Friday, July 11, 2014

A Southern Tea Doesn't Serve Tea

Life can be really confusing at times, but there are circumstances where we bring it on ourselves. We use words that have multiple meanings with the same spelling: tea, shower, scale, windy, read, above… Or the words sounds the same with different meanings: two, to, or too; and their, there, or they’re.

Just the other day, my daughter and I were driving to a bridal tea for a young lady marrying my nephew. In all seriousness, she ask, “What type tea do you think they’ll have? Hot or cold?” My first response was uproarish laughter all the while she asked what was so funny.  When I could finally talk, I had to explain that a “tea” in this instance was not referring to the drink but to an event.  Then the discussion drifted to the difference between ‘Tea’s’ and ‘Showers.’ It was a good thing we were not headed to a shower because she would have brought a towel.

So here presents the quandary of this blog post. What's common knowledge for me, I assume in my writing is common knowledge for all. Yet something so simple for me might not be simple for someone trying to read my work. Southernism comes into play throughout my writing, and I have to remember that the reader shouldn’t have to be Southern to understand the story.

Those of you that have now paused in the midst of reading this blog to pull an internet search on the difference between a Bridal Tea versus a Bridal Shower are probably still confused as to my true definition of the event. I ran a search myself and did not find anything that described that specific Bridal Tea. So here it is: In the Deep South (i.e. North Alabama), a Bridal Tea at a local church is understood by all adult women from that community to be an event where the presents are opened and displayed, but the attendee’s do not sit around and watch the bride-to-be open said presents. The attendees are not expected to stay the full 2-hours of the tea. Now mind you, that only applies if it’s at the local church and in my community. The definition could easily change if the location does.

My point to all this rambling is that communities can have inter-customs that are not clearly understood by outsiders, but the fun part in writing is to expose those different customs drawing the reader in to become part of the family.

A rose by any other name… is still a rose - not so true for other things. What are some play on words or unique customs where you live?


Meda White said...

I am with you on this one. I use Southern slang in my writing frequently, some of it just used by my family but easy enough for other Southerners to understand. For my upcoming August release, Fall Rush, I used the work "chunk", meaning to throw. In context you can figure it out, but my editor from up north changed it to chuck. I double checked to be sure I wasn't crazy, but several definitions down the page for "chunk" it said Southern U.S.- to toss or throw. :) I see it as part of my duty to familiarize readers with phrases they might encounter if they ever visit down here. *grin*

I loved your comment about taking a towel to a Bridal Shower. LOL

Ali Hubbard said...

My husband-I call him Big Country - has tried to educate me. He is as Southern as it is possible to be. I had an embarrassing moment after inviting his parents to Easter Sunday"dinner " and they showed up right after church. I was thinking of SUPPER they informed me. Lol.
And as far as weddings go? I was accustomed them being one and a half hours with a reception running into the wee hours of the morning. I had just settled in my pew at my first wedding in Alabama. ....and it was over! I wondered if all the Catholics would be drinking, smoking, and dancing in the bathroom at the reception. It was 2 hours and included a groom's cake ( which Northerners don't have but really should because it's awesome. ).

I may not be Southern but my daughter is. And bilingual. I carry her around. Daddy totes her ;-)

Cari Hislop said...

Ali - your life sounds like a romance novel! "Big Country" that is so sweet!

An American living in England I have had a few painful vocabulary lessons over the years. One that stands out was the word "toss". I hadn't lived here long and was serving with the young women at church and we were at some function sitting around a table. I don't remember what we were talking about, but someone must have said something that made me think too much was expected of them at school or something so I said, "Toss that!" as in West coast American speech for "throw it away - get rid of it!". The table went silent as they all stared at me with horrified eyes and I said "What?" Turns out in England "Toss that!" is a milder form of "F. U.!" because to toss meaning to masturbate. That was not a comfortable place to learn that particular definition.

Ali Hubbard said...

Cari... your experience is hilarious! !! I've heard someone else speak about "rubbers" being "erasers."

And I'm very happy with Big Country. He knows I love the South...especially weddings. It's nice to get to focus on the couple and not have it be a long service. My attention span appreciates that. I remember my dad always fell asleep at weddings. Lol

Aidee Ladnier said...

Awesome post, Philisha! I am continually amazed by how we use and adapt words to fit different areas of the country (and the world, too, Cari) imbuing them with different meanings and connotations.

Philisha Stephens said...

I love hearing everyone's stories. Cari, yours cracked me up! Ali, I had no idea you were a Yankee. Meda, I can't wait to read your story. I'll be watching for chunk vs chuck now.

Ali Hubbard said...

I love my Midwestern roots, but I'll take that as a compliment!!!