Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The language we speak instead of English...

I was born in Iowa and lived there for years. A five-year-old daughter of a new acquaintance from Canada once listened intently to the conversation going on around her. She shyly approached my chair and said softly, "Would you please say something in ‘Iowish’?"

Her parents, my wife, and I laughed, and someone told Jennifer that "Iowans speak English, just like Canadians." That made us laugh again, and we said, "Well, not just like Canadians, eh?"

It is true. Nor do Iowans necessarily sound like New Yorkers, Texans, or Minnesotans. In fact, there are some words that sound different in Western Iowa from their Eastern Iowa sounds.

Yet the variety of spoken sounds for the same words in this country have many similarities, and they are all identifiably different from the sounds of British speech. Americans may write English, for the most part. But we all speak American, which we are more apt to pronounce according to our own region: "’Murkin," Amer’kin," "A-mare-kin," or, my preference, "Mare Kin."

Many pronunciations are only regional. Others are typical across the country. As we celebrate the variations of recipes, fashions, customs, ethnicity, beliefs, architecture, and so many other aspects of American life, we may also celebrate the variations in regional speech. They simply add zest to the Mare Kin language. The following brief list is meant to entertain, not to ridicule. Readers, I am sure, will be able to add their own examples.


AIR: "error," as in trial and AIR.

AIR: "are" in the South. "AIR ya comin’?"

ARE: "our" in the North. "C’mon ta ARE house."

ARE: sixty minutes in the South. Also what some Southerners breathe.

AWNT: your mother’s sister in Boston.

AUNT (say "ont") your mother’s other sister in Minneapolis.

ANT: your dad’s sister in Des Moines.

AINT: your deddy’s other sister in Mayberry.

DAM: what beavers build in the North.

DAYUM: what beavers build in the South.

DADDY: a child’s father in Illinois, Ohio, among other places.

DEDDY: a dad in Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, for example.

Die-Dee: your pappy in East Tennessee.

DIE-DEE: a diaper among older Iowans who remember cloth diapers.

DOCK: what Northerners tie boats to.

DOCK: when the lights go out in "Hot-fud," Connecticut, and in parts of the South.

FIR: perhaps the best example of universal Mare Kin. Within a sentence, it means "for" in nearly every American locale. Fir example: "Whud ja pay FIR that?" or, "Wait FIR me." (At the end of sentences, it is usually pronounced as "fore." "Whud ja do that for?")

FUST: a Southern first.

GULL: "girl" in Southern USA.

HAHD: "difficul’t" or "not soft" in the East and down East. "It’s nevah HAHD fir Ted to be re-elected in Massachusetts."

HARD: "not soft" in much of the North.

HARD: "hired" man in most of the South. "Hoired" man in Charleston.

JUICE: "electricity" in Appalachia.

‘LECTRICITY: "electricity" in typical Mare Kin.

MUNDEE: Day after Sundee. We also say "Toosdee, Wensdee, Thursdee," and "Fridee" when we use the words in sentences. Add "Sattidee," or "Sat’dee," or even "Satterdee," to complete the week.

NEW YOKE: what Southerners call New York.

N’ YAWK: what people who live there call New York.

RAT: Southern "right." "Come inna house RAT now!"

RETARD: A southerner who has taken Social Security. "He is RETARD now after forty years of teachin’ school.

TAHD: "fatigued" down East.

TIE YERD: "fatigued" in most northern states.

TARRED: "fatigued" in the South.

TOMATO: Mare Kin vegetable.

TOMAHTO: Boston vegetable.

‘MATER: Appalachian vegetable. (Same pattern for "potato, potahto," and "tater."

WARSHINGTON: first President of the U.S. in the Midlands and in the state of "Warshington" out on the "Wess coast."

WASHINGTON: first President of the United States in Michigan, among other places.

WASH’TIN: first President in Georgia, for example.

WRETCHED: Southern name for "Dick." "WRETCHED Nixon resigned his office as President of the United States."

That gives you the idea. Once you tune yer rears, yule hear Mare Kin pronunciations instead of English throughout the United States. Watch this space for more.

(Material adapted from MAREKIN: THE LANGUAGE WE SPEAK INSTEAD OF ENGLISH, by Dana Wall, Morris Publishing, 179 pp., paper.)