a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!
Back to Blog
June and I were on our way to Massachusetts when I received a text from my daughter Annie, "How is your Wednesday?"
I replied, "Good. On my way to Masschusettes, which most people can't even spell, let alone point out on a map. Lol." I was laughing about my text, then re-read what I'd written. "Oh no!" I gasped, then quickly sent Annie another text, "Guess I should spell check myself before mouthing off. Bahahaha." (I had to write 'Bahahaha, as my flip phone doesn't send emojis or, obviously spell check.)
Annie is a school teacher; surely, she would catch the typo. So, to prove I knew how to spell the state correctly, I fired off another text, "Massachusetts. M-A-S-S-A-C-H-U-S-E-T-T-S. Massachusetts. Would you like me to use it in a sentence?"
Annie wrote back, "Hahahahaha, yeah, you'd better be careful about your spelling." (She had to spell out, 'Hahahahaha' because my flip phone doesn't get emojis either.) Although we were hundreds of miles apart, I knew we were sharing a good laugh about that.
One of my blessings is my ability to travel around this great country; meet people in far-away regions, and communicate despite our language difference. Even though we may both be speaking English, the different dialects are most interesting.
People often tell me Minnesota people talk funny, meaning they have an accent. Not so. Like everyone else, we spell our state with only one o; pronounced, Minnesoota, as if it had two long o's. The same is true with the word 'hoome' and others.
When we first moved here, I would ask where something, or someplace was. They might answer, "A boot ten miles from here." It took me a while to understand that people were not referring to winter footwear when saying a boot. (Spelled, a-b-o-u-t)
In other states around the country, I hear people pronouncing words differently, and sometimes they phrase a sentence differently than we did when living in Iowa. We've lived in Minnesota for seven years now, and I've still not adjusted to some terminology. For example, if a person drives a semi, I'd call them a truck driver; one who drives children to school is a bus driver. But, in Minnesota, people will say, "She drives bus, or he drives truck." And it could be me; a couple of months ago, I heard someone use these same terms in Oklahoma.
Although I truly enjoy the different dialects around the country, I don't think I can ever get used to Minnesotans and northern Wisconsinites calling tater-tot casserole, tater-tot hotdish. It’s casserole (to me anyway).
A big terminology difference I noticed involves carbonated beverages. In the mid-west, we call such a drink pop. Other parts of the country call it soda or cola. In the south, it's all coke.
Years ago, at a café down south, I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke. I thought the waitress was poking fun at me when she asked, "What kind of coke do you want." I asked what kinds of coke they offered? "We have Coca-Cola, Pepsi coke, orange coke, strawberry coke, or lemon-lime coke (7-Up). We also have diet coke (TAB in the pink can; diet Coca-Cola didn't come out until the early eighties), and root beer." When I told her I just wanted a regular coke, she asked, "What flavor."
I also enjoy the way people will spell and use a word the same but pronounce it differently. For example, this morning in the mail, I received a gift of handmade pecan pralines from a friend in Texas. I know of at least two ways to say the word pecan and four ways to pronounce pralines; one must say it correctly according to the region you’re in, lest ye be labeled a tourist.
Regional terms are also fun; in some areas, 'you guys' refers to a group of people regardless of gender. If I understand southern English correctly, y'all can mean one person, or two people. But when addressing a group, a southerner will say, all y'alls.
Last week in Massachusetts, I overheard a conversation among a group of men having coffee in a restaurant. The man who caught my attention had an accent; I would guess he was from New Jersey.
He kept referring to an adomaduh. It made no sense to me, so I listened more keenly. I swear it sounded like he was trying to say "Mah-na Mah-na."
Do you remember the Sesame Street Character Mahna Mahna? He was a purple Muppet with the wild orange hair that wore a fuzzy green tunic and yellow sunglasses. The only words he ever said were his name. He sang a song with the two pink Snowths with long eyelashes, horns, and yellow lips? I thought the guy was saying his name, Mahna Mahna.
As the man in the cafe continued talking, I figured out he was talking about a crooked car dealer. "It's just wrong when someone tampas with an adomaduh."
When I got up to leave, I stopped at the man's table and asked if he was talking about an odometer. "That's what I said. The crook tampas with adomaduhs." I started laughing, but I was the only one, so I awkwardly exited stage left and out to my car. Driving the rest of the day, I kept singing, "Mahna Mahna. Do doo be-do-do. Mahna Mahna. Do do-do do.
Although I could not get that song out of my head for the life of me, I do love the various accents, dialects, and terminology used around America. But, let's be honest, if we all spoke proper English as it was initially written, life would be far less exciting.
After the road trip to Massachusetts, it was good to be back home where everyone speaks a language I understand. I brought a load from the car into the house while June ran out into the yard.
Our black cat Edgar Allan, standing on the back of the couch next to the front door, gave me a head butt and greeted me. "Did you bring that rotten dog home with you," he asked? Now, Melissa and I will sometimes refer to them as "that rotten dog" or "that rotten cat." But only in a loving manner when one of them has done something naughty or mischievous.
I set down the bags that I was carrying. "Edgar, you are not allowed to call June a rotten dog. That term is reserved for people use only. Besides, June is not a rotten dog; you, on the other hand, can certainly be a rotten cat," I said as I gave him a scratch behind the ears. I had a good laugh about that, but I was the only one laughing.
Edgar defended himself, "Yeah, but June is more rottener than me."
"Edgar, your grammar is atrocious in so many ways, in any region…and you call yourself Edgar Allan." I shook my head, laughing, but I was the only one laughing, so I went outside.
So, there I was, correcting the grammar used by a cat; me – the same guy who misspelled 'Massachusettes' while poking fun at people who can’t spell Massachusetts.