Alas, people unfamiliar with my work had no context for the remark and took offense. Herewith, the rest of the story.
First, I would never intentionally insult Southerners or the South. Although I was born in Florida, owing in part to my mother’s poor health (she needed a mild climate but died young anyway), South Carolina has been home to my maternal family since 1670.
In fact, my mother was the only family member to leave the state up to that point, except for the men who left, some for eternity, to fight in various wars. Her other reason for leaving was because she committed the unpardonable sin of marrying a Yankee pilot during World War II. My father said he couldn’t have found work in South Carolina back then.
My Southern resume otherwise includes the fact that my permanent address is still South Carolina, my first job was at The Charleston Evening Post, and I’m married to a native son whose bona fides are not in question.
To those angry emailers who pointed out that I’m no smarter than people with Southern accents, I would add only, “Amen, sister.” I have one of those accents myself, but adapt as circumstances require. Catch me on NBC and I probably sound like the Midwesterner my father was. Catch me on SC Highway 97, and you won’t know me from any other local.
My grandfather was one of those authentic Southerners whom reporters always hope to find — a farmer who plucked food from the ground a couple of hours before we sat down to say grace, told ghost stories from a rocking chair on the front porch and took us to Turkey Creek to fish and to scavenge for arrowheads. There was nothing dumb about Mr. John B, as everyone called him. If there were a way to capture the smell of him — a combination of leather, tobacco, soil and Old Spice — I’d give it away as tonic to help city children fall asleep at night.