March 20, 2001



written by
Lynn Trenning























For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

aired on WFAE, March 22, 2001 at 7:30 a.m.

By my definition, Yankee was the first word in a patriotic song, the name of an American League baseball team, and an old history book war term, until it became my own personal label when I moved south. A good many folks who grew up north of the Mason Dixon line have no idea they are Yankees until they spend some time south of the Mason Dixon line. I used to be a United States citizen. Now I'm the ancestor of Federalists who won a war one hundred and thirty six years ago. I used to be an American. Now I'm the one in the family who puts sugar in her grits and doesn't care for coleslaw.

Shortly after moving to Charlotte I brought a friend from Chicago to eat lunch on a farm in nearby Union County. As our charming hostess served steaming platefuls of fresh from her garden food she said, "I hope you like it, cause I don't know if Yankees like vegetables." Gee, it's not as though we have different digestive systems. My friend later commented that it was the first time she had ever been called a Yankee. "We don't call them anything," she told me.

Which is true. Lots of Southerners think us Yankees sit around the dinner table making jokes about rednecks and their outdoor plumbing and the number of hounddogs they have living under their ramshackle porches. The truth is, as a kid I didn't think about southerners at all. I knew that Disney World was in Florida, that Texas was really big, and that North Carolina was the closest place we could drive to see a bona fide mountain. Once, while camping in Georgia, I played cards with some kids who referred to the suit of clubs as puppy paws, and who called a grocery bag a sack. I thought it was strange, but I didn't run back to my family yelling "Mom, did you hear what those Rebels said?"

When Dale Earnheart died, a newspaper columnist observed that the area was "flooded with Yankees and Midwesterners and Canadians." Who knew that Yankees and Midwesterners were as different from southerners as Canadians. Does Yankeeland have borders and its own constitution, and how does it differ from Midwestworld?

I don't even know what Yankee means to the people who say it, and I wonder if they do either. In traditional Civil War-speak, a Yankee is anyone who fought for the Union flag, which I assume includes Midwesterners. To Europeans, a Yankee is a United States Citizen, which includes southerners. Which means somewhere in England, a third generation North Carolinian is being referred to as a Yankee. Wouldn't that make the skin of a confederate flag flyer crawl?

Regional differences are lovely, but I think its time to lose the labels. The opposite of a southerner is a northerner. Southerners can maintain their cultural identity as fierce fighters with good manners and the secret to fine cuisine, without defining their fellow countrymen by a wartime label.

~ Lynn Trenning

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