‘You’re not from around here, are you?’

on Monday, 24 May 2021. Posted in Columns, Education, Local News

‘You’re not from around here, are you?’
Depending on how it’s said, the question, “You’re not from around here, are you?” can be taken as either a friendly inquiry to satisfy a person’s curiosity or a masked warning that you’re an outsider and are not welcome. It’s pretty much one or the other. You can trust me on this because I’ve heard it pretty much my entire adult life. I’ve been told that I have a “radio voice.” I’m pretty sure that means I have no accent or dialect that is truly discernable. Kind of middle of the road, I guess. I have worked in radio a few times, calling high school games and spinning country music and gospel hymns on an AM station in Albemarle, N.C., so there must be some truth to it. West Coat or East Coast, it doesn’t matter. I still get asked. Be it big cities like Chicago or Nashville, medium-sized, middle-America burgs such as Charleston or Portland, small, quaint towns like Wall Township, N.J. or Thibadaux, La., or on the rural back roads of my present hometown of Society Hill, it’s still the same. Everywhere I go, I still here, “You’re not from around here are you?” So where did this blessing or curse come from? It may be that I grew up in Virginia, Hampton to be precise. It’s in the Tidewater area, across the Chesapeake Bay from Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Virginia is kind of neutral territory. It’s claimed neither by Northerners nor Southerners. We’re seen as fence straddlers. As such, I don’t think Virginians, as a whole, have a truly distinguishable accent. So there’s that. Or maybe my “You’re not from around here” dialect stems from the fact that I joined the Marine Corps at the impressionable age of 17 and hung out with a slew of Leathernecks from pretty much everywhere. John was unmistakably from the Queens borough of New York City. Steve was from Sanford, a small town just north of Orlando. Mike was from south Texas, Tony from Chicago, and Jimmy was from San Diego. See what I mean? I was surrounded by a veritable smorgasbord of accents and dialects. Is it possible that hanging around such a broad band of brothers rubbed off on my vocal chords? It very well could be. Where it came from doesn’t really matter, though does it? It is what it is, so I really don’t worry about. It’s either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it, and I much prefer the former to the latter. My most recent “You’re not from around here” moment came last week at the pet store. I had come to purchase a small rodent for my pet snake’s dinner (I know this raised a few eyebrows, but that’s a column for another week). The young man was most helpful. As he was ringing me up, it seems he couldn’t help himself. “So where are you originally from?” he asked. “I’m pretty sure it’s not from around here.” He was right of course. It was quite apparent that he meant no harm, so I briefly explained my Virginia heritage to him and was on my way. You can now add Florence to the long list of places I’m not from around. Contact Editor Bob Sloan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..