SciFi and the Country Bumpkin

In the course of comments discussing the cover of his latest novel, John C. Wright mentions, in regard to the accent of his protagonist Menelaus Montrose:

I selected a Texan precisely because Leftists hate Cowboys, and for good reason: the Cowboy is American, free, individualist, religious, and proud — and I do not mean proud enough to flaunt sexual perversions in front of schoolchildren, which is how Leftists use the word ‘proud’, but I mean both ambitious and filled with a sense of self worth.

This reminded me of two things: the first is an article I wrote years ago for an on-line humor publication:

Study Finds Southerners, Humans “Closely Related”

New York: Results of a recent study have concluded that, surprisingly, humans and Southerners could be much more closely related than previously thought. “I was down in Atlanta,” stated research director and life-long New Yorker Harry Smetlinger, “and, lord, those Southerners are surprisingly human-like. It’s kind of eerie.”

“About the only obvious sub-human behavior we observed was the almost total lack of the ability to ignore people. I mean, Southerners will say hello to complete strangers right out on the street!”

More subtle non-human Southerner traits include speaking at a leisurely pace, helping people out just to be friendly and – most surprising – a tendency to stay married to the same spouse.  “That’s just not human,” stated Smetlinger

Dr. Smetlinger’s work could transform the way people think of Southerners, believed to be our closest living

relatives after chimps, dolphins and Californians. “Most New Yorkers formed their opinion of Southerners from visiting professional athletes,” stated Smetlinger,  “and, admittedly, some Braves do tend to elicit a strong hooting, hopping, dung-throwing response from even the more evolved humans.” Smetlinger concluded by saying that he hoped this study would help us to understand and even grow close to Southerners. “But not too close – there’s a limit to this sort of thing.”

And a story from my St. John’s College days, from a character named Charles G. Bell. who taught there.  Mr. Bell was called the best educated man in America at one point by some magazine – Life? Time? I don’t recall, but you get the gist – smart, smart, smart guy. Mr. Bell was from Yazoo Delta, Mississippi, where you can cut the accent with a knife.  Back in the ’30s, he and two other famous southerners went to Oxford on Rhodes scholarships, and made among themselves a pact: we will not speak like Oxford Englishmen, but retain our noble and colorful Mississippi accents and idioms. This led to following exchange during an oral examination of one of Mr. Bell’s Southern colleagues:

Oxford Don, whose position on some academic topic had been disputed by the uppity American:  “It seems. Mr. X, that you are calling me a fool.”

Mr. X: “I was only sayin’ you weren’t behavin’ like a reconnin’ critter.”

For full effect, this story must be heard in Mr. Bell’s unique Southern-kid-educated-in-Oxford-and-the-Midwest accent. Sadly, the trio gave up their quixotic language experiment in light of Oxford English being just too cool.  Yet, at least in Mr. Bell’s case, the Yazoo Delta roots ran Kudzu vine deep, and could never be fully eliminated.

Final note:  my anecdotal experience has been pretty much the opposite of the received wisdom: Farmers and small-town Americans have tended to be more, not less, aware and intelligent about the world than city slickers. I say this as a suburban brat who grew up in the shadow of L.A., and who in the course of my work have spent time in and worked with people from Chicago, New York, Boston and so on.  City people as a rule are impenetrably convinced that they’ve got a bead on it all, so that any disagreement with their take can only be explained by stupidity.  Small town folks and farmers, in my admittedly tiny sample, are less so.  John Rocker notwithstanding.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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