New Orleans, LA
Tonight I did something I haven't done in almost 20 years. I said the word "y'all". It just slipped out.
Since coming home, many people I've met for the first time have asked where I am from. When I tell them I'm from here, they are disbelieving. "You don't sound like you're from HERE."
Overseas, people have often been surprised that I'm American. They say my vowels are soft and rounded, more Canadian. When I tell people where I'm from, the response is often, "You don't sound like you're from THERE."
I remember the last time I ever said "y'all." It was when I was thirteen and visiting with my cousins up north. There was a terrible thunderstorm and in the dark I cried out, "Y'all, it's BAD out there." My cousins thought that was the funniest thing they had ever heard.
My feelings weren't particularly hurt, but I did realize that I didn't like being laughed at because of the way I spoke. From that point on I didn't want to talk funny. I didn't want to sound like I came from a particular place. That was always going to sound funny to someone.
By now, my speech patterns belong to nowhere.
I think tonight's accidental "y'all" was a subconscious claim of belonging. I come from here, not nowhere.
"Where am I from? I'm one of y'all."