Better than Biscuits: Savoring the South’s Social Graces

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to spend time in both Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina visiting boatloads of relatives. While the local cuisine offers much to enjoy (She-crab soup! Shrimp and grits! Biscuits, biscuits, biscuits!) I found myself savoring a number of their phrases as well. Below, a menu of marvelous offerings:

“I don’t believe I do.”: This phrase came to me via a very dapper gentleman when I inquired whether or not he knew my Aunt Frances. Perhaps it’s the combination of “believe” and “do” but it struck me as far more charming than the blunt, “No, I don’t.”

“How about that?”: A few years ago I wrote a blog post outlining 3 phrases that enable you to sound interested without committing you to anything (See — always useful when dealing with relatives who know far more than you do about how you should be running your life. Today, I offer “How about that?” as a new go-to option after someone says something so peculiar you simply can’t think how to respond.

“S/he’s a type”: This one comes to you courtesy of my Aunt Frances who, when confronted with someone who embodies an outsize attribute—he’s a talker, she’s got a label on every item of clothing, etc.—merely says, “S/he’s a type!”

“Now this must have a story”: My cousin Katherine’s successful interior decorating business is, without a doubt, helped along by this phrase. She finds it incredibly useful when confronted with some of her clients’ art and home furnishing choices. I know I’m grateful to have it my back pocket—I imagine you will be, too.

“Why don’t we save them for another time?”: This phrase came to me a few years ago via my extremely charming (Virginian) next-door neighbor. When I moved into my house– in an exhibition of classic Southern hospitality– she threw me a marvelous “Welcome to the Neighborhood” party. As we were putting together the guest list, I mentioned a couple I thought we might include. Her response, “Why don’t we save them for another time?” Heaven! What a graceful way to say, “They’re not setting foot in my house in my lifetime!” In true Southern fashion, I swooned…..

Frances Cole Jones