Have Y’all Ever Heard of a Little Somethin’ Called Southern Hospitality?

I’m a southerner – I like country music, football games, grilled brisket, and big rodeos – but that’s not what defines me. Even though these are things I appreciate about my home state of Texas, country isn’t my favorite kind of music, I don’t only like football, there are plenty of other foods I like more than brisket, and I’ve only ever been to a few rodeos in my life. If you asked what some of my favorite things are, none of these southern stereotypes would be a part of my answer. I may identify as a southerner at heart, but this is by no means the entirety of my identity.

Pretty much anyone in the world knows that Texans talk funny. Many of us have very strong accents and unique sayings that may be hard for an outsider to understand. “I’m fixin’ to go to the store,” really means I’m about to go to the store. “Howdy,” just means hello. It’s not a sprite, pepsi, soda, or pop – we just call it a coke. “This ain’t my first rodeo,” means we know what we’re doing. It’s not “I guess we can go to the movies,” it’s “I reckon we can go to the movies.”

All of these phrases bring a sense of comfort to me. It’s what I grew up hearing from my family. “In Texas, we have a little thing called southern hospitality.” This is something Texans love to bring up anytime they are compared to a northern place like New York City. This southern hospitality is centered around politeness, good home cooking, helpfulness, charm, and charity. This is something I witness on a day to day basis. When the neighbor is trying to fix his boat, you better expect we – along with plenty of other neighbors – will go over to see “what’s goin’ on.” If you’re in Texas and you don’t open the door for a lady, you better expect to get some eyes glancing in your direction from any bystanders. These are just a few fundamental parts of this “southern hospitality” that we southerners are so proud of. When I hear southern phrases like the ones mentioned in the previous paragraph, I feel a sense of charm that just makes me feel at home.

Of all the words and phrases that are unique to Texans, one stands out above all the rest: “y’all.” It’s simply a combination of the words, you all. In the 1500s the word “thou” was still used as “you,” and “ye” was the plural version of that. In some Scottish dialects, they would say “ye all,” instead of “ye.” As many of the Scottish people immigrated to Texas, they brought that saying with them. This eventually morphed into the word, y’all. Basically, y’all is just a plural version of you. I believe that southern hospitality might have even had a part in the formation of this word. Because southern hospitality focuses so much on the importance of community and inclusivity, I believe that “y’all” became so prominent due to the fact that Texans have a tendency to want to include others. In fact, I think it is a word that should be accepted by all Americans. “Y’all” would be a great addition to everyone’s vocabulary, because there is just no other word like it that can be used to include others.

In How to Tame a Wild Tongue, Gloria Anzaldua says “Chicano Spanish sprang out of the Chicanos’ need to identify ourselves as a distinct people.” While many of the words and phrases that we Texans use maybe not have emerged from necessity, they did help us identify ourselves as a distinct people. Southerners are known to be some of the most courteous people, and much of that is reflected in the language we use to this day. If you ever come down to Texas, you can see just how southern hospitality is reflected all throughout our language.

5 thoughts on “Have Y’all Ever Heard of a Little Somethin’ Called Southern Hospitality?

  1. I love your opening move here! You use syntax (how your sentences are constructed) to make your argument just as much as the meanings of your words. The lists show a parallelism that illustrates a contrast that reveals something about you: you are proud of where you come from but you doesn’t totally define you.

  2. I really do enjoy the aspects of the type of language that southerners use that is completely different to life in New York where I am from. The kindness among the people is something that is not super common up here and I love the community that people have down in Texas.

  3. I enjoyed reading this a lot and feel there is a lot to take from this. I like how you say that being able to speak your language makes you feel at home. Additionally I support the idea of southern hospitality and hope to have that in my house even if I live right here in NY.

  4. I like how you stated that “y’all” was one of the most unique and commonly used term in Texas. I myself tend to use the phrase during informal communication with my peers and this shows that language does not belong to any particular people (Southern Americans in this case), but to everyone.

  5. I really like this piece especially because I was born in and used to live in Tennessee so I can relate to a thing or two about the south. The section when you spoke about southern hospitality really stuck with me. As well as you did define it, it still takes experience to truly know what it is; it take you knowing the language. Southern hospitality is like a way of life and I think the voice you used in this piece really showed that.

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