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Proper Southern Manners
Make no mistake about it, manners matter in Dixie! Good manners make life more pleasant for everyone. Good manners are what make Southerners different from those who aren't from here. You cannot take good manners too seriously in the South.
The Fundamentals of Good Manners
These five fundamentals should set you in good stead. Good manners are extended to everybody, regardless of whether you know them, on which side of town they live, or whether they tithe.
Be Humble: Others first, yourself last. Self-denial and deference to others ("After you") are the cornerstone of good manners, acting selfish or uppity is not. This commandment is indisputably rooted in the Bible Belt theology ("the first shall be last, and the last shall be first").
Be Courteous: Remember the Golden Rule. Go out of your way to be helpful and kind to everyone you encounter.
Behave Yourself: Don't be uncouth, rude, brash, loud, coarse, or cause a commotion in public. Only trashy types do such things.....and obviously this is because they weren't raised to know better.
Be Friendly: Put your friendliest foot forward, whether you've been properly introduced or don't know the person from a hole in the ground. Be sociable and neighborly, just like you learned in Sunday School ("Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself").
Be Modest: Never be highfalutin'. Practice modesty in all situations. "Why, shucks, I guess I was in the right place at the right time" would work just fine upon learning that you had won the Pulitzer Prize. "Of course I won it, I deserve to" would absolutely categorize you as too big for your britches.
Common Courtesies in Dixie
Say "please" without fail. Please, always say "please" when you make a requet, no matter how trivial or important.
Always ask, never tell. The only way to make a request is to ask for it, directives are much too surly. "Would you please carry me up the road a piece?" is correct. "Give me a ride to the market" is most assuredly not.
Say "Thank you" without fail. Upon being granted your request--be it a personal favor or impersonal transaction--always look the other party in the eye, give them a pleasing smile, and cheerily say, "Thank you". To show them you're really grateful, dress it up with "Thank you kindly," "Thanks a whole lot," "Preciate it". If your request is denied, say "Well, thank you anyway." Using your best turn-the-other-cheek manner.
Say "ma'am" and "sir" without fail. If any adult your senior addresses you (or vice versa), automatically attach the appropriate title to your response ("Yes ma'am, "I reckon so, Sir", "Pardon me ma'am"). Neglecting this rule is apt to be interpreted as arrogance or insolence or just plain bad upbringing.
Always refer to those of the female gender as Ladies. The descriptive woman is usually reserved in Dixie for females of questionable respect. If you are a gentleman, then treat all ladies with courtness, deference, and respect you'd accord members of the royal family since, in the South, ladies occupy such status. This is an immutable rule of order in Dixie, no matter what may be happening elsewhere on this planet.
Chivalry may not be well appreciated outside the South today, but you can be sure that around home territory a true gentleman will so honor a lady:
Hold the door open for all members of the fairer sex, regardless of their social station.
Stand when a lady enters or leaves a room.
Walk on the streetside of a side-walk, when accompanying a lady.
Order for both of you when at a restaurant (excluding business meals).
Always call his mother "Mamma" or "mutha" or "Mrs. -------"-never by her first name, no matter what his age.
"The Fundementals of Good Manners", "Proper Southern Manners", and "Common Courtesies in Dixie", are from the book, Having It Ya'll, 1993 by Ann Barrett Batson, published by Rutledge Hill Press.