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Defending the Southern Accent

While running an errand, for my mom, in my hometown, I stopped by a local restaurant for a carry out lunch. This restaurant is a town landmark, known by some throughout the state. It’s best known for barbeque, and in fact, claims to be recognized for its pork across the nation. I think the claim of wide recognition is a bit more sales pitch than true fact; I think the claim might be based on some truth of 20-30 years ago.

When I was a teenager, back in the early 80s, I worked as a waiter at the restaurant for about two years. A lot of former teenagers worked at that restaurant at one time or another. As a local icon, it was a first job, summer job, and/or after-school job for many hometown teens through the decades.

Since I left my hometown almost 20 years ago, I’ve only visited the place a couple of times. I ate lunch inside a few weeks ago, for the first time in some 15-18 years. It looks 90% exactly as it did when I worked there. I was pleasantly surprised to find my old boss still working there, now days at the register.

Back in the early 80s, while I worked there, the restaurant introduced a company mascot: Chitlin the Space Pig. I kid you not. A full costume pig with a cape and a space-style flight hood. A pig named after a food made of his own cooked intestines. That’s disturbing. This mascot showed up at the restaurant occasionally, sometimes visited the local minor league baseball park, and paraded around at local festivals and such.

I don’t know if Chitlin is still active in town or in the restaurant, but when I stopped in the other day to pick up a plate of barbeque, yams, string beans, and hushpuppies, I found his likeness patterned in tile on the floor of the carry out room. He’s arm-and-arm with “Wilbur” the symbolic barbeque cook of the restaurant (named after the actual former owner). Above their heads, are the words, “WE ‘PRECIATE YA TRADIN’ WID US!”

That slogan was created during my time at the restaurant. The owner, the aforementioned Wilbur, hired a marketing group to come up with the words, and their original version said, “WE ‘PRECIATE YA TRADIN’ WIF US!” The image of Chitlin the Space Pig and Wilbur the Cook, with the slogan, was posted up for all the employees to see and appreciate. (Or ‘preciate.) I, in my trademark pedantic way, pointed out that “wif” (for “with”) does not sound Southern. It sounds like we had a speech impediment. The proper Southern accent is “wid.”

“You wanna go wid us?” (You want to go with us?)
“Take this widja.” (Take this with you.)
“What would I do widdout my dictionary?” (I can’t find “wid” in this dagblame book!)

I figure my complaint (which I restated every time I saw the slogan) made it to the owner, and on to the marketing folks, because a few weeks later, the slogan was edited to say “WID.” So, if you’ve seen that slogan, know that I, then just 16 years old, had a hand in editing out the stupid speech impediment that could have been an embarrassment for all folks proud of their Southern accent.

Maybe that should be on my résumé.


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