evuh did was, yes you iz”. I managed to tuck my sons in using the same language, but that was all I had left. My great Aunt Constance, my grandfather sister, would break out in tears as a young girl when she heard her father, Dean of Students at the University of Virginia – James Morris Page, speak in his office using the King’s English – saying “that is NOT my father he does not speak that way” – because Dean Page always addressed his children in perfected and extensive Black English, as did his ancestors – they would even write it to each other. All lost now. I won’t quit though. We owned slaves, for generations – 12 consecutive on average. I carry about as much guilt as any given Evanstonian (I live in Evanston IL – a refuge for descendents of Slave owners) walks around with their head down because Evanston Public Schools were segregated until 1951. Its over, not Southern culture, but the abuse we receive from pure ignorance on a National level. I don’t put up with it anymore – excuse me, “no mo”.

  • I sat down with some ice cream after reading this article and the comments. I had a small revelation, you all, as I ate!

    I know there are many reasons why the North dislikes the South. I done found one reason that *really* stands out, and here it is…

    Some extreme liberals say that,
    There are no biological differences at all between a man and a woman.
    The brains of a woman and a man, if there is a difference between them, is only due to cultural imprinting from birth onwards.
    *Here*, you all, is one major, major reason why the South is so disliked. If indeed the wirings of a man’s and a woman’s brain are culturally determined, then the cultural imprints must be REMOVED!!

    If there are no differences, then in regard to sex orientations, no one will feel belittled or oppressed by gender biases!
    “Equality and Equity”!
    There MUST be no differences.
    Any group of people who hold ideas about women being different from men, are to be eliminated!

    For me, I am not a high-level scholar. But for me, here on the Ground, These ideas, above, are one of the driving forces behind the abolishing of the South, from the liberal’s standpoint. These days, I find that MOST of the well-educated non-Southerners seem to be following these ideas.

    Of course, the Southern people have *really* different ideas as to sex differences.


    Look at how the President handled the Easter Egg Hunt! He moved it to Monday so that the 31st should be sorely to celebrate the transgender day!
    Easter, to him, seems to be a day that should not exist, in light of the needs of the Transgender “heroes”!
    Takeaway: for him, religion is dead. Maybe even Jesus is merely a myth, a myth that blocks the way to modern thinking.
    Again, the South takes a hit due to religious beliefs.

    family and kin, let alone friends. Today we each and all seem required to move and move again and usually to a huge soul-less city.
    Family, kin, and even friends, just get in the way of progress. [of course, the liberals never ask the real Question: progress to what?!]
    Again, the South is a big speed bump; something to be removed as fast as possible. Here, people sometimes value family, kin, and friends to be *more* important than chasing after money!

    Can one tell a liberal Northerner this?!
    well…back in college, at Florida State University, in about 1961, I was sitting in the cafeteria for my lunch. I saw a friend, from the North, sitting at a long table by himself and I joined him. Very soon about three or five more Northern students came to this table. Eventually, one guy began to run the South down. *then* oh then, he said something that burned into my brain for life!
    He said to everyone, “I hate the South *SO* much, because of their biases, bigotry, and their redneck attitudes, that if a Southerner were to come over to this table to sit down with us, I would get up from this table and leave”!
    …even at the tender age of 20, I felt appalled!
    Did he not even know what he had just said?!
    Did he not even consider the meaning of “bias and bigotry”?

    He threw a stone but behind him were acres of glass-ceiling greenhouses!

    At least, if you criticize the South, just please be sure that you are not projecting your own mental shortcomings onto them!


    • James Persons says:

      Northerners in my experience even up into our times now, but especially back then/early 60’s, were completely blind/un self aware of their own bigotry. It never occurred to them that there were so few Black people around them and that they never saw Black people. Bigotry only existed in the South to them. Their bigotry toward White Southerners is still evident today. Northerners don’t know their own history regarding slavery, racism and segregation because even when it is chronicled it does not get coverage. I like to give these folks links, written by Northerners, to throw them into cognitive dissonance/make them crazy. Here are two:

      Slave North dot com; and
      “The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle outside of the South”: Brian Purnell, Jeanne Theoharis, Komozi Woodard

  • scott Thompson says:

    Interesting article. Being from the Triangle in NC and having lived in the Western parts of the state too….there are some small differences. When I was young I even got hear an old hoi-toider (high tider) who was still alive (early 1980s) from the Outer Banks speak….it sounded almost foreign. My dad named Ralph, would be pronounced the Sandhills of NC in the 50s as Raff Joonyah, Ralph Junior. It seemed the more northern and west you went in the state the accent tended to slow down and get more relaxed.

    • Keith Redmon says:

      I used to live in Morehead City,NC. Anywhere east of Beaufort, NC was called “Down East.” They also spoke with the “hoi toid” accent. If you weren’t from there, you were from “off.” You were called a “ding batter” or a “woodser.” They had their own words like “pizer” for porch and if you had a bad day, you were “momicked.” They were clannish and untrusting of outsiders. I did live there long enough to make friends with many of them, but I was still a “ding batter.* They are a hard working bunch, mostly fishermen. I hope and pray they never change. But sadly, they are. Yankees are realizing the beauty of that place, moving there, building huge houses, changing the politics. They move to places like this because they don’t like where they are living. Yet, they are trying to change that are to mimic where they moved from. It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s happening all over my beloved home state of NC. It makes me sad, and angry… More angry than sad.

  • JULIE PAINE says:

    I sincerely hope that those of you who retain that sweet Southern sound in your voice are making recordings, either reading your own writings, or recording audio books of Southern classics. The public library in my town has a small recording studio that patrons can use for free. If similar resources are available where you are, I encourage you to preserve the music that is the Southern accent. I always check the Audible samples for Southern accents and am almost always disappointed, so if anyone has done a book, please post it here.

  • Wm. Allen Harrison IV says:

    We ought to cultivate our Southern-ness. Born in Alexandria in the ’60s, growing up with a Southern accent that public school teachers frowned upon, I have spent the past several years consciously bringing that accent back. It certainly stands in stark contrast to many of the harsh accents from up North – Boston, New York, Philadelphia….

  • Joyce says:

    The gentleman in the reverse mortgage ad sounds almost exactly like the way my people in St. Mary’s County, Maryland used to speak. It is heartbreaking that such beautiful speech is being ridiculed out of existence by ignorant people from the North who, mercifully, can’t hear their own hideous dialect. The South’s language was brought to our shores by people from the British Isles. It is our Celtic legacy.

  • Paul Commonsense says:

    One had hoped for nuance and then the r-word is invoked, causing me to lose interest. You still can seriously think this word should be taken seriously?

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