Me Talk Pretty One Day

by David Sedaris

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“Go Carolina” Summary

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 744

Sedaris begins this essay by discussing a trope, common to television police dramas, in which an agent knocks on the door of the guilty party and calmly tells the person to come with them. The person is given a choice between “doing things the hard way and doing things the easy way.” Though it’s often suggested that the guilty party is relieved to have finally been found out, Sedaris reasons that a life spent in hiding is better than one spent imprisoned. Therefore, he says, there’s undoubtedly some merit in doing things the hard way.

Sedaris then describes an event from his childhood: an “agent” comes into his fifth grade geography class and singles out Sedaris, telling him to gather his things and follow her elsewhere. In a panic, the young Sedaris considers several of his recent “crimes” that might explain the “agent’s” presence, never even considering the possibility that he is innocent.

As Sedaris walks with the “agent,” she asks him which university football team he supports: “State or Carolina?” Sedaris is entirely uninterested in sports, but aware that this is not an acceptable opinion for a young man in his town, he answers “State,” guessing from her red turtleneck that this is the woman’s preferred team. Sedaris ominously writes that this answer was one he would come to regret.

The “agent” leads him into a small room (which Sedaris describes as the sort of place you’d use to get criminals to crack and confess), and here it is revealed that the “agent” is actually a speech therapist named Miss Samson. She is there to correct Sedaris’s lisp, a trait unwittingly revealed through his feigned support for the “Thate” football team. Miss Samson has a contrary personality and is relentlessly critical of Sedaris’s speech, despite her own thick western North Carolina accent. Her perfectionism is a source of great irritation for the young Sedaris, who is compliant but inwardly resentful over Miss Samson’s determination to fix his “lazy” tongue. 

Sedaris recounts the unease with which many people, including himself, regarded therapy of any kind in those years. Despite his desire to keep his speech therapy a secret, Sedaris’s comically insensitive teachers insist on loudly and repeatedly mentioning his speech therapy lessons in front of the class. In her lessons, Miss Samson records Sedaris’s speech on a tape recorder, which leaves him feeling deeply insecure about how his high-pitched voice sounds. Despite Sedaris’s misery, his mother and confidant urges him to “give [Miss Samson] a break.”

None of the other students in speech therapy are popular, leading Sedaris to see the lisp as a problem specific to this group, rather than a malady that could befall anyone. All those in speech therapy seem be boys who, like Sedaris, have to feign interest in sports, are mocked for having girly interests, and are generally trying to avoid confronting their homosexuality. Thinking back on it, Sedaris suggests that the door to the speech therapy classroom might as well have read, “FUTURE HOMOSEXUALS OF AMERICA.”

Young Sedaris thinks the prescribed way of correcting his s sounds results in an even worse sound than his normal “lazy tongue.” Therefore, with the help of a thesaurus, he decides to try and avoid saying words with s sounds altogether. The rest of his teachers are delighted by his impressive vocabulary, but Miss Samson sees his tactic for what it is.

In the end, Miss Samson is ineffective at correcting Sedaris’s lisp, and she also fails to fix anyone else’s. When it is finally time for her to move on to a different school full of new...

(This entire section contains 744 words.)

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victims, she has one last lesson with Sedaris. In their final session, Miss Samson offers Sedaris cookies and begins to speak more candidly. As she describes her own dreams and insecurities, Sedaris began to empathize with her. When she finally expresses her sorrow at being a failure as a speech therapist, Sedaris feels for her and, despite his reluctance to uses words, says that he is “thorry.” Miss Samson simply laughs and says, “I got you,” before signing Sedaris up for more speech therapy the following year.

When Sedaris tells his mother about this, she laughs and says, “You’ve got to admit that you really are a sucker.” Sedaris agrees, though since his years of speech therapy never worked, he notes that he prefers to use the word “chump.”


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