Often the first question I get when meeting someone new — whether at a Parish Council meeting or while enjoying a beer — is “where are you from?”
Whether we mean to or not, knowing where someone is from changes the way we talk to them. Scholars have studied geography’s impact on culture for centuries. Recently, I noticed the smaller, more day-to-day picture of geography’s implications on a conversation.
During lunch with my friend, a gentleman who is a former local newspaper editor and older than me (which doesn’t take much), he greeted me with an enthusiastic “Hey sweetheart!” I didn’t skip a beat, going in for a hug. He paused for a second then told me he hoped he hadn’t offended me. He calls everyone sweetheart, he explained.
“Oh, I know, I’m from here,” I said.
As a native of Louisiana with family strewn across Georgia, I’ve been called sweetheart more times than I can count. Not to mention the slew of other names like darling, honey, sweetie, and sugar, by anyone from the grocery store clerk to my office mama Shelli, who often brightens my day with a “good morning, beautiful.”
Sure, us millennials have ruined dating, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and doorbells (who rings a doorbell when you can text?), but southern name-calling is where geography trumps my desire for political correctness.
Some people, even those born and raised in the South, consider the name-calling sexist or rude, but I’ve got more pressing issues to consider. As long as it’s coming from a sober, non-threatening individual who also says ‘y’ all’ I’ll continue to take the name-calling for what it is, just some good ole southern charm.
So don’t worry about it, sweetie.