a semantic side trip, if you will

“Be smart”.
I hear this a lot where I live. When parents or grandparents drop their children off at school or at a social function, they regularly charge their young with this phrase.
“Be smart”.
I had never heard this phrase before living in the piedmont region of North Carolina. Hearing the phrase always gives me pause.
“Be smart”.
“Be sweet” is what my mama always told me. When she dropped me off at a club meeting or at school or a friend’s house, she ended her good-bye speech with the phrase.
“Be sweet”. I remember a column by the late, great Lewis Grizzard in which he talked about those same words from him mother.

I’ve been wondering, then, about these charges that we give our children. Are they exclusive to certain regions? Is “smart” a North Carolina idea? I grew up in a North Carolina so close to Georgia that some of my classmates actually lived in both states; my roots go pretty deep in Georgia soil. So, is my mom’s “Be sweet” telling of our ties to a southern identity different from what I find here in the middle of NC?
What do parents tell their children in other parts of the country?
Is there a difference in being “smart” and being “sweet”? Is it telling of a family’s values when smarts or sweetness are Mama’s words (or grandma’s or papaw’s or whomever)?
At any rate, be sweet; be smart; be excellent to each other.


~ by hannahcsykes on May 29, 2012.

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