By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
So what do you think Yankees should talk like when they come to Texas? Does it do them any good to try to talk like Texans? No, I didn't think so either. Especially when they're Hillary Clinton.
If we know anything at all in Dallas, it's about Yankees. This is the only Texas city I know where individual suburbs have their own accents. Plano and Garland are right next to each other, but anybody can tell a Plano accent from a Garland accent.
Garland is Texas, right? Plano is Yankee. Don't argue with me about this, OK? You know it's true.
I came up the hard way. I'm a Yankee. I came here 100 years ago from Detroit. My first night out I got in a big yelling match with a guy behind the counter at Arlington Stadium because I thought the idiot was asking if I wanted the local newspapers with my nachos. Now I know. "Papers" means jalapeños. Plus, I learned that people here take the word "idiot" personally. Who knew?
So here's my dilemma. I love Hillary Clinton. I just want her to be president in the worst way, partly because of what a slap-down it would be for most of my neighbors. I want her to be viable.
But last week when I was on my Exercycle watching her give a speech at the Ann Richards memorial service in Austin, I had to turn off my TV at least four times. Hillary was doing something that just shouldn't be done. It must not be done. It cannot be done.
She was trying to talk Texas.
At first I tried to tell myself it was only that Upper Midwest just-plain-folks thing where you drop your terminal G's to show that you don't think you're superior to the people you think you're superior to.
She opened her remarks: "I was lookin'(no g) at those pictures, and I was thinkin'(no g), some people are so afraid of dyin'(no g) they never live, and some people are so afraid of failing (with a g) they never try."
I was concerned at this point, because...well, first of all we're doing this whole kind of lyrical country-western thing about, "So afraid of dyin', your eyes was lyin', who's buyin'?" all that.
But worse, we're only one long sentence into it, and already we've let three dropped G's hit the floor like horseshoes. And then Hillary dropped the g-bomb. I nearly fell off my Exercycle. Well, that happens sometimes anyway when I get going too fast, but I can tell you I was genuinely shocked by what I heard her say next. She was talking about how Ann Richards used to talk to women:
"She'd tell 'em they could," Hillary said. "In fact they had to. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. You had to git up and git goin' and just believe in yourself."
She said "git." I'm sorry. You can't say "git" if you're a Yankee. "Git" is Texas property. Yankees do not say "git." Ever. The only reason for Hillary Clinton to say "git" is if she's trying to do a Texas accent or a country accent or some kind of down-home thing, the very thought of which makes me want to hit myself in the head with a hammer to make it go away.
Of course, what the hell do I know about presidential candidates? I cover zoning controversies and PTA hair-pulling fights. But I must tell you, I have done some research that has only ratcheted up my sense of unease over my most favored candidate for the highest office in the land.
It turns out Southern accents are an issue. All kinds of bloggists, pundits and other whiz-bangs have been writing about how no Democrat who does not have a Southern accent can get elected president. This maxim seems to have originated with Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institute, who wrote an article a year ago in which he said, "No Democratic presidential candidate has been elected without a Southern accent in the half-century since 1960."
Hanson is greatly admired by conservative writers who have called him "potential heir to Stephen Ambrose as America's laureate of military history." He is not admired by liberal writers, who have called him "bard of the booboisie" and "the worst historian since Parson Weems."
But the point is, three months after Hanson said a Democrat has to have a Southern accent to win election, a writer in New York magazine repeated it as accepted wisdom. And there you have it. Now all the smart people are talking about it. One writer recently even said pointedly that Hillary Clinton would be wise to "get a Southern accent."
Get a Southern accent? What? You don't geta Southern accent. You especially don't gita Texas accent.
A few years ago, Dianne Markley at the University of North Texas did a study of job applicants in Texas and the effect that a regional accent may have on hiring decisions. She came up with a number of interesting findings, but the issue I talked to her about last week was Yankees who try to talk Texas.