Twanglish Lesson: Wawah

We’re having something of a Civil War week here on RSM. We figure with the ongoing Sesquicentennial of the war, and the never-ending shadow that war casts over us Southerners, it’s a timely topic.

But before we can have a proper discussion of the Civil War and its myriad complexities, we’ve got to master the lingo. We start today with the most important of those, the name of the conflict itself. Sure, history books call it the American Civil War, or merely Civil War for short. There are other names: the War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression, the Late Unpleasantness and many others.

To a true Southerner, though, there is but one name…

Wawahproper noun 1. A conflict fought between Southern states seceding from the United States of America and the Northern states, which remained in the Union, from 1861-1865:

Though she was born eighty years after it ended, my mothah often wept for those we lost in the Wawah.

Setting aside issues of federal power grabs and stubborn Southern insistence on holding to the “peculiar institution” of slavery, there is something charming, albeit amusing, about the way Southerners wistfully recalled the War for so many generations. Perhaps it’s the way they attempted to reconcile the Southern sense of honor and propriety with the humiliation of defeat. In our generation, there’s not much talk of the “Wawah” anymore. Though I hope that means we’ve moved on from the more painful issues underlying it, I will miss that gentle lilt of Southern ladies letting the word drop from the mouths like the petals of magnolia blossoms falling from the high branches and drifting ever so slowly toward their rest.

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