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As an observer of human nature and foibles, I try not to get too political with these columns, except at that point at which human nature, politics and foibling intersect.

And I especially tend to decline to address the naturing, politicking and foibling of other states. I mean, we certainly have enough issues here in our little corner of the Union. So if you'd rather vote for an alleged child molester than a seemingly reasonable person simply because he's from another political party, well, that's lots of things, but "your prerogative" is foremost among them.

After all, we in the South have long made a habit of electing scoundrels to office, so at least there is some sort of precedent.

But details of events at one of our neighbors to the east do remind me of one of the most interesting aspects of our regional culture -- the Southern "No."

It seems there are actually three distinct Southern "No's," all significant in their own way, and possessed of their unique characteristics.

First, there is the "No, thank you." It's a simple phrase, uttered like a blessing. It says, "I see you. I appreciate you. I want to pay homage to you for the effort you put into what you're offering me. And while I may not fully embrace it in a physical sense, spiritually, I've joined with you in celebrating what you've accomplished. And no, I really don't want any of that yam stuff with marshmallows on it. But, you know, thanks."

Then, there is the simple, blunt, effective, "no." If the first "no" is in answer to an offering, the second "no" settles discussion with all the subtlety of a tire iron.

"How about we trade your pick-up for a light blue mini-van you can drive?" "No."

"How about, instead of going to the duck camp, you join me and the rest of the girls for a spa day?" "No."

"Do you think a Big 10 team ought to move into the College Football Playoffs instead of an SEC team?" "No."

Short, simple, sweet and to the point. Asked and answered, let's move on. There is no grey on this "no." None of it suggests "can we revisit later?" It's just, well, no.

And then there is the ultimate no, the no of all no's, the capo dei capi of Southern no's. It's a "no" that signifies that not only is this a hill upon which you are willing to die, it's a hill you're willing to charge to the top of, pitch a tent on and set up a barbeque.

There is no turning back from this no. Definitely no discussion, no room for equivocation and, in fact, the idea that you even asked may speak rather unpleasant volumes about you.

It's the nuclear option of Southern "No's," a "no" so significant it requires three words. It is "Oh, hell no."

Now, for a sentiment so definite, there are actually even nuances. For example, if you run all three words together, it conveys both a certain sense of scorn and an almost world-weary exhaustion. "Of course not. There is no way, and why, exactly, did you even think, in your wildest dreams, that the answer would be 'yes'?"

However, if you separate the three words, but put the emphasis on the middle one, there's whole new concept conveyed. "Oh, HELL no" is a value judgment and is usually accompanied, either vocally or implicitly, by the phrase, "have you lost your ever-lovin' mind?"

You bring "oh, hell no" out about as often as you do the family china (and, frequently, at about the same time, this being the holidays). It's reserved for special occasions. It's "how about you slap your mother or move to Russia or put chunks of tomatoes in your chili?"

It's just not happening. And you have to think long and hard that you even asked.

Now, at this point, you may be trying to put some pieces together. After all, politics is more about getting to "yes" than saying, well, you know. Voting "no" on something is actually voting "yes" on something else. So where, exactly does accentuating the negative come into this?

Well, let me give you a hypothetical: You're the father of a 16-year-old girl and a 34-year-old man calls the house and wants to ask your for permission to date her. And then, 30-something years later, wants you to vote for him.

And that is the beauty of being an American and a Southern. You have choices. Pretty sure I know which one most of us would select.

Commentary on 11/24/2017

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