Texans Are Polite, Y’all

I was born in Ohio, but I am definitely a Texan.

I’m not sure why, but northerners are extremely proud of being from up north. Or at least, my family is! For that reason, I never adopted the phrases “y’all”, “fixin’ to”, or “soda”. I also fought to keep my Midwest dialect…which is to say, no dialect. When I am around other Texans, I hear a subtle accent in my speech, but I am kind of a speech chameleon and can turn it off at will.

Still, I love Texas and have finally noticed some Texan-isms worked their way into my behavior.

For example, I started saying, “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, sir.” In the south, “ma’am” and “sir” are big deals. As a child, you are perceived as rude if you say a lonely “No,” and a heathen if your response is “yeah.” As a youth, though, I never felt the need to say these titles, and they felt odd coming out of my mouth when I was forced to by a teacher.

My dad still says, “Don’t call me sir; I work for a living.” I don’t think he means that he doesn’t want respect, but perhaps he wants to note that he is not a snob or better than someone else. I’m not absolutely sure what that phrase means. (Maybe you can enlighten me?)

A few weeks ago, when I was filming a commercial, the stylist from L.A. got very upset when I responded with a “Yes ma’am.” Apparently, I was not the first because she quickly said, “Don’t call me ma’am.” There was a smile on her face, but I could tell she was peeved. For her, I’m assuming it was an age-thing. She was young, but old enough to be sensitive to being perceived as older.

But in Texas, “ma’am” and “sir” are not reserved for those who are older. We also use “ma’am” and “sir” with our children.

“Mommy, may I have one?”

“Yes, ma’am,” mommy smiles sweetly.

This tickled me the other day: Samuel grabbed something breakable and almost pulled it down, while I said a firm, “No sir!” This is a very Texas-thing to say when “disciplining” your child.

I never knew discipline was so polite.

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