Southern Manners 101

Image from the British Library.

Growing up in the South, certain things are drilled into your head.  You assume, everyone learns these lessons.  After a few critiques from people in other parts of the country, I realize that’s not true.  What we in the South considers good manners, is not viewed the same in other areas.  Shocking I know.  Today, is a brief review of proper manners in the South.

1.  Yes ma’am and yes sir.   Using ma’am and sir when talking to an adult is not only acceptable it’s expected.  Especially, to your parents and other elders.  In some schools, students have points taken off their conduct grade if they do not use this address.  The negative is also used.  I’ve been told that other areas don’t use ma’am when speaking to parents.  I don’t know about that.  Here you do, unless you want your ears boxed 🙂

example:  Yes, ma’am.  I told daddy not to eat the deviled eggs, but he did it anyway.

2. Miss/Mrs.  This is a fun one.  Usually, the title is used with a last name.  Here we like to use it with a first name, to make it less formal but still respectful.  For instance, you would never call your Sunday School teacher by her first name.  Yet, she’s known you since you were knee high to a grasshopper.  Using her last name is too formal, you need something in the middle.  Mr. can be used the same way, but it is more often used with women.

example:  Mrs. Sadie, sit a spell and have a glass of ice tea.

3.  Please/thank you.   Do I need to explain this?

4.  Never send a container back empty.  If you borrow a container, or take a container of food home from a get together, you should return the container back with something inside.  Preferably, something sweet.  If you are incapable of cooking and Pohlmans is closed, under no circumstances do you send it back dirty.  You will be forgiven for giving it back empty, if your cooking skills are nonexistent, but you will be talked about until the second coming if you give the dish back dirty.

example:  Mrs. Darla, thank you so much for that slice of pecan pie.  It was delicious.  I brought your Tupperware back and added a scoop of my mamas Banana Puddin’.

5.  Never talk bad about the cook.  I don’t care if the mashed potatoes taste like glue and the black eyed peas are hard as rocks, eat what’s on your plate, say thank you, and add how great it tasted.  People here take cooking personal.  If you insult the food, you will never be invited over again, and by the time it makes it around town, no one will have you over.

example: My father married a woman from Texas.  She’s part Mexican and never cooked Southern in her life.  When they were first married she tried several times to make black-eyed peas.  After he made the comment, “They don’t taste like my mama’s”, she never made them again.  They’ve been married 45 years!  That’s a long time to hold a grudge.

6.  Offer to take a dish.  If you are invited to dinner always ask if you can bring a side dish or a dessert.  The hostess will probably tell you no, but you must ask.  Sometimes, you should bring one anyway.  If you know the hostess, you’ll know which is the correct course of action.  If you can’t cook, pick something up at a respectable deli.

example:  “Sugar, why don’t you and Darrell come over for some BBQ on Saturday?”

“That’s sounds great.  I’ll bring some Deviled Eggs.”

“Oh! I love those eggs.  Thank you.”

“Your welcome, honey.  Bye now.”

These are just a few instances of proper manners in the South.  There are dozens more, but you get the idea.  What’s your favorite local/regional manners?



3 thoughts on “Southern Manners 101

  1. Pingback: Row80 Check-in | C.K.Rich

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