Saturday, March 8, 2008


I am living in a town that has a statue of a Union soldier in the town square. This town is the place that made Daniel Decatur Emmet miss the south so much that he wrote "Dixie." Today there is snow all the way up to the benches on our deck, and it's still coming down. I've been lounging around reading the latest Diane Mott Davidson caterer mystery, Sweet Revenge (the recipes are now all at the back; I liked them better in between chapters), and I got to this:

I thought of that old story about the difference between a Southerner and a Yankee. You ask a Yankee how much a dime is worth. She gives you a frosty look and says "Ten cents." You ask a Southerner, and she says, "Well, I s'pose it's not worth what it used to be, I mean, I could buy a whole pocket full of Red Hots and Charleston Chews and Sugar Daddys when I was just a little girl, and my momma would see me coming with all that sweet stuff, and she'd say--"

This does sum up one of the differences nicely. It also reminds me of the scene in the Steve Martin movie LA Story where a woman announces to a table full of people that she's been taking a course in conversation. The man next to her says, encouragingly, "so, you're studying conversation" and she looks at him disparagingly and says "yes," turning away.


lemming said...

??? I thought the KC folks had proved he didn't write "Dixie" that it was stolen from a minstral show - ?

Jeanne said...

Like all successful thievery, I think Dan Emmett's thievery cannot be "proved." But yes, there's a good chance he used words he'd heard elsewhere (so does the use of Italian stories mean that whoever wrote Shakespeare's plays stole the plots?) And ever since I heard the Sacks' story about the minstral shows, I've wondered...why would former slaves miss the south that much? They would seem more likely to have written the Tom Lehrer version ("old times there are not forgotten, whuppin' slaves and sellin' cotton...").

Jeanne said...

Just in case you haven't heard the Tom Lehrer song, here are the lyrics:

I wanna go back to dixie,
Take me back to dear ol’ dixie,
That’s the only li’l ol’ place for li’l ol’ me.
Ol’ times there are not forgotten,
Whuppin’ slaves and sellin’ cotton,
And waitin’ for the robert e. lee.
(it was never there on time.)
I’ll go back to the swanee,
Where pellagra makes you scrawny,
And the honeysuckle clutters up the vine
I really am a-fixin’
To go home and start a-mixin’
Down below that mason-dixon line.

Oh, poll tax, how I love ya, how I love ya,
My dear old poll tax.

Won’tcha come with me to alabammy,
Back to the arms of my dear ol’ mammy,
Her cookin’s lousy and her hands are clammy,
But what the hell, it’s home.
Yes, for paradise the southland is my nominee.
Jes’ give me a ham hock and a grit of hominy.

I wanna go back to dixie
I wanna be a dixie pixie
And eat cornpone ’til it’s comin’ outta my ears
I wanna talk with southern gentlemen
And put my white sheet on again,
I ain’t seen one good lynchin’ in years.
The land of the boll weevil,
Where the laws are medieval,
Is callin’ me to come and nevermore roam.
I wanna go back to the southland,
That y’all and shet-ma-mouth land,
Be it ever so decadent,
There’s no place like home.

Anonymous said...

But Southerners still boil their vegetables beyond recognition and add fat to them....