Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

June 19, 2014

Your Kentucky is showing

ASHLAND — There are many things that make Kentuckians different from the rest of the country, but what truly makes us unique is the way we are received by others when we travel outside our borders.

Picking the Kentuckians out of a group of randomized Americans is fairly simple, be it because of the accent, demeanor or cultural tastes.

Last year, I traveled with a group of students from various other states up to Canada. Not a day went by that I wasn’t reminded of how “southern” I was or how I “say things differently” than other people in my office.

Not that it was a bad thing —they assured me it was meant endearingly, but it made me conscious of how my roots make me different from the others.

One of my editors in Canada, Carl Meyer, was born in Western Kentucky. He has dual-citizenship in both the U.S. and Canada. He was constantly aware of my Kentuckian tendencies.

We dedicated the better part of one slow work day to looking up linguistic regional differences in the U.S. and comparing common phrases from Canada and Kentucky.

Here are a few of our discoveries that has stuck with me a year after I’ve been back:

Saying ‘you all’ to pluralize a group of people.

Don’t confuse the phrasing with the infamous common usage of “y’all.” Many Kentuckians never use “y’all,” but still use “you all” when referring to a group of people in second person. As in, “You all should buy some ice cream.”

I use the phrase so often that I hardly think about it, but Carl would catch me every time. He claimed Canadians never use that language combo.

It’s made me conscious every time I use it ... which is a lot.

The Kentucky twang.

People in the Embassy News office had met people from the south before, but admitted there was something different about the Kentucky accent.

I wasn’t too surprised by that comment. I had heard it before, as had many of my friends. But it’s never quite as noticeable until someone not from Kentucky tries to emulate it.

I imagine it is the same with the differences of French Canadian and true French. I heard a man from France say French Canadians are referred to as “quackers” because they speak out of the front of their mouths instead of using the more classic, guttural accent associated with some French words.

We Kentuckians put a little more “uhhh” on our ‘U’s, take our time getting certain words out, don’t move our mouths too much when we talk and love drawing out those long “I”s and making them sound like short “a’’s.

(Tip: Be conscious of your long “I”s when telling people in other states you are looking for some “ice.” Especially when you’re at church camp.)

Southern charm.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a truly rude Kentuckian on the side of the road, in a grocery store or at a festival.

That’s not to say we’re all angels. If a Kentuckian feels they are being wronged, they will let you know. But they will nearly always claim their reasoning is ethically justified. And most likely, they will try to use the conflict as a way to teach you a moral lesson.

There are still many vacations to be had when summer officially begins on Saturday. So next time you travel out of state, or out of the country, talk to the locals about differences they may notice. Not only will it make for interesting conversation, but it can help you appreciate what it means to be noticed as a Kentuckian.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653. For Twitter updates, follow @lanabellamy_DI.

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