Sunday, October 30, 2011


The first week after I moved to Nashville, I was without a phone for a few days.( For back then ,the hills were innocent of cell-phone towers.) When I finally did get hooked up and could call my mother, she informed me she had called the hospital I was working at. To see if I had arrived safe.

"My God, "she said of the natives who had answered the phone, "I could not understand a word those people said". She exaggerated, for Southerners do speak English most of the time, but for my first year in Nashville ,I sometimes needed a translator. And not just for unfamiliar pronunciation. Many figures of speech also eluded me.

"You All" and its short form "Y'all" were easy and expected. But never had I heard one syllable words given so much credit and so much license to expand. "Sir, you can not get out of the bay-ed", I heard the nurses who worked with me say to confused old patients trying to crawl out over the bed siderails. And what did those confused old men want to get out of bed for? " I want some aahz", they would shout back at me, the nurse who did not know what they were asking for-"Aahz, Aahz. Don't you know what aahz is?.

I was caring for a patient fresh out of the open heart OR one night, and that patient was bleeding. He needed to go back to surgery. His doctor was the late Dr. George B., one of the few gentleman surgeons I have ever met. "Well," said the doctor,"He's bleedin' and I'm just going to have to carry him back to the OR." This was a novel use for "carry", but I did understand. Far better than a Californian I worked with whose patient's brother told her he had "carried " his sister all the way into the city from Cookeville. " I thought he picked her up and walked all the way", said this embarrassed Westerner.

And how can I ever forget the young nurse from up on the Cumberland Plateau, who reveled in her country-isms. "Yun's-, are y'all going to order out tonight?", she would ask, trying to get the pizza ball rolling. "Yun's" meant all the rest of us. And I suppose her parents, who ran a tree farm and nursery out in the country. This young woman immortalized herself one night in our ICU with her reaction to receiving defective automatic blood pressure cuffs from our ward secretary.

The cuff in the room did not work. Country nurse called for another. It did not work. She called for a third. It was a lemon too. And when the fourth cuff was tried and found wanting, it and the motor it was attached to, came flying out of the room. It smashed all over the floor in front of the ward secretary and some Vanderbilt medical residents making rounds. The evening supervisor reported this to our head nurse, who pulled in Country nurse for a reprimand.

"What am I supposed to tell the Director of Nursing when she asked me how this happened ?", our head nurse asked the girl.

"Tell her I dun it," said our heroine, "I dun it. I dun it." And of course, she was eventually punished by getting into Nurse Anesthetist School and facing a life time of six figure per annum salaries. And she married a neurosurgeon.

And though I have never called any people I worked with "yun's", I do use "y'all" often. Everyone uses it. I drive past a store called "'Ual and Shop Ual" every time I drive to work.

I find it is better to warn patients not to try to get out of bay-ed, and to assure their families that we know "Y'all don't want him to break a hip", than it is to parade my Brooklyn born, New England raised Yankee-ness out in public. Not that there is much of that left after thirty years-

And so goodnight. Y'all.


Out on the prairie said...

I love it, it made me think of a friend asking for vinner and erl for his salad and not knowing what that was.His wife joined in with even heavier accent and finally I figured it out. Later he had me over for bar-b-q, walkers and listeners.These were parts I had never tried before.I was spotted out with my eastern accent while in the west, not knowing I even had one.

Willa said...

Loved this post!! Y'all is a word that I have a lot of love for. Not sure why but I just love it.

Clementine Moonflower said...

After 4 1/2 years here I still can't bring myself to say y'all!