One good thing about hanging out way too long at Arbor Springs Rehab is meeting new people. Most every conversation I have with the staff ends with the following: grab a copy of the paper on your way out. When they ask me what kind of newspaper writing I do, I am quick, and bold, to say that I write in the style of Lewis Grizzard.
Lewis Grizzard was one of my favorite comedians. I think he was trying to be more of a writer than a comic, but he made me laugh with his take on Southern life, which he wrote about in his column every week. He was the only reason I would ever buy the Atlanta Journal, and when he died, I let my subscription die too.
He would often say that there is no such thing as being too Southern. When he moved to Chicago for a short stint, the number one thing he missed was Southern food. He famously loved The Varsity in Atlanta, a restaurant renowned for fast food, chili dogs and fries. He joked that “There is something wrong when you wait in line thirty minutes to get a hamburger that was cooked for ninety seconds an hour ago.” But he ate there often. He also said “Chili dawgs always bark at night,” which sounds funny but I’m not positive I know what that means.
Lewis enjoyed talking about Southern expressions. We have a different way of talking in the South, and it’s not just the accent. He would use words that painted a picture like snooty, ain’t, sucker, and nekkid. He would say, in the south there’s a difference between ‘Naked’ and ‘Nekkid.’ ‘Naked’ means you don’t have any clothes on. ‘Nekkid’ means you don’t have any clothes on and you’re up to somethin’.
If you know me, I like to sit around and think of old southern words and expressions. I don’t know why it interests me so much. Maybe it is similar to why Lewis liked them too; it brought back memories of living in a rural southern town growing up, before the world got all snooty.
Mostly what I remember are old songs or ditties we used to recite on the playground. How we could memorize those rhymes in middle school and not remember any of our multiplication tables is beyond me. I tried one of these rhymes out on my friend Gene Taylor.
Tom, Tom, the piper’s son,
Stole a pig, and away did run;
The pig was eat
And Tom was beat,
And Tom went crying
Down the street.
He said it didn’t sound like a Southern rhyme because he wasn’t aware of a lot of pipers down on the farm.
I tried out an old Southern expression instead. I asked him, what is a Doo Hickey? He answered that it’s a tool or item you do not know the name of. Nope, I told him, Doo Hickey is a term that best describes a person like Gene Taylor who is a Hick that doesn’t Doo anything. He didn’t laugh, and I realized that I’m probably not as funny as Mr. Grizzard.
I will say that after being married for over 67 years, I have a much better understanding of marriage than Lewis ever did. My favorite line of his was: “Instead of getting married again, I’m going to find a woman I don’t like and give her a house.”
Lewis Grizzard wrote several books, but he will always be remembered for his newspaper column that told it like it was, always with humor. I’m grateful I can attempt my own humorous column in a newspaper instead of some social media blog. When AI takes over the world, I will still be able to tell a visitor to grab a copy of the paper on the way out.