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14 March 2008 @ 01:23 pm
Y'all need to stop. Now.  

This morning, to my horror, I discovered what I will hence forth refer to as Fangirl Southern. 

I will not name the fic or the author. The author has in fact written some very good stuff in a variety of fandoms (none of them IY) and I'd recommend several of them to anybody. 

However, the child writes one of the worst fake southern accents I've seen. It stirred thoughts of mayhem in my Cracker heart that the otherwise well plotted and original story could not quell. 

If you are not Southern and you decide that you must write about a Southern character then please, please, run it by someone who is Southern before you post. We're easy to find. To get you started in the right direction here are a few pointers. 

1. Y'all is plural. Always. It can be used when addressing a single individual but only when that person is being addressed as a representative of a group. Having a waitress tell a man who walks into her restaurant "Y'all sit down and I'll be right with you" is wrong. Having her tell the guy who's there to collect from the owner on a bill "I done told y'all he won't be here until after four" is right. Y'all in the second example does not refer to the bill collector but to the agency he represents.  Y'all is a contraction of "you all" the apostrophe therefore comes after the y. 

2. There is not one Southern accent. Some of us use a soft or absent R  sound  ("The wah is fah away") while others have a hard R and insert it into words that are not spelled with an R ("It'll all come out in the warsh"). The way we pronounce the pronoun "I" changes from region to region as well. We don't all use the "ah" sound. 

3. If you get 1 or 2 wrong you will immediately out yourself as a poser to any native of the South who reads your work.

4. All of this is available in articles online and in books on linguistics. Research dialects just like you would anything else you aren't familiar with. 

5. Just because some actor from New York or California talked a certain way when playing a Southerner does not mean HE did his research. Don't be lazy and get caught perpetuating a mistake. 

6. Avoid writing things in phonetic dialect as much as possible. It's annoying to a lot of people and gives you more rope to hang yourself with. 

jazzy_fay: Yeah but nojazzy_fay on March 15th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
ZOMG! I'm not the only one! I've come across it a few times, and it never fails to make me cringe. I mean, I was born in Gainesville, and grew up in Williston...Need I say more about my Southern credentials? I've seen some so bad that I literally haven't been able to understand what the author's trying to have the characters say. Besides, some of us barely even have accents, or have ones that only come out on certain words or times (my parents are New Yorkers who grew up in South Florida, so my upbringing counters my geography most of the time, but I get a bit more of a drawl going when I'm sleepy). I think that a lot of authors (not good ones) try to use phonetic dialects as a quick replacement for actually having to research and describe locations and cultures that they aren't familiar with.

Also, I've noticed a trend towards stereotyping all males in such stories as gentlemanly nice guys, and the females as soft-spoken bells. Maybe that's how it was in the anti-bellum days or something (though I doubt very much that things were ever that black and white), but that's most definitely not how it is now.

And to me, nothing screams Yankee quite so much as using "y'all" as a singular.

Oh, yeah, much icon love...mind if I use it?

Edited at 2008-03-15 12:20 am (UTC)
ranuel: Mini Meranuel on March 15th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
Sure, have at it. I got it from Jamminbison with her permission. I'm not sure but I don't think she made it originally. You might want to credit her as the source of this line of distribution though.

Y'all is one of those touchstones in life that allow you to immediately identify the posers of the world. A really annoying thing about this particular author is that she uses a fake Southern dialect in her author's notes even for those stories set in fandoms with no Southern characters.

My mother's side of the family is South Alabama Cracker back to before THE war but my father was Puerto Rican and spent his teen years in New York before coming down to Mobile, marrying Mama, and moving to Lake City so I grew up hearing both his Spanish accent and her Southern one.

I had the really hick Cracker accent as a small kid but years of school teachers urging me to speak properly wore it down until a semester of Voice and Diction and several years as a theater major pretty much purged it. I now mostly speak generic educated Southerner with drifts to a broader accent depending on my mood and who I've been spending time with.

Ironically a few years back I realized that somewhere along the line I'd lost the ability to believably speak my own native dialect naturally and would need to spend time with certain family members who still talk that way and deliberately relearn it if I needed to use it for some reason and do it right. And yet, I can still do the Scarlet O'hara upperclass Piedmont accent at the drop of a hat after doing it for at least two stage productions in my twenties.
Nightfalljenevastorme on March 15th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
"Y'all is plural. Always. It can be used when addressing a single individual but only when that person is being addressed as a representative of a group."

Now, that's not true in my experience, granted I only lived in the South for seven years (the Carolinas), but still, I heard y'all used to refer to specific individuals lots of times, even though technically, yes, it is plural. That's mostly why I noticed it so much, always one to pick out the cognitive dissonances, me. ;-) The Northern equivalent (well, Pennsylvanian, really) would be "yinz", contraction of "you uns", and I think (could be wrong) is truly only used for multiple people. ;-) As in, "Would yinz like some breakfasts?" They also insert the extra Rs, which annoys the hell out of me, and a "low hollow nasal" sort of tone as opposed to the higher nasal tone that I associate with the Southern dialects. I tend to associate that extra hard R with a "hillbilly" sort of lower-class rural accent regardless of actual location, while the soft R seems more of an urbanish middle-to-upper class distinction.

That being said, I agree about the use of phoenetic dialogue. It has to be perfectly done and in the proper context or else it's really jarring. It really bugs me when people write with a Scottish accent and misspell the colloquialisms like "nae" as "nea" -- for fuck's sake.
ranuelranuel on March 15th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
On plural vs. singular y'all.

Dialects have proper grammatical rules that they follow, even when they differ from "proper" English (or whatever), and as far as I know all dialects of Southern follow the plural y'all rule. Which doesn't mean that you might not get somebody who uses it, in the same way you might get somebody who speaks ungrammatically in any tongue, or that in an isolated area new rules may not evolve. It would be interesting to read something on how the usage you heard came about, if it were a regional thing, and how accepted it was.

The very rural and mostly lower class Cracker dialect I grew up with uses a soft R so the class distinction doesn't hold up. In contrast to the very soft A sound that you hear in the upper class accents it does have a more harsh and broad A that makes up for the R so it still sounds hick.

It is true, however, that the best known soft R Southern accent is that of upper-class, urban, Charleston and I can't think of any of the accents that insert extra Rs that are associated with the upper class.

Edited at 2008-03-15 05:22 pm (UTC)
miket61miket61 on March 25th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)
I use "y'all" when addressing an individual if I mean it to be clear that I am referring to that person and an additional other person.

"Are you free to have dinner tonight?" refers to the person to whom I'm speaking.

"Are y'all free to have dinner tonight?" refers to the person and his/her partner/spouse/SO/love slave.

Oh, and PLEASE read and enjoy Mark Twain's commentary on James Fennimore Cooper's "The Deerslayer."

Edited at 2008-03-25 01:38 am (UTC)
ranuel: English Isranuel on March 29th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
I tried to read Last of the Mohicans and the pain became so acute by the end of the first chapter that I never got any farther. It made me wonder if Cooper's fame was based on movie adaptations that were better than the source material, and if so, how did he remain in print until movies were invented?

I don't think I've read the Twain piece before because having not read The Deerslayer I assumed it wouldn't make much sense. He does lose me at times but it's a very good commentary.