Southern accents and runny grits

Now here is a first. This morning, I tried out a newly-opened diner in Garner, NC – the Eggs Up Grill (It’s a breakfast/lunch chain of restaurants in the South. Not as prolific as the Waffle House, mind you.). As I was coming out of the restaurant and into the parking lot, three elderly ladies were heading in. They stopped me and asked:

Lady 1: Excuse me. How is the food here?
Lady 2: This is our first time trying it.
Angela: Let me ask you this. Are you from the South?
Lady 3: We sure are!
Lady 1: Oh yes!
Lady 2: Of course we are!
Angela: Okay then. I will say this: the biscuits are pretty good. They’re grilled. Well, toasted on the grill. And the grits aren’t instant. But a little too runny.
Lady 1: That sounds okay, I guess. Hmmm…
Lady 2: Biscuits are important.
Angela: Yes ma’am, they sure are. And so are grits.
Lady 2: I have to ask you something.
Angela: Okay.
Lady 2: Are you from Eastern North Carolina? Down East? On the coast or near the coast?
Angela: (shocked look on my face) I sure am. How do you know that?!
Lady 2: Because I have family in Little Washington and in Beaufort and all of you have the same particular kind of accent.
Well, folks. You could have knocked me over with a feather (or, as I say to emphasize I am surprised or shocked – “I like to fell out when she asked me that.”). I mean, I know that people who are born and raised in Hyde County, Ocracoke, the Outer Banks (Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and so on), even Roanoke Island – as in Manteo and Wanchese – often have a unique Hoi-Toider accent of varying degrees of thickness but I never thought of my own Southern accent as unique to a specific region of NC.* I’m from farther inland – what is sometimes referred to as the “Inner Banks” (though we never, ever called it that – I think it was mainly to sell real estate to out-of-state folks who couldn’t afford to buy homes in the beach towns). I have to explore the linguistics of northeastern NC much more. Research to follow. Biscuits, non-runny grits, and Southern accents, baby! Get you some if you ain’t got all three in your life! 

*The Hoi Toiders’ unique speech – labeled by linguists as an Ocracoke brogue – is a combination of many early influences, especially seventeenth-century English regional dialects. The dialect’s most characteristic feature is evident in the pronunciation of the phrase “high tide” as “hoi toide” in a way similar to how it is pronounced in parts of southwestern England even today. – from Hoi Toiders by Amelia Dees-Killette, 2006

Photo from “All Recipes”

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