Us/Not Us

Picture 1Not long after we came to the U.S. from Canada — specifically, moving from Ontario to Knoxville, TN, back in 1993 — we went out to eat to experience some authentic southern food for ourselves. While I’ll defer from talking too much here about the terrible let down that was the side dish that they called “hush puppies” (deep fried dough balls? Really?), what turned out to be even more memorable was the waitress who, likely hearing in our voices that we weren’t local, asked us, “Where y’all from?” to which we answered, “Toronto.”

Her reply?

I thought y’all was Yankees.

The curious thing to us was that, coming from even further north than where those “northern aggressors” once originated, we thought that we were entirely off that map (how far north does Yankeedom go?). But it turned out that we were incorrect to assume that “Yankee” was a classification tied to a particular U.S. political and military history, since, for her, it just seemed to signify “not us” — making that dinner out an unanticipated lesson for us in the workings of identification.

Either that, or she thought we meant “the gem city” of Ohio.

toronto

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