Letter From thenLower Rightnby John Shelton ReednSpace Invaders:nPartinAs Americans continue their flight tonthe South from the regions that they’venalready ruined, I continue to monitornthe low-intensity conflict between Yankeensettlers and Southern natives. Thisnpublic service is needed, I think, becausenwe just don’t know much aboutnwhat’s going on. Foundations and governmentnagencies tended to see Southernnmigration to the north as a problem,nso we have some studies of the north’snBedford-Stuyvesants and LittlenHadems. But now that the migration isngoing the other way, nobody with grantnmoney to give away seems to be worriednabout it.nNot that it isn’t a problem. To beginnwith, it raises questions of etiquette.nWhat do you say when someone tellsnyou he comes from Boston? “I’mnsorry”? In the 1850’s Joseph Baldwinnsuggested that the polite response wasnto pretend that you’d never heard ofnBoston, but that probably won’t worknanymore. It’s been in the papers a lot.nIn some parts of the South, ofncourse, the question no longer arises,nbecause nearly everyone comes fromnBoston, or someplace like it. A ChapelnHill friend of mine was present whenntwo of his new neighbors discoverednthey were both from New Jersey. “Oh,nyeah?” one of them said. “Whichnexit?”nBut when cultures do collide, somendegree of misunderstanding is almostninevitable. There’s a great scene in thenmovie Sharky’s Machine. Burt Reynolds,nan Atlanta vice cop, says tonVittorio Gassman, the white-slaver villain:nI’m gonna pull the chain onnyou, pal, and you want to knownwhy? Because you’re [messjingnup my city. Because you’renwalking all over people like youn38/CHRONICLESnCORRESPONDENCEnown ’em. And you want tonknow the worst part? Becausenyou’re from out-of-state.nAt the very least, natives are going tongrumble about folks who don’t knowngrits from granola. I’ve been collectingnclippings on this subject for some time,nand I have enough now to draw a fewnconclusions.nFor instance, it’s clear that humor isnone of the things that translates leastnwell. A while back the New York Timesninterviewed a woman from the Bronxnwho was teaching at the University ofnTexas. She said: “Texans have no sensenof humor. They can’t tell when they’renbeing kidded.”nFunny thing: when I was in schoolnin Boston, we Southerners used to saynthe same thing about Ivy Leaguers.nThis can lead to misunderstanding.nYou know the National Public Radionprogram “Car Talk”? (Two genialnbrothers dispense automotive advicenmixed with bad puns and insults? Thatnone?)nThe hosts are absolutely typicalnBoston-Italian wise guys (maybensmarter than a dozen others I’venknown, that’s all), and they habituallynpractice what someone once calledn”participatory listening” — what we innthe South call interrupting. Consequently,n”Car Talk” usually soundsnsomething like a two-man McLaughlinnCroup, which can be disconcerting ifnyou don’t understand how to keepnscore. South Carolina Public Radiononce dropped the program becausenlisteners found the chatter intolerablynrude. (Later the program was pickednup again: either South Carolinians arenlearning, or there are more Yankees innthe Palmetto State than I thought.)nThose of us who are bilingual havenan advantage here. One twenty-yearnveteran of doing business in NorthnCarolina remembers telling the presidentnof a New England company thatnhe, the veteran, would be useful tonthem because he spoke both Yankeenand Southern. He says: “They justnlaughed and brought down their ownnYankee personnel man. He lasted lessnthan a year; he didn’t know the ‘lan­nnnguage’ nor understand Southernnways.”nIn one of these letters I suggestednthat a great remaining regional differencenhas to do with how criticism isnunderstood. It seems to me that whennnortherners criticize they do it forthrightly:nthey often mean no harm, andnsometimes they’re even trying to help.nWhen Southerners criticize, we eitherndo it very indirectly, or we intend tongive offense.nOne businessman from Ohio, nownin Ceorgia, complained about this. Hentold U.S. News and World Report, “Ifn[Southerners] think a guy is an SOBnthey’ll apologize before they say it. Inwish they’d call it like they see it.” But,nas someone said once, Southerners willnbe polite until they’re angry enough tonkill you.nThis difference in manners cannwork to the disadvantage of northernersnwho come South. As Henry SteelenCommager once observed, “ThenSouth is still, to some extent, a familynaffair; every criticism of the South isntaken as personal.” Commager was anYankee who did understand: Southernersndon’t appreciate criticism, even ifnit’s well-founded. But some newcomersndon’t see why they should stopncomplaining about things they don’tnlike — and sometimes what they don’tnlike is Southerners.nBy far the most common observationnabout the South is that people arenslower here. One of our students, fromnBoston, told the student newspapernabout his first dealings with a Southernncountry storekeeper: “He talked toonslow, I had to stop and slow myselfndown to understand him. He keptnasking me, ‘What’s your hurry, son?'”nJust so, the migrant wife of an IBMnexecutive, a woman who has lived innTexas for ten years, told the New YorknTimes: “They tell me I talk too fast, Inwalk too fast. They just want me tonslow down, and I can’t.”nThe Jackson Clarion-Ledger quotedna Princeton psychologist, originallynfrom the Bronx, on his first months as angrad student at Duke: “I thought I hadnlanded on a different planet. There’s antremendous difference in speed andn