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South Polls Southern Manners For as long as some people have thought of themselves as southerners, they have believed that their manners were better than (or at least different from) those of other Americans— who have, by and large, been willing to grant them that. Lately, however, some have seen and lamented a deterioration of distinctively southern manners. In February and March of 1993 the Southern Focus Poll, conducted by the University of North Carolina's Institute for Research in Social Science for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , interviewed 859 residents of southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) and 446 residents of nonsouthem states. The survey covered a variety of questions about such topics as family life, the Confederate flag, and the household division of labor. It also looked at the manners respondents were taught when they were growing up and at parents' reports of what they are teaching their own children these days. Perhaps surprisingly, the results reveal only small intergenerational changes. In both the South and the non-South, there may have been a slight decrease in obedience to adults, a slight decrease in calling them "sir" and "ma'am," and a slight increase in firstnaming them. Thank-you notes are if anything more common than a generation ago. All of these differences are small and not statistically significant. As much as they did a generation ago, southerners and the rest of the country still differ in respectful forms of addressing adults: "Mr." and "Mrs." and especially "sir" and "ma'am." (As Hank Williams Jr. sings, "We say gTace and we say 'ma'am'/If you ain't into that, we don't give a damn.") "Sirring" and "ma'aming" are particularly common among native southerners (even those who now live outside the South), among residents of the Deep South (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana), and among rural and less well educated respondents. Although the practice is falling off among black southerners, it is substantially more common among them than among whites. Outside the South, it is more common among men and older respondents than among women and the young, but the relation to age and sex is not significant in the South. The entire questionnaire is available, or the data can be obtained for further analysis , from the Institute for Research in Social Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3355. 278 Southern Cultures Then: When you were growing up, did your parents teach you to— Now: How about when raising your own children? Do you (did you/will you) teach your children to—* Residents of South Residents of Non-South Then(%) Now(%) Then (%) Now(%) Do as told by adults Call adults "Mr." and "Mrs." (not first names) Call grownups "sir" and "ma'am" Write thank-you notes 98 91 82 77 93 85 80 80 Were taught/teach their children to call grownups "sir" and "ma'am" Region of residence Deep South Peripheral South New England Middle Atlantic East Central West Central Mountain States Pacific Coast Residence at age 16 South Border states Non-South Lived in South Entire life More than 10 years 10 years or less Some Never Considers self a southerner Does Does not County of residence Nonmetropolitan Metropolitan 90 78 90 76 89 74 56 91 70 52 89 61 87 79 86 76 62 91 66 56 86 60 86 76 95 80 52 72 46 60 55 45 45 42 88 72 45 55 47 89 72 46 79 31 58 45 45 36 39 83 75 38 50 39 53 51 44 46 South Polls 279 Residents of South Residents of Non-South Then(%)Now(%) Then (%) Now (%) Were taught/teach their children to call grownups "sir" and "ma'am" Race White Black Sex Male Female Age 18-24 25-44 45-64 65 or older Education 11th grade or less High school graduate Some college College graduate Household income Less than $20,000 $20,000-39,999 $40,000-59,999 $60,000 or more National party preference Republican Democrat Independent Attend church Never Less than once a week Weekly More than once a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 277-279
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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