We had heard so much of the odious manners of the Yankees in this country that I was rather agreeably surprised by the few specimens of native Americans that I have seen. They were for the most part, polite, well-behaved people. The only peculiarities I observed in them were a certain nasal twang in speaking, and some few odd phrases; but these were only used by the lower class, who “guess” and “calculate” a little more than we do. One of their most remarkable terms is to “Fix.” Whatever work requires to be done it must be fixed. “Fix the room” is, set it in order. “Fix the table”—“Fix the fire,” says the mistress to her servants, and the things are fixed accordingly.
I was amused one day by hearing a woman tell her husband the chimney wanted fixing. I thought it seemed secure enough, and was a little surprised when the man got a rope and a few cedar boughs, with which he dislodged an accumulation of soot that caused the fire to smoke. The chimney being fixed, all went right again. This odd term is not confined to the lower orders alone, and, from hearing it so often, it becomes a standard word even among the later emigrants from our own country.
With the exception of some few remarkable expressions, and an attempt at introducing fine words in their every-day conversation, the lower order of Yankees have a decided advantage over our English peasantry in the use of grammatical language: they speak better English than you will hear from persons of the same class in any part of England, Ireland, or Scotland; a fact that we should be unwilling, I suppose, to allow at home.
If I were asked what appeared to me the most striking feature in the manners of the Americans that I had met with, I should say it was coldness approaching to apathy. I do not at all imagine them to be deficient in feeling or real sensibility, but they do not suffer their emotion to be seen. They are less profuse in their expressions of welcome and kindness than we are, though probably quite as sincere. No one doubts their hospitality; but, after all, one likes to see the hearty shake of the hand, and hear the cordial word that makes one feel oneself welcome.
Persons who come to this country are very apt to confound the old settlers from Britain with the native Americans; and when they meet with people of rude, offensive manners, using certain Yankee words in their conversation, and making a display of independence not exactly suitable to their own aristocratical notions, they immediately suppose they must be genuine Yankees, while they are, in fact, only imitators; and you well know the fact that a bad imitation is always worse than the original.