On a short flight from Boston to New York a couple of weeks ago I sat by a very nice lady born and bred in Massachusetts heading to a convention in Portland, Oregon. We had a pleasant conversation about Boston and the usual small chat including how I am from Tennessee but don’t sport a Southern accent. She made a hilarious comment about her husband, describing him as a “wicked redneck.” For those not familiar with Boston and Massachusetts slang, “wicked” is still intertwined into the fabric of local Bostonian everyday speech; however, I’d never heard it paired with “redneck.” “Redneck” is something that I deeply associate with the guys who had rebel flags plastered all over their pickup trucks in the high school parking lot back in East Tennessee among other local nuances like spitting chew into whatever cup may be available.
When I made the 5 hour driving leap from Pigeon Forge, TN to the “big” city of Cincinnati, OH, for college I thought I’d left all the rednecks behind me, endearing and friends as they are. My bubble burst after the first fireworks event I went to on the riverfront in Cinci. The familiar sights of males with long, straggly hair sporting Dale Earnhardt attire were abundant. Ah, memories of home came flooding back, but more than that it was apparent, rednecks weren’t just in Tennessee.
Now that I’ve lived in Boston for over a year and a half, worked at a sports bar in Allston and generally gotten a handle on the city, it is apparent rednecks are here too. While they don’t have the same roots as the term “redneck” in the South, derived from farmers working in the sun and incidentally getting sunburns on their necks, some of the same characteristics of what I know from home thrive here in mostly blue collar, born and bred Massachusetts locals. The best adjective I can come up with to describe the consistent characteristic is “good ole boys” (while this has a masculine reference, it also includes females!). They are tied to their roots, don’t stray too far from home, have the same set of core friends for life and may appear a little rough around the edges but underneath just good people doing what they know how to. While Jeff Foxworthy has a whole lot of humorous points, him and the popularity of NASCAR attest to the fact that rednecks are everywhere, even in the form of wicked rednecks here in New England. As I’m writing this, a slight smile has crept up on my face, because deep down, I know I have a little redneck in me and it just took a plane ride chat to remind me of my own roots.