Thursday, November 05, 2009

Words, Glorious Words!

by Paula Matter

One recent morning I couldn't wake up. On my fifth cup of coffee and the caffeine had still not kicked in. Someone suggested I might be drinking decaf by mistake. She said it happened to her–in fine print the word 'decaf' was on the label.

So I checked. I put the coffee can on my kitchen table and read the label.

Nope. Definitely caffeinated. After finishing that fifth cup of coffee, the left side of my brain woke up and had some questions.

How come it's not table and lable? Or, tabel and label? (I'm playing havoc with my spell check here. Hee hee!)

I've been a lover of words since I was a child growing up in Miami. And it wasn't always easy.

My mother was from Boston; my father from New Orleans (Nawlins). Here's a typical conversation in our house...

Dad: "Goils, get your poises and get in the car."

Mom: "I pahked the cah over theah by the yahd."

Huh? Oh! He was telling me and my sisters to get our purses and she was letting him know where she'd parked the car.

Got it. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.

That was years ago and it all came back when I moved north with my Yankee husband. My first dinner at my in-laws home, my mother-in-law said, "Time to red* off the table."

Say what? I sat there for a minute until I figured out it was time to clear the table. I've since learned one can red out closets, attics, basements, etc.

It was raining the day we moved into our home. An elderly neighbor stood watch nearby. As we lugged furniture back and forth, he said, "Youins daresn't move that davenport while it's spittin."

Huh? Aha! We shouldn't move the couch while it's drizzling.

Here's a fun quiz for y'all/youins/youse guys:

I scored a perfect 20 and according to Toni, "Not only are you Southern, but I think you and I are kin."

Hot damn!

*I'm not quite sure I'm spelling it correctly. Anyone out there know?
 Feel like you've read that before? Feels, sounds, looks familiar? Deja vu? Nope. After trying to upload my post twice and having problems, I cheated and used this old post from last summer. It was too late to contact my blog partners, so I did the next best thing.


Annette said...

I scored a 20, too. I guess having all those kin folk in West Virginia comes in handy for something. The Sam Hill thing really brought back memories. My Grandma used to say that all the time.

And, Paula, barring power and/or Internet outages, I should have your critique to you before lunch.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Annette, that means we're kin!

I know you'll get to the critique when you can.

Um, you do know I eat lunch at 9 AM, right?


Joyce said...

The correct spelling is "redd." Someone told me once that the word comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch.

I only got a 16, but I let my character Irma Jean take the test and she got a 20.

Working Stiffs said...

Thanks, Joyce, for the correct spelling. I knew I was wrong.

Ahh, Pennsylvania Dutch...

I remember hearing, "Throw me down the stairs my hat."

Alrighty then. lol


Wilfred Bereswill said...

So, the other day, there was a discussion about using regional dialect in your writing. The overwhelming majority said DON'T. It seems to be a pet peeve of some.

For me, it's more bothersome when all the characters in a book sound the same.

Dana King said...

Thanks, Joyce. My WIP takes place in Western Pennsylvania, and a character was going to have to redd up the house before the book is over; it's too good a word for setting place. I was leaning twoard "redd," as "red" and "read" (short for "Ready") might be confusing. Now if anyone objects to the spelling, I can blame, er, I mean refer them to, you. :-)

Jennie Bentley said...

I got 17 - "You must have been born on the right side of the Mason/Dixon line."

Um... no. But I live here. It's all recent knowledge, though.

Will, for the record - and not that I'm anybody important you need to listen to - I put regional dialect into all my books. They're not written completely in regional dialect, as I agree that would be awful, but I put in enough that the reader can get a sense of where they are and what the place sounds like. What better way of setting the scene? My agent and editor both worry if those references aren't there, and ask me to put in more. There has to be a balance, of course: like everything else, if the reader stumbles over it, it has to go.

Annette said...

Paula, 9AM it is. But that's Pacific Time.

I don't mind a little dialect as long as I don't have to decypher the words. If I have to stop and translate, I'm going to put the book down.

Karen in Ohio said...

My score was also a 17, but I can't figure out which ones I got wrong. My mother's family was from West Virginia, and my dad's family was also newly citified, so I grew up hearing a lot of those sayings.

Fun quiz!

Word verification, poorly spelled: mentl

Joyce said...

Thanks, Dana. I think.

I use "redd up" all the time. At least I don't say "warsh" like my mother did.

Hey, can I count Pittsburghese as a second language?

Annette said...

Yes, you can, Joyce. And proudly so.

Around here, it was worsh. And we went to Worshington. Had to cross a crick to get there, too. Used to get those Isaly's chipped ham sammiches at the mall.

Anonymous said...

My mother, and consequently my siblings, said and say "melk" instead of "milk". I've not figured out if that's a regional thing (southwestern Ohio), or if it's just peculiar to my family. Anyone know?

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Annette, I learned "fieldese" when I worked in the oil patch. That's where I learned the difference in youins, y'all and all y'all.

I read a book writted by Clive Cussler. Now I normally love his books, but this one had an opening scene on a Chinese freighter. Well, all the characters had the same neutral voice. And even when Chinese speak in English they speak in a manner that is different from neutral English. It took me out of the story and I never went back to it.

Annette said...

Let's see... all y'all is the plural of y'all, right?

And the plural of yunz is yunzes.

Working Stiffs said...

Annette, did you have to go through dahntan (sp?) Pittsburgh on your way to Worshington?

And didn't you have to crost the crick to get there? That's my husband's way of saying it. He used to do the worsh every Sadurday.

I love words!

My word verifcation: gnona.
That would be my Dad saying, "You goils gonna go get your poises so we git goin'?"

Annette said...

Nah. We only went dawntawn to watch the Stillers play. Sometimes we'd visit my aunt in Esliberty. (Translation: East Liberty, for those of you not familiar with the Burgh).

Working Stiffs said...

Okay, show of hands... Am I the only one here who doesn't pronounce it Ant?

My Bostonian mother was adamant about "saying it properly."

I drew the line at drama--draw-ma versus her dram-a.


Wilfred Bereswill said...

When I moved to Kansas City from St. Louis, they thought I had a speech impairment. KC is probably as accent-neutral as it gets.

Annette said...

I pronounce it ant.

queenofmean said...

I scored 20, too & don't have a single relative originally from the South. My mother used a lot of those phrases, tho.
Ah, the fun of Pittsburghese, huh? I'm a transplant & still can't get the grasp of gum bands & tin foil.

Gina said...

I scored 17. I say ant. And it took me awhile in grade school to realize all those creeks I'd been reading about were really cricks. Thanks for the Esliberty. I've gotten into arguments with newbies who think it's Sliberty. There has to be the E there, although we always said it with a pause: E Sliberty. If you really want to sound like Pittsburgh, though, you can't just say redd up and yunz. You need a coupla gum bands 'n' at.

My magic word is joisity - a state of levity, perhaps?

Patg said...

That was a cute test. I got a 20. It comes from marrying into a southern family. Barely a first generation type myself, who grew up thinking you had to put your ethnic origin in front of American.
I think I became attracted to my husband when I asked him what he was and he looked at me like I was nuts, and said 'American'. He was the first person I'd ever met whose family had been here for over 200 years.
I grew up in PA, Wilkes Barre, and not too long ago a friend sent me a 'joke' thing that was about speaking Pennsylvanian. It was funny too.