Rita Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2008

Calls from Yanks upsetting during recent election

The barrage of recorded phone messages that accompanied the congressional election earlier this month left me tired…tired of pressing the “delete” button on the answering machine.

How many calls did you get?

This experience seems to have revealed a prejudice of mine.

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I found myself listening to the voices of Southerners, and tuning out those who were obviously, well, Yankees.

The voices that sounded like they were from Mississippi had more credibility with me than those who might have been from Vermont or New Jersey.

Not that those people are bad.

They just shouldn’t be trying to convince me how to vote in a Mississippi election if they don’t live here.

The last phone call I got was from someone who identified herself with her party’s congressional committee. She was not from “around here.”

I’ll bet she doesn’t order sweet tea, or eat grits, or know what a pulp wooder is. She surely doesn’t live in the 1st Congressional District.

It probably wasn’t intended that way, but her message came across as very condescending to me. Here was this smart New Yorker woman affiliated with the national party who was advising me how to vote. I took offense.

That party wasted their money on that campaign strategy. Why didn’t they just have a Mississippian record the message?

Once I changed phone companies just because the lady calling from the mom and pop company spoke with a magnolia accent. She sounded like she was from Yalobusha County, not New Dehli,  and would have brought over some chicken soup if I’d been sick. It was enough to make me cancel my contract with Ma Bell and sign up with her.

I don’t mean to sound so closed-minded. It’s not that southern talk is the only kind I will tolerate. There are times when I realize that it’s I who must adjust my speech to be more clearly understood if I’m talking to someone who’s not from “around here.”

Our very good friends live in Michigan and I find myself purposefully enunciating more clearly when we’re visiting, or even talking on the phone. Words like “mynaise,” “fixinto” and “prollyso” can be met with blank stares among folks not accustomed to such.

One of the reasons NASCAR appeals to me, I’ve realized, is that so many of the drivers sound like they could be my cousin.

Maybe the Democrats and Republicans should hire Dale Jr. or Elliott Sadler to record their campaign messages to Mississippi voters next time.