Tennessee Seeks to Decrease Confusion and Advance politeness with “Don’t Say Hey, Hay Is for Horses ” Bill

By DuncanRhys C. Liancourt

––Tennessee’s Senate recently passed SB49, the “don’t say gay” bill. Initially the bill sought to make illegal in elementary and middle schools “any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality,” but, when some lawmakers balked, the bill settled on limiting the education of Tennessee’s students “exclusively to age-appropriate natural human reproduction science.” After pushing for the original wording for six years in the House prior to his election to the Senate, Republican Stacey Campfield proved a good sport saying, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat––I got what I wanted.”

–– From The New York Daily News

Emboldened by their success, a group of Tennessee Senators is hard at work on the following similar bills:

Worried that their schools, which consistently rank in the bottom 10 among states, are producing a generation both rude––using the slang salutation ‘hey’ instead of ‘hello’––and prone to homonymic confusion––hay has been the leading crop in acreage and the third in value in the state––Tennessee’s Senate hopes to break two hay straws with one yank by passing a bill making the use of the word ‘hey’ illegal in public throughout the volunteer state. Some Lawmakers expressed disappointment over the need for a law after failing to get the entire population to volunteer to stop using the offending word.

It doesn’t take the imaginative powers of Missourian Tennessee Williams to see how easily and often ‘hay’ could be misheard as ‘hey’ or ‘gay,’ especially over the noise of all that haying equipment, and, as noted, Tennesseans take their hay very seriously. And since hay reproduces naturally (it must for there to be so much of it in Tennessee) but according to Campfield, “homosexuals don’t naturally reproduce,” the state assuring, by outlawing both ‘gay’ and ‘hey,’ that no confusion occurs between these two words and the all important ‘hay’ is a good thing. Also, think of the time saved in schools by restricting all talk of domestic interactions between humans to reproductive science: English, history, and social science classes can focus entirely on crime and war. The Senators are no doubt sad to see shrinkage in the richness of the language, but the state could in no way survive without hay, the thing and the word for it, thus the other words must go.

Shrinkage aside, the Senators realize there are other words that represent things or topics that are superfluous or unpleasant, that merely clutter minds and make public discourse plodding and tiresome. They feel it their duty to keep putting similarly streamlining bills on the drawing slate (apparently there is a law still on the books that all first-draft bills must be drawn as pictures with chalk on a slate that was quarried in Tennessee). The bill likely to be ready next is the “don’t say brunette” bill. An advisor to one of the Senators, who has asked to remain anonymous because he is neither authorized nor qualified to advise on legal matters, describes the reasoning behind the bill this way: ‘just because some women are born brunette doesn’t mean they or the state must put up with it. Everyone knows blondes have all the fun and that all women wish they were blond so men will want them. Brunetteism is curable––brunettes can be treated with inexpensive blonde hair dye to become ex-brunettes, better known as blondes. Brunette problem solved, and one less useless, ugly word cluttering up the language.’

The most far-reaching new bill, however, may be the “dayhorce/pobetty” bill. Lawmakers, aware that Tennessee having the 2nd highest divorce rate and 3rd highest obesity rate in the nation makes the state a target of criticism that may discourage out of state and federal investment in its hay industry, are retrofitting some characteristics of Tennessee’s traditional vocabulary to the words ‘divorce ‘ and ‘obesity.’ The Senators examined the following Tennesseeisms: when the day is breezy or chilly a Tennessean might say it is ‘airish.’ If expecting airishness a Tennessean could bring along their jacket in a ‘poke,’ a bag or sack. A Tennessean might refer to a mountain lion as a ‘painter,’ derived from panther. If you overhear a Tennessean refer to you as ‘jasper’ don’t repeat your name as this just means you are an outsider or a stranger.

The drafters of the “dayhorce/pobetty” bill expect that a person hearing of Tennessee’s 2nd highest in the nation dayhorce rate or 3rd highest in the nation pobetty rate will: A, assume that dayhorces and pobetties are charming, old timey native things or traditions and fail to look them up; B, assume they are old timey local words for mundane items and fail to look them up; or C, look them up only to be informed that it is illegal (bill on drafting slate) for non-Tennesseans to look up the meanings of words from Tennessee’s unique dialect. The anonymous, unqualified advisor quoted earlier says they expect people to construe pobetty as some Tennessee version of Louisiana’s traditional submarine sandwich, the po’boy.

But, –––, even if all these bills become law and go unchallenged Tennessee will still be a great place to visit to have a –––old time (unless you happen to be –––), to take a break from having to look at a bunch of unattractive, non-blonde women or to get a dayhorce if you’re married to one, and to feel thin around all that pobetty.

4 Responses to “Tennessee Seeks to Decrease Confusion and Advance politeness with “Don’t Say Hey, Hay Is for Horses ” Bill”
  1. Rhonda Pickens says:

    It’s not me so much as the people I know who are still there, fighting every day to give kids an alternate view of the world and a safe haven. Your readers should check out http://www.tvuuc.org/ to support an organization that does wonderful outreach and work, despite the 2008 shooting incident in which a man spurred on by far right radio hosts entered the congregatation to “kill some liberals.” I just wish the “good guys” got the kind of coverage the nuts do. I also want to say that many in the deep South are much more conservative in their rhetoric regarding theoretical social issues than they are in actual practice. With real people, right in front of them in trouble, they’ll usually bend over backwards to help. It’s no excuse for the commentary they make, but try to understand how poverty, limited exposure, and their trust in “authority figures” leads them to be very susceptible to right wing propaganda, but a stranger in need broken down on the side of the road – regardless of how they “look” – will have a cold glass of iced tea, their kids entertained, and an invitation to dinner while the “menfolk” fix the car, and will be sent away with snacks for later. The comments that I’ve heard come out of the mouths of people who I personally know are truly good-hearted and would do anything to help a stranger – regardless of race, creed, etc. – break my heart and cause me no end of sadness and turmoil. I know it’s a hard line to walk, to wholeheartedly renounce the objectionable things people say, but still to perceive their good qualities and have compassion for them. Trying to walk that line nearly did me in in “Southern Writers Reconsidered.” Is it possible to see people in terms of shades of grey and yet not be considered an apologist for intolerance? Somehow we have to find a way. Thinking of the south in stereotypes only furthers alienation. – This isn’t at all to suggest that you were doing so, DuncanRhys. It’s just that the subject means a great deal to me and I hope gifted writers like you can take on the subtleties and complexities seen by those of us who feel caught between two worlds. There are parts of the South that I hate intensely, but there are also parts of being southern that I proudly claim as my heritage. With your gift for words, you could share these observations so much better than I can.

  2. Rhonda, thanks, and of course we all have more in common than it seems when one politician, one group, or one entire state acts in so cowardly, unjust, ridiculous, and––whether intended or not––malevolent a manner. We can only do what is in our power to help bring our wayward sisters and brothers back to us. You, I know, with your kind heart, open mind, curiosity, hard work, and smarts serve the good of our society every day.

  3. Rhonda Pickens says:

    Makes me sad. I swear that not everyone from Tennessee & Alabama is like that.

  4. Laura says:

    It’s always a good idea NOT to talk about things which make an absent, anonymous body of Tennessee politicians uncomfortable. Besides, you never know if perhaps one of Tennessee’s future congressmen is in your grade school class, so you want to protect them from going on record with what might someday be interpreted as an intolerant position during, say, a recess squabble. Eliminating from our schools all discussion about any issue that has to do with real life is the only way to ensure that journalists 40-50 years down the road aren’t able to dig up statements made in the grade school reading circle and get them on to youtube, somehow.

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