Sunday, February 25, 2007

Just the right accent

My buddy Josh used to be deathly afraid of spiders. To conquer his fear, he bought two pet tarantulas. When we lived together in college, I’d come home to Josh sitting on the couch, shirtless, with a big, hairy tarantula crawling around on his shoulder.

“Hey man. You want to let Xenia crawl on you?” he’d ask.

Even if that spider was radioactive and its bite would have enabled me to hang upside-down by my ankles while making out with Kirsten Dunst, I still don’t think I would have said yes. Luckily, I wasn’t crazy in the first place, so I could just have a normal person’s healthy fear of gigantic spiders that have mandibles big enough to pop the cap off a Heineken bottle, and I didn’t have to let them use me as a jungle gym to get over it.

When Josh came to visit at my house, my dad asked a question that to Josh sounded something like this: “Josh, hour yir spah dirs?”

“Excuse me?” Josh asked.

“I said, ‘hour yir spah dirs?’”

This exchange continued similarly for a couple more volleys, until Josh had spent all of his “I’m sorry, I still didn’t catch that” tokens without understanding yet what my dad was saying to him. Rather than asking Dad to repeat it again, Josh paused a moment, I believe to contemplate his chances of a successful dash out the front door.

“Josh, he’s asking how your spiders are,” my mom finally said.

I don’t even notice my parents’ Southern accents. They’ve lived in Pennsylvania for over thirty years now, but they brought some parts of North Carolina and Florida with them that haven’t ever left. Josh could understand Mom because Florida is barely even in the South; it’s like Maryland with Disney World and old people. The South kind of stops at Georgia and heads west, dying somewhere out in the Texas desert because that’s where Dick Cheney shot it in the face.

“Oh, oh, they’re fine. Thank you for asking,” Josh replied. Later, he said to me, “Dude, I need subtitles to talk to your dad.” He should hear my dad when we visit family down South. Every mile traveled on I-95 thickens the accent just a little bit more. By the time we get there, “split” is very nearly a two-syllable word. When people up North inquire about the origins of Dad’s accent, his favorite answer is: “it’s from Southern Pennsylvania.”

I thought of all this recently as I traveled down South for work. Besides being surrounded by my favorite accent in the world, I was pleased to find that Southern people don’t relish running down pedestrians like we do in the North. In the North, we have to play real-life Frogger to get to the other side of the street. You can actually hear cars revving their engines when you step into a crosswalk, like all drivers see when they look at you is a waving checkered flag.

I think a diploma from Penn State carries just a little more weight when employers consider the Darwinian implications of a graduate successfully crossing College Avenue every day for several years. This is one of the reasons that Penn State diplomas carry the Latin phrase “E veritas destinas childus” at the bottom, which translates to: “I’m a survivor, not gon’ give up. Not gon’ stop (what). Keep on survivin’.”

When you’re walking on a sidewalk in the South, if you have the thought, “I might just venture over to that crosswalk here in the next couple of minutes,” traffic will come to a screeching halt, the smell of burnt brake pads wafting into the air.

Southern parents probably just tell their kids, “It’s a big waste of time to look both ways before you cross the street, so don’t even bother.”

Y’all can email Mike Todd at


  1. Those southern accents are both funny and entertaining for the whole family. hehehhehee

    You should come to my small town. I swear, they will swerve across 4 lanes just to hop up on the sidewalk and take your sorry butt out. hehehhee

  2. That Josh guys sounds cool. I'll bet his frank n' beens are twice the size of the average man's.

  3. I think I'd like the more casual life down South. I just couldn't stand the humidity.

    You really brang it on this week!

  4. You dun wrote yurselve a right funny column thiz week.

    I lived in Mississippi for 4 years while I was in the military and by God, you should've heard how much fun they made of my northern accent. Just becuase I paak the caa in the yaad... theres no need to get your panties in a wad.

  5. Ahhh, the memories. I miss Xenia and Zeus... they were great spiders. As you remember I was once roommates with Josh and the spiders. They were always well behaved and never loud. They didn't eat a ton and I never had to walk them. I think they're one of the best pets to have - low maintenance and great additions to keep unwanted people away.

  6. Burf -- Your comment makes we want to call lunch dinner and dinner supper for some reason.

    Shae -- Do I smell watermelon? (Inside joke. Sorry, non-college-roommates.)

    Buster -- Oh, it's already been brangten!

    Sheri -- Dang, you're hard core. You ever eat lobster and grits?

    Jered Earl -- A comment! Why, if I didn't know you better, I'd think that this was your way of alerting me to a new post over on that "Life at 28" blog that some 30 year-old bastard writes.

  7. I have all kinds of nice comments about the south however I can't get over the spider thing.
    OMG I once while working as a security guard in the AZ desert witnessed a trantula leap in the air, attach itself to the back of a guys jeans and begin to climb up back.
    Poor guy didn't know what hit him when I started swatting him with a piece of wood I found near by.

  8. Hmmm. Doesn't Kara look like Kirsten Dunst? Is this your way of telling her where the limits of your wedding vows actually lie?