Thursday, March 04, 2010
a long rambling post about regional dialects
Another reason I enjoyed watching the Olympics – especially hockey- was hearing the old familiar ‘northwoods’ accent.
I have always enjoyed listening to people’s accents and trying to discover where they are from. This probably started when I was in college and on a summer singing team (1973, remember, Kathee?). One night we stayed at a home in Ypsilanti, MI. The lady we stayed with had a decidedly southern accent. She sounded like my grandmother.
When I asked her where she was from and she responded ‘southern Illinois’ and I said where in southern Illinois and she said Metropolis, I nearly jumped out of my skin.
“Do you know Birdie Lingle?” I asked.
Know her? she responded. “ I lived right next to their produce warehouse.”
“She’s my grandmother,” I practically shouted.
“You’re Carolee’s girl? I taught your daddy how to diaper you!”
She proceeded to bring out a shoebox of photographs. Sho’ ‘nuff, there were photos of my grandma, my long deceased grandpa (he died when Mom was 19) and mom. We called Grandma that night and it was great fun reuniting these friends.
So ever since that wonderful, serendipitous occasion, when I meet new people, I hang on their words to discern their origins. If you tell me you are going to ‘pahk the cah’ or course that is somewhere in the northeast. ‘R’s are often a giveaway (warsh the car), as are ‘o’s and ‘I’s’. I usually have a pretty good idea if you are from the northeast, southeast Ohio, Kintucky, Tinnessee, or Minnesoata (intentional misspellings). Or Canada, eh?
Hockey in the northwoods is not really called hockey. It’s ‘hahckey’. And I loved hearing it called that again, if only for a few weeks.
There is one other accent I can pretty easily identify, From an email forwarded to my parents:
1. Grachki (grach'-key): Chicagoese for 'garage key' as in, 'Yo, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki? How my supposta cut da grass if I don't git intada grach?'
2. Sammich: Chicagoese for sandwich. When made with sausage, it's a sassage sammich; when made with shredded beef, it's an Italian Beef sammich, a local delicacy consisting of piles of spicy meat in a perilously soggy bun.
3. Da: This article is a key part of Chicago speech, as in 'Da Bears' or 'Da Mare' -- the latter denoting Richard M. Daley, or Richie, as he's often called.
4. Jewels: Not family heirlooms, but a popular name for one of the region's dominant grocery store chains. 'I'm goin' to the Jewels to pick up some sassage.'
5. Field's: Marshall Field, a prominent Chicago department store. Also Carson Pirie Scott, another major department store chain, is simply called ' Carson 's.'
6. Tree: The number between two and four. 'We were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da udder night.'
7. Over by dere: Translates to 'over by there,' a way of emphasizing a site presumed familiar to the listener. As in, 'I got the sassage at the Jewels down on Kedzie, over by dere.'
8. Kaminski Park : The mispronounced name of the ballpark where the Chicago White Sox (da Sox) play baseball. Comiskey Park was renamed U.S. Cellular Field (da Cell)
9. Frunchroom: As in, 'Get outta da frunchroom wit dose muddy shoes.' It's not the 'parlor.' It's not the 'living room.' In the land of the bungalow, it's the 'frunchroom,' a named derived, linguists believe, from 'front room.'
10. Use: Not the verb, but the plural pronoun 'you!' 'Where use goin'?'
11. Downtown: Anywhere near The Lake, south of The Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo) and north of Soldier Field.
12. The Lake: Lake Michigan. (What other lake is there?) It's often used by local weathermen, 'cooler by The Lake.'
14. Braht: Short for Bratwurst. 'Gimme a braht wit kraut.'
15. Goes: Past or present tense of the verb 'say.' For example, 'Den he goes, 'I like this place'!'
16. Guys: Used when addressing two or more people, regardless of each individual's gender.
17. Pop: A soft drink. Don't say 'soda' in this town. 'Do ya wanna canna pop?'
18 Sliders: Nickname for hamburgers from White Castle, a popular Midwestern burger chain. 'Dose sliders I had last night gave me da runs'
19. The Taste: The Taste of Chicago Festival, a huge extravaganza in Grant Park featuring samples of Chicagoland cuisine which takes place each year around the Fourth of July holiday.
20. 'Jeetyet?': Translates to, 'Did you eat yet?'
21. Winter and Construction: Punch line to the joke, 'What are the two seasons in Chicago ?'
22. Cuppa Too-Tree: is Chicagoese for 'a couple, two, three' which really means 'a few.' For example, 'Hey Mike, dere any beerz left in da cooler over by dere?' 'Yeh, a cuppa too-tree.'
23. 588-2300: Everyone in Chicago knows this commercial jingle and the carpet company you'll get if you call that number -- Empire!
24. Junk Dror: You will usually find the 'junk drawer' in the kitchen filled to the brim with miscellaneous, but very important, junk.
25. Southern Illinois: Anything south of I-80. This is where Smothers' is from...
26. Expressways: The Interstates in the immediate Chicagoland area are usually known just by their 'name' and not their Interstate number: the Dan Ryan ('da Ryan'), the Stevenson, the Kennedy (da 'Kennedy'), the Eisenhower (da 'Ike'), and the Edens (just 'Edens' but Da Edens' is acceptable).
27. Gym Shoes: The rest of the country may refer to them as sneakers or running shoes but Chicagoans will always call them gym shoes!
Having lived in the 'Chicawgo' area from 1968-1978 and again from 1983-1986, I completely understood all 27 of these definitions. And now I have an irrational urge to go call Empire (588-2300....Empire!).