A few years ago I was handed a list of things that supposedly tells everything that one needs to now to survive in our wonderful state, especially in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
Some things were fairly close to true. For example:
“Atlanta is composed of mostly one way streets, The only to get out of downtown Atlanta is to turn around and start over when you reach Greenville, S.C. It’s impossible to go around a block and wind up on the street you started on. The Chamber of Commerce calls it a scenic drive and have posted signs to that effect so out-of-towners don’t feel like they are lost.”
That’s true enough. My daddy always said that it was impossible to ‘round the block in Atlanta. The one-way streets won’t allow such a thing.
“Atlanta is home to Coca-Cola. That’s really all we drink. Don’t ask for any other soft drink — unless it’s made by Coca Cola. And even then it’s still Coke.”
Until I was grown I thought Coke (Cocola to the natives) was the name for anything that came in a drink box and had carbonated water as its liquid base.
“The pollen count is off the national scale for unhealthy which starts at 120. More recently Atlanta has seen pollen counts in the 6,000 to 8,000 range. All roads, vehicles, houses, etc., are yellow from March 28th to July 15. If you have allergies you will die.”
Such a statement needs no explanation.
The list even contains a couple of pronunciation examples.
“Ponce de Leon Avenue can only be pronounced by a native. So, do not attempt the Spanish pronunciation. People will simply tilt their heads to the right and stare at you. (The correct pronunciation is pahnss duh LEE-on.)”
In their ignorance I have actually heard foreigners and Yankee Americans try to pronounce Ponce de Leon in the Spanish dialect. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
But there were some words in the pronunciation guide that were blatantly wrong.
According to the list the capital of Georgia — pronounced Jorjah — is be pronounced A-lan-uh.
I beg your pardon.
No self-respecting Georgia native ever pronounced the largest city in the state A-lan-uh. That’s a myth perpetrated by some wrong-minded Yankee American transplant who, in their desire to be accepted by the local folks, tried to mimic the Southern dialect.
First of all, if you are from somewhere else, do not try to mimic the dialect. You can’t do it. Even Hollywood dialect coaches cannot teach you the proper way. So, just forget it.
Southerners are born here, Transplants move here, they can live here, they can enjoy our climate, marry our women (or men for the ladies who move here), eat our food and take advantage of our hospitality. But don’t try to talk Southern. Some things just weren’t meant to be.
Anyway, the correct pronunciation of Atlanta is at-LAN-uh.
I took a quick survey of several people whom I know were born and raised in this area of the state and nary a one of them dropped the first T in Atlanta.
We all drop the second one, but the first one is always there. Natives just naturally put the accent on the second syllable and the at is slightly slurred. The word is at-LAN-uh.
Pass it on.
It’s just part of the problem we have with people moving here and forgetting to stop at the Welcome Stations to pick up their personal guide to the correct pronunciations of our cities and towns.
The town just north of Peachtree City is TY-rone, not tuh-RONE.
And the county just west of Fayette County is is COW-eta, not kuh-WEETA. When I was a kid living in Starr’s Mill, the grownups used to like to tease the youngsters with the question: Have you ever seen a cow eat a boy? When the youngster would say no, the grownup would respond, “Then ride over to Senoia and look around, you might see one walking along the sidewalk.”
No one ever asked any of us if we had ever seen a kuh-WEETA boy. It wouldn’t have made sense, and besides everyone, including the kids, would have tilted their head to the right and stared.
And that brings up the pronunciation of that Coweta town. The correct way to sound it out is ‘Snoy.’ One syllable, with the “ia” silent. It’s not SE-noi-ya.
We have a unique language here in the South. It has been honed to a fine edge by generations of Scotch-Irish-English immigrants. Up until television started streaming in the homogenized, sanitized version of the English language, we all knew the correct way to say all things Southern.
We Southerners are losing a trait that sets us apart from the rest of the nation. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our native dialect.
And for those who have moved here: Before you start to change the way words are pronounced, ask someone who was born here and whose family was born here. You will quickly learn the correct speech.
Kerlin’s roots go back generations in southwestern Fayette County. He’s a regular columnist for this newspaper.