My friends Alan and Avis recently spent some time touring Italy and making friends with people from around the world who spoke English with a variety of exotic accents.
En route home, Avis posted this on Facebook:
“I spent 10 days talking with people from Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, England, Cyprus and Australia with no problem. Here I am in the Atlanta airport trying to buy a bagel and I can’t understand a word the woman behind the counter is saying!”
First off, the idea of scaring up a bagel in the Atlanta airport seems implausible – the mark of a desperate Rhode Island woman yearning for a taste of home.
However, it appears that Avis knows her onions – airport research reveals that she could have scored at either Einstein Bros. Bagels or Goldberg’s Bagel Company & Deli.
As for the language and accent barrier, I get it, having been through the South numerous times. On my first trip through Texas I realized I was in a place where they are prone to say things like, “He’s got a hitch in his giddyup,”
When one is from Rhode Island, where the vernacular can mystify outsiders, one hesitates to poke fun at regionalisms from elsewhere.
For sure, southerners visiting our quirky little state would be hard pressed to know that a “gagga” is a hot wiener. But neither would most of us know that down South, a “chimichanga” is a deep-fried burrito.
Southern visitors here might be unfamiliar with the “dynamite sangwitch,” but down there we’d be surprised (or relieved) to learn that “possum pie” has nothing to do with marsupials. it’s made with chocolate pudding and cream cheese.
Southern talk does provide some creative and colorful images, so let’s give credit for that. Among them (speaking of marsupials):
– He’s so country he thinks a seven-course meal is a possum and a six-pack.
– It’s so dry the trees are bribing the dogs.
_ He’ll eat anything that don’t eat him first.
– He’s so dumb he could throw himself on the ground and miss.
– He’s about as useful as a steering wheel on a mule.
As for wisdom, you can’t beat Texas for serving it up succinctly in such morsels as “Don’t squat on your spurs,” and, “Don’t kick a cow chip on a hot day.”
All this begs the questions of whether one can get a tasty bagel in the South, and how they make them there.
Since she’s a Facebook fan, my friend Avis should check out David Guille, owner of “A Southern Bagel Company” deep in Mississippi.
He posts himself tossing a lump of raw dough into the air and – tongue firmly in cheek – blasting it with a squirrel gun. What he retrieves – presto! – is a (stashed) bagel, neatly holed and toasted from the heat of the alleged impact.
One suspects that when he’s not pulling our legs, Dave relies on more traditional bagel-making, maybe in line with the Einsteins and Goldbergs of Atlanta.
Still, and “not for nothin’” as we often hear in these parts, my Rhode Island advice to Avis is that she’d be wicked smaht – I’m just sayin’ – to keep her bagel-buying and conversation north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Gerry Goldstein (firstname.lastname@example.org), a frequent contributor, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.