About a year and change I moved from the bayou of Louisiana to the wilds of Provo, Utah. The diversity of the place staggered me. They have all different breeds of white people in Utah, from the affluent kind with money to spare to the super religious with money to spare to the average garden-variety borrowing money to spare.
That's a little unfair. I met many diverse elements in Utah and later in Idaho. People from all over come to these lands to enjoy the different degrees of white people culture and attempt to integrate it into their own.
A few weeks ago I got to go to the Soul Food Festival, an integrated mix of southern food and African American culture. I was promised crawfish and barbecue. What happened was an interesting Where's Waldo of black folks in booths serving white people trying to do the electric slide. Very cultural.
The crawfish was not available. I was told it was too hard to get up there to which I responded that I managed to drive up from Louisiana, how hard is it to get a bunch of crawfish into a pot? Pretty sure you don't even have to give the little bastards individual seats on the plane.
I did not get the barbecue or my blessed crawfish. What I did get was a fried shrimp po boy slathered in something locals refer to as "fry sauce." This mix of mayonnaise and ketchup is served anywhere with a hint of a potato, which if you know anything about Idaho culture is everywhere excluding the Thai place and the Ben and Jerry's.
I fully suspect Ben and or Jerry to begin serving a potato and fry sauce flavor called "More Than Meets the Idaho" very soon.
I must confess, I am one of these white people, though. I can even pass as a Yankee if you don't give me too many drinks and watch my speech slow like an eighteen-wheeler on a downgrade.
That leads me to the tiny differences in language. Back home in the deep south, we call those large tractor trailer trucks "eighteen-wheelers." Here, I have been corrected to call them "semis" or "semi-trucks." I do not see the reasoning in this, as the damn things do often have eighteen wheels but rarely are they "semi-" as the prefix is used. They are not "half-trucks" or "part of trucks."
My definition of a "truck" is less extensive than that. A truck is a way to get pizza and beer or not be lonely because people will call you often to help them move. A truck is a thing an ex wife takes from you, along with your dog and something precious of your mama's.
Going back on the theme of diversity, let's talk about "y'all." It is a contraction of "you all," meaning "you folks in the group." The group can be in front of the speaker or it can be an ephemeral "all the people you identify with." This makes it more polite than "you guys" and more comfortable than "those people," which should only be reserved for rival football teams and people who eat their steaks well done.
In my youth, in an effort to sound more cosmopolitan and less hick-ish, I tried to take "y'all" from my speech. Now I embrace it as the inclusionary term it is.
Let us end on the most divisive of topics. I am totally going there. "Ma'am" and "Sir."
As in, "Are we going to see you in church on Sunday?"
I was raised by a Marine and a school teacher, both Southern. They taught me to be polite to everyone, to show respect. This does not only mean showing respect to my elders, as the terms "ma'am" and "sir" seem to have come to mean. Everyone should be able to be respected and given an honorific. Maybe there needs to be a more non-binary set, but I work with what I have.
Just the other day, I was in a drive-thru and the sixteen-year-old asked if I wanted fry sauce with my combo number two.
As nice as I could through gritted teeth, I said, "No, ma'am, I do not."