About a decade ago, a friend of mine from Detroit left the big city and moved to my community in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.
Leaving Michigan’s largest city for an unincorporated Virginia map dot somewhere in the hills of Appalachia was without a doubt a massive culture shock for him; however, all in all, I believe he loved every moment of his time in the Virginia mountains.
Though he was speechless the first time he saw a gunrack in the back of a pickup, as well as the time he attended his first tractor pull, I believe that is biggest struggle came every time he sat down in a restaurant, talked to an old woman in church or made a purchase at the local convenience store.
One particular time, I recall standing alongside him at a gas station as he prepaid for his gas, “What pump number are you on, Honey?”
Fumbling and stuttering with his words, he eventually mustered, “Four”.
“Alright Sweetie, you’re ready to go. Come back and see us Sugar.”
Having lived in a place where Appalachian-English is spoken for nearly my entire life, I thought absolutely nothing of the interaction, but as the heavy glass door to the Citgo station closed behind me and the two of us were walking toward his car, he whispered in my direction, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” I enquired puzzled?
“How that woman was coming on to me? A woman 25 years older than me was talking like that! I’ve never heard an older woman so forward in all of my life…”
Still unsure what even led him to draw this conclusion, I begged for details about what part of the cash register small talk I had missed only to discover that he was basing his assumption solely upon the woman’s use of “Sweetie, Honey, and Sugar.”
As our society becomes more self-aware and common regional words and phrases are replaced with globally accepted terms, words such as “Sweetie, Honey and Sugar” are all slowly exiting our dialect — however, throughout the flatlands of the South as well as the mountains of Appalachia, these non-sexual, non-flirtatious, terms of greeting are still being used and can still be heard.
While we’re being told that these type of phrases no longer have a place in our society, I for one dread the thought of living in a world where I could go through an entire day of visiting, purchasing, and interacting with my friends and neighbors and not being called honey… This term simply sweetens an otherwise bitter day!
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