bITS 'N CHUNKS
While milling about in a bookstore one day I came across a book called Cold Sassy Tree. My friend informed me she had to read it for school (I did not) and didn't care for it because it was written by a Yankee and written entirely in dialect.
"Eaux," I said and set the book back down.
Now, as it turns out Olive Ann Burns is very Southern and lived in and around the south pretty much her whole life, but a modern southern writer writing entirely in dialect was still kind of weird to me because we tend to avoid overuse. I think we all generally follow the advice of Flannery O'Connor and use dialect like a "spice". I don't think that's a specific thing to Southern literature but we all do seem to be weirdly self-conscious of it, probably because a lot of things written in Southern dialect are either inaccurate or meant as a parody.
Anyway, I think about using slang and dialect a lot. I use it as a spice too but I'm not afraid to make a few regional jokes and sometimes I don't give a damn if the audience gets it or not. Like we can all make jokes about gentrification but what about arguments over which meat 'n three is the best?
Slang serves a lot of purposes for me. In theory you set the stage and tell the audience where the story is taking place, but very region specific slang lets you know exactly where we are. Someone using gang terminology is either initiated or a wannabe and you get to set the context. Certain things even clue you in to what year it is. Using slang incorrectly may show a character as uncool or dated.
In the old days, using more slang and dialect was my version of reclaiming my identity as a black author and a sign that I had stopped being afraid of admitting my Southern heritage. I even sneak in a few Southern Gothic tropes. These days, the internet will have you thinking that slang and cultural languages belong to everyone so it's getting a little murky for it to serve the purposes it once did. For me, anyway. I still sneak in little easter eggs every now and then and hope someone picks 'em up. Like a Bat-signal.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...