Tuesday, November 8, 2011

cultural linguistic confusion #1

Growing up my parents did teach me my please and thank yous but When I first moved to Alabama I did not understand the Sir and Ma'am usage. It caught me off guard being 19 and being called ma'am by people older than me- even when younger people called me mam it felt weird! Anyway i did not know that one also says these terms instead of saying "what" when they didn't hear you. I Say "what." I'm starting to hear how rude/dumb that sounds just saying "Huh" or "What" but that's what I grew up saying so it's a hard habit to shake. Are you wondering where this is going? I'm working up to a story...Anyway here it is:

I went to subway to get a sub my first week of school at UAB and I asked the lady for tomatoes
"Ma'am?" the lady said
of course she said it quickly and in a low tone so I didn't know what she was saying...
"What?" I said
"Ma'am?"
"What?"
"Ma'am?"
"What?"
"Ma'am?"
"What?"
"Ma'am?"
"What?"
I kid you not it went on that many times. Finally she  said slowly as if I was not capable of understanding any English
"What-did-you-say?"
"TO-MA-TOES"
The whole exchange could have gone a bit smoother but I'm learning. I'm curious as to what the rest of the country thinks of the whole Sir/Mam thing though. Sometimes I end up offending people when I call them mam- even in the south. Tips for how to avoid that are appreciated.

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