Sunday, July 30, 2006

Excuse me, can you repeat that?

Hey, have you happened to notice the accent that us Northerners seem to have down here? I’ve also noticed a slight difference in the way Southerners talk. Truthfully, the differences are hardly even detectable by the average ear. Ok, I’m kidding. Hello? Are we all speaking the same language?

One of my first Southern friends and is a born and bred Georgian. We talk almost daily but I must confess – many times I can’t understand a word this boy is saying. I’ve come to realize though, that it’s not just the accent, it’s the dialect. Sometimes we are speaking a “different language”.

Dialect, as you know, is a regional variety of a language. So, in this new region of the country, it makes complete sense that we may have some communication issues.

I thought it may be helpful to provide a dictionary of sorts to help ease the communication barrier you may face on a day to day basis.

For the Southerners who, on occasion, respond to my comments with a look of question in their eyes I give you a cheat sheet of common New Jersey terminology, courtesy of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where they offer a dialect course:
Block: everything in North Jersey is measured by blocks. Any walking distance is a certain amount of blocks away.
Coke: a common term for any type of carbonated beverage.
Fired-Up: to get all sorts of angry.
Foul: a term used in Jersey to describe something that is "messed up" or morally wrong.
Italian Ice: opposed to "Water Ice". A colorful frozen dessert very popular in the summer months.
Shady: One who is of questionable character. Especially, when dealing with issues of love and relationships.
Sub: a sandwich containing various types of meat, cheese, and vegetables.
Slider: a pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich found in every New Jersey deli and diner, breakfast food for many. (Hint to local deli owners: add this to the menu and you’ll have a hit!)
As transplants, we have a responsibility to adapt to our new surroundings. Some Southern terms, that I have come to love include:

Bubba: Originally short for "brother." Now refers to all good ole boys.

Damn Yankee: Anyone from above the Mason-Dixon line, or Southerners who fought on the Union side during the Recent Unpleasantness. I don’t necessarily love this one, but I’m getting used to it.

Fixin: Getting ready.

Sugar, Honey Pie, Purdy Thang, Darlin: Terms of endearment. And damn if they don’t work. There is nothing sweeter than hearing a southern boy utter the term “darlin.”

Perhaps my favorite term is “bless her heart.” It seems that adding this qualifier to the end of any sentence softens the sentiment. As in, “Did you see how tight those pants were on her? She must have gained twenty pounds, bless her heart.”

Go forth my friends and communicate!

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She talks fast, laughs out loud, and has an air of sarcasm about her, bless her heart.

Driving Around in my Automobile

I watched my first NASCAR race recently. Well actually, I tuned in, watched it for a couple minutes and changed the channel. I felt obliged to at least give it a try. After all, NASCAR has its roots in the South and certainly has quite a Southern fan base.

From the Yankee perspective though, I can honestly say that I don’t recall ever hearing a NASCAR recap on a Monday morning at the water cooler. Football, baseball, basketball – yes. But NASCAR? Nope, it never happened.

In the South, however, I’ve noticed that if a race is on, it’s ON! On the televisions in local bars and restaurants that is. I’ve even figured out that those number stickers on the back bumpers and back windows of cars are representative of NASCAR drivers. And here I was thinking it was a tally of the numbers of accidents that car had been in.

But, I still don’t get it. Watching cars ride round and round in circles for hours on end, is not entertaining to me.

Maybe I just don’t understand the “need for speed.” You see, my first car was a 1984 Chrysler E Class. She was one of kind. And by that I mean I have never seen another of her kind on the road. She was a clunky, four-door sedan, that I am convinced was my parent’s one last attempt at embarrassing me before adulthood.

Oh the talk in the High School hallways was priceless. “Oh, you got your license, congratulations! What kind of car did you get?” “A Chrysler E Class,” I would mumble. “A what? I’ve never heard of that.” “Of course you haven’t,” I would concede.

I “allowed” my parents to talk me into the car because it had a tape deck and I figured no matter how dorky the car, I’d be able to play music and that would make me cool. Of course, the tape deck is the only thing we didn’t “test” on the test drive. So when I brought her home and tried to play my 10,000 Maniacs tape it didn’t work and I was devastated.

A couple accidents later (within the first few months) and the E Class was far worse off than when I acquired her. She was not built for speed and in fact, had the pick up of an old lady crossing the street. And while I have since graduated to Volvos and SUVs I still don’t understand the allure of driving so fast that your face hurts. More importantly, I don’t understand the attraction to watching others drive so fast that their face hurts and your neck hurts from watching them go round and round.

So, I felt it was only fair that I ask a NASCAR fan for his input hoping that it would shed some light on the subject. So, I hit up my husband’s boss, Tony, for his take on the sport. Tony is a good ol’ Southern boy and successful business man who drives a Cadillac Escalade, a small plane, a Harley and an R.V. Go figure! Anyway, I asked Tony why I should be a NASAR fan, what is in it for me? His response – “If I have to explain it to you, you’ll never understand.” Well, I guess that answers that.

A 2004 ESPN Sports Poll reported that 42% of NASCAR fans are women. So I did a little more research and I can certainly understand why – these guys are cute! Two words ladies … Jimmie Johnson. My interest is piqued and I may just give this sport a second try.

I’ve heard that to really appreciate NASCAR, you have to go to a race. That probably isn’t going to happen for me this season - I prefer to feel the wind in my hair on Highway 278 (if and when traffic is moving) – but I’ll keep you posted.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She drives a Nissan XTerra – if NASCAR comes knocking, she’ll add a #15 to her vehicle and will court Pottery Barn as her sponsor.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Power of the POA

I grew up in a quiet little neighborhood called “Cedarcroft”, which is an Indian word for “where the forest meets the shore”. (Note to readers: after this ran in the paper today, I received an email from some dope who told me that Cedarcroft is not an Indian word. Well, the sign had a big Indian on it and all of our street names were Indian - Shawnee, Lenape, Apache, Chocktaw, etc... forgive me for trying to use a childhood memory.) Ahem. In our little slice of heaven the roads were built around the trees – one road was split right down the middle by a tree that was easily over 100 years old. Many of the properties were right on the river where we had our own little (and I mean teeny) beach club, club house and slips for twenty or so boats.

As I think back to our neighborhood, most people kept their yards and homes looking pretty nice with the exception of one. Enter: The “Junk Man” who lived a few houses away from us. The Junk Man earned his name for sure. I can’t pinpoint one specific contributing factor but maybe it was the newspapers that were piled high in the back seat of his 1977 Impala, maybe it was the boxes and newspapers piled high and visible through each window of his house, maybe it was the dirt yard, or the lawn ornaments (i.e. garbage). Either way – he was the Junk Man. To this day I still don’t know his real name. In fact, I called my Mom while I was writing this and she couldn’t recall his name either, she said, “I don’t know, he was just the Junk Man.” Then she tried to soften it by saying, “actually Cour, he could be called the original recycler.” That was nice of her, but I know the truth … even the adults talked about the Junk Man. Today he would be a POA’s nightmare.

Anywho, my point (that I always get to eventually) is that until we moved here the concept of the Property Owners Association was foreign to me. And, I am still getting used to it. We just went through the pains of installing a wood picket fence. Well, we had someone install it, but we did the painting - white (three excruciating coats in the 90 degree heat) – the only color allowed by our POA.

POA’s are, by design, intended to provide community maintenance and in many cases they exist to ensure that everyone keeps their property just so. They keep the grass green, the pink flamingos at a minimum, plastic pools obsolete, lawn furniture fashionable, on-street parking in check (well, not in our neighborhood), and satellite dishes out of sight.

I don’t want to debate the value of a POA. Actually, yes I do. I understand their purpose and I am certainly the first person to make a comment about a dead lawn or a Sponge Bob Square Pants flag flying high, but maybe it needs to be said … is the power of the POA taking it too far?

If we all live in neighborhoods that look exactly the same, with the same houses, same landscapes, same fences, same patios, same flags, and same color combinations – we might as well be living on the set of the Truman Show or Pleasantville.

Pretty soon we’ll all be dressing alike, mowing our lawns in synch on Saturday mornings, flipping burgers on the grill in red checked aprons on Sunday afternoons, and frolicking in
dog-doo-free backyards. Ah, what a life!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Where's Your Sign?

Ever since I’ve crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, I’ve heard some stories of woe from fellow transplants about crossing the line. We’ve left our friends and family behind and we are faced with building our network all over again. This can be tough. How do you know who will make a good friend?

Well, I think I’ve come up with a solution for the new friend trend. We should all wear signs. These signs will identify our personality types and more importantly our emotional intelligence quotient (E.I.Q.) – our ability (or potential) to feel, use, communicate, recognize, remember, learn from, manage and understand emotions.

Signs will be broken into four color categories, each color denoting a different personality type. This will help you get started:

Make yourself a Blue sign if these words describe you:
Romantic, sensitive, understanding, peace-keeper, optimistic, inspirational, growth-oriented, authentic, likes to make a difference.

Make yourself a Gold sign if these words describe you:
Generous, cultured, stable, detailed, dedicated, accomplished, hard-working, dependable, loyal to home and family, a list-maker.

Make yourself a Green sign if these words describe you:
Analytical, explores ideas, perfectionist, persistent, standard setter, serious, complex, technical independent, uses precise language, striving for intellectual achievement.

Make yourself an Orange sign if these words describe you:
Spontaneous, accepts challenges, invites change, quick witted, creative, thrill seeker, entertainer, good in a crisis, seeks freedom and variety, darn funny.

Now, before you can don your sign you’ll need to answer a series of E.I.Q. questions.

Situation 1: A friend has borrowed something small, but high in sentimental value. You've asked for your friend to return the item, but your friend has failed to bring it back.

A. You end the friendship. You don't need a friend who disrespects you and your feelings.
B. You let it go. Friendship is more important than material items.
C. You give your friend the cold shoulder until he or she returns your item.
D. You admit to your friend how important the item is to you and why you would like it back, and ask your friend to return the item to you.

Situation 2: Your boss has assigned you your first big project, and the success or failure of the project could make or break your career.

A. You push it aside, you'll get to it later.
B. You spend the next week planning the project out in careful detail before telling anybody.
C. You take a few minutes to relax, give yourself time to think, bounce ideas off a colleague, and decide to pursue the idea that makes you feel most confident.
D. You get nervous and pace. Nervous energy helps fuel the process.

Situation 3: You are walking down the street, suddenly trip, and almost land flat on your face.

A. You regain your poise, laugh at yourself, and continue on your way.
B. You look around and give anyone who is looking at you a dirty look.
C. You turn red with embarrassment, put your head down, start walking, and hope no one noticed.
D. You get mad and curse yourself under your breath.

I think we can all agree that the emotionally intelligent answers to the questions are probably D, C, and A. But, is that how you would really react in those situations? Fess up, and on the bottom of your sign, post your answers.

Now we’ll know what we are getting into as we forge ahead into new friendships.

Moving to a new town, a new state, or a new region of the country is kind of like the first day of kindergarten all over again. It is exciting and stressful. It can cause butterflies and even tears. But, with a love for your new hometown and a brand new sign dangling from your neck, how can you go wrong?

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She wears an orange sign and can be reached at This column is in jest, if you are not laughing you should be wearing a green sign.