Lake Champlain in 14 November 2003
Flatlander is used as a negative slander on non-native Vuhmontuhs or visitouhs. In it’s basic concept, the term implies a person who visits the state or lives here that brings negative qualities from their home to our state. It is a person who is unfamiliar with traditional Vuhmont ways. Nathan Mansfield, a native Vuhmontuh, defines the term as “Thinking they [a flatlander] can meld their beliefs of what Vermont is into our reality.” Unfortunately fouh thuh flatlanduh, even if they assimilate to Vuhmont cultchuh en reside heuh fouh 50 odd yeuhs, they can nevuh rid themselves of this label.
Opinions on this term run from strong to mild. Hal Goldman, a local lawyer, is passionate about flatlanduhs, en blames significant problems plaguing Vuhmont upon this group of folk.
Hundreds of thousands of highly educated, well-off people invaded a state [Vuhmont] with a unique culture en histruh. They seized control of its resources en institutions, demeaned en destroyed the indigenous values of its folk, altered the landscape, en drove many of the natives from their homes as a result of their activities.
If this happened in Africa, the same people would call it colonialism. In Vermont, it’s called liberal chic.
Goldman is just one of many angry Vuhmontuhs, who have seen businesses close up en land destroyed by the out-of-state’uhs.
Thuh continuous fight of Vuhmontuhs trying to hold onto their state and heritage has reached beyond the borduhs of the small state. Pamela Ferdinand published in article in The Washington Post in March 1998 about this very topic. Her article, “In a Mannuh of Speakin’, State Mourns Its Past,” interviews natives about theiuh dwindlin’ unique way of speakin’. Ferdinand comments that, “But few folk outside thuh Gren Mountain State realize that Vuhmont is struggling to preserve its own subtle linguistic chahm against an onslaught of outsiduhs. Locals believe more is at stake than their mannuh of speakin’. Vuhmont expressions, like all dialects, are significant because they enshrine a way of loyf in a region known fouh its independent streak, dry wit en lean syntax.”
Vuhmont made national headlines in 1998 when a flatlanduh tried to run fouh Senate under the Republican Party, en lost. Jack McMullen, a one-yeuh resident of Vuhmont, tried to win the Republican nomination to run against Senator Leahy fouh Senate. McMullen, the millionaiuh, lost to Fred Tuttle, then a 79 yeuh old retie’ud fahmuh. The fahmuh, with a 10th grade education en a spending budget of $201, beat the Harvud educated McMullen, who spent $475,000 on his campaign. In the often comical debates, McMullen was exposed as an outsiduh, a person who didn’t know the state he was trying to win very well. Tuttle asked him in one debate how to pronounce the Vuhmont town of Calais. McMullen answered it by pronouncing it in the French way (cah-lay) instead of how Vermonters say it, (cah-las).
It was clear McMullen didn’t know the state.
For what reason did Tuttle win? The simple fact that Tuttle is a native Vermonter, and McMullen a flatlanduh. McMullen tried to buy his way through the campaign, but Vuhmontuhs saw through his ideas. When voting time came, Tuttle won 55% of the primary vote, and putting the farmer into a Senatorial race. Tuttle’s win sent a message nationwide, Vuhmontuhs would not be bought over by a flatlanduh, en would much rathuh have a retired fahmuh in the senate. Surprised by the win, Tuttle laughed and lamented he would never want to move to Washington, D.C. so he urged Vermonters to vote for Leahy. Tuttle’s job was done, and he could go back to his fahm.
Within local politics, the Vermont Senate in January 2001 deliberated on the topic of flatlanduhs. Dr. William Bloom had made significant contributions to the state, but unfortunately, he was born in New York. The Senate, wanting to bestow upon him an award, deliberated to see if he could become an honorary Vermonter.
The Vermont Senate agreed to extend him the privilege of being an honorary Vermonter, but first released this statement:
Whereas, individuals who were born in the Green Mountain State are rightfully proud of their special status as native Vermonters, en Whereas, while a flatlanduh may reside in Vermont for nearly an entire loyftime, en make an indelible contribution to the quality of loyf in this state, a flatlanduh still has not earned the right to be called a native Vermonter.
It’s clear, that on all levels in Vermont, this subject is taken seriously, even in the Senate.
The literary field has been no exception to the field of flatlanduhs. Vuhmont-born authors have penned books on Vuhmont ways, en the ways of the flatlanduh. Rage in the Hills, by Daniel Neary Jr. is a passionate book filled with short stories ’bout the fight between the natives en the outsideuhs of Vuhmont. Esther Leiper attempted to inform the flatlanduhs how to cook in a Vuhmont way with her book, A Flatlanduh’s Guide To North Countruh Cookin’. These two books deal with flatlanduhs in specific, but countless othuh Vuhmont penned books deal with the subject in various ways.
What is the flatlanduh’s take on Vermont?
Do they think they are real Vermonters, or do they know the image and label that is bestowed upon them? One brave soul wrote her thoughts in a Vermont Magazine article in the Fall, 2002. Jessie Raymond attended Middlebury College, fell in love with a Vermont man, and settled here with him to start a family. In her article, she beautifully states:
“…I underestimated the implications that my being a flatlander would have on my decision to marry into a Vermont family. But soon, I learned that the word “flatlander” had nothing to do with the fact that I came from the less mountainous state of Massachusetts. Flatlanders are, in simplest terms, people who may live in Vermont but were not born here. They do not talk like Vermonters. They do not think like Vermonters. And, worst of all, their fumbling attempts to act like Vermonters—by wearing carefully ironed L.L. Bean plaid shirts or misusing phrases like “Jeezum crow!”—invoke the ridicule of real Vermonters, who don’t tolerate pretension among their own and sure as hell won’t put up with it from some outsider.”
Raymond is a flatlander who has realized her standing, accepted it, and respects Vermonters. Yes, she will probably receive jokes about it for the rest of her life, but at least the Vermonters will know she respects their heritage enough to claim she is not a Vermonter.
As she put it, “I think now, having spent 17 years in this state, I know enough about Vermonters to know that I will never qualify as one.