Two Languages

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This Virginia language was one of apparent sweetness, humor, courtliness, and loving repetition – yes sir being the characteristic all-purpose note that signaled the small welcome surprise at the world’s fleeting manifold, as in yes sir, daddy’s Packard, or yes sir, Gene Tierney – a way of briefly holding something pleasing up to the light. This was the gaiety of a big family on their home ground, tramping the Blue Ridge, telling stories. It partook of old rivers beneath limestone bluffs, Norfolk and Western coal trains riding the sides of the canyons, clear-running creeks up on the mountain, dances, revivals, “singing all day and supper on the ground,” Sunday dinners, sisters at a bird’s eye maple dressing table brushing their hair like Breck girls, flush, triumphant and nervous with beaus waiting downstairs, old gentlemen in black suits scented with cigar and bay rum, and in the kitchen eccentric country ladies who cooked, cleaned, and kept the family rich in upcountry anecdotes.

(from Chapter 3, “The Old Language”)

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