My friend still speaks with a New Jersey accent—but it is now laced with a Texas twang. Although he spent his formative years on the East Coast, his move to Austin, Texas affected his speech.
A typical sentence from him sounds like this: “Ah was fixin’ to cawl youze, but, you know, Vinny and his wAHfe, you know, Mabel Sue, came to visit for a tAHme.”
Many people I know struggle with getting rid of their native accents and colloquialisms when faced with moving to a new place. Some are successful; others like my friend wind up speaking a whole different language.
When I lived in Texas and it was time for a performance review at my job, my supervisor asked me to step into his office and “pull the door to.” I stood there speechless trying to figure out what he meant. “Pull it to what?” I asked. More silence. What he meant was for me to close the door. Fortunately for me, he had a good sense of humor.
My own East Coast vernacular has softened and changed since I left New Jersey many years ago. A move to California followed by one to Florida, and then another to Texas before returning to California has altered my way of speaking. I suppose a good way to describe it now is that my speech is like the song “A Little Bit Country, A little Bit Rock and Roll.” New Jersey is still there, but surfer-speak sometimes sneaks in along with a few southern words or phrases. For instance I might say, “I thought y’all gave a good tawk, fer sher.”
Like my friend and I making hash out of different regional accents and phrases, my Italian family made minestrone out of the English language. In the Italian-American neighborhood of my childhood, we called a dish towel a mopeen, which is from the Sicilian and Calabrese dialects, mappina. I did not begin to call the thing a dish towel until recently.
And I’ll never forget the day I told one of my teachers that her class gave me agita (heartburn).
One bad habit I inherited from my father is making up my own words. He is a pro at that. Whenever he can not fully express himself in Italian or English, he makes up something. Give-a-shitty is an example of one of his adjectives that he uses to describe a job poorly done. “She turned in a real give-a-shitty report.” Billowfied is another one. This word expresses the demeanor of a person who uses flowery speech and gestures while attempting to explain his or her way out of a bad situation. “She got all billowfied once I told her about the give-a-shitty report not being accepted.”
The other day I caught myself telling a lamp shop owner that the shade she suggested for my lamp base was too doilyfied, meaning it resembled something that would interest my grandmother. She gave me a blank stare followed by a request to please explain the term so she could look for a more suitable shade.
I used to fret over my accent, regional slang and not understanding what people in other parts of the country were trying to say. But now I decided that as long as I do not do a give-a-shitty job and act all billowfied to defend myself if I do; then it is okay to call a dish towel a mopeen as I pull the door to.
In response to the weekly writing challenge: A Manner of Speaking
My aunts “pulled the door to” as well. Cracked me up seeing it in your post – for me that sounds normal. 🙂
cynthiamc1–thanks for the comment. There were many sayings in Texas that caused me to furrow my brow at first. Now, I find myself saying them all the time.
Ha love it, Pat! As you know, us Mexicans have made a fine art out of turning of mashups into the language known as Spanglish. Every culture has their way of dealing with the English language; I think it is charming to listen to people from other countries as they talk their particular mix of speak. Gotta admit, I steal a lot of what I hear around and use it myself! It’s the American Way!
Thanks, fishlovesclay! I, too, have picked up some Spanish slang to add to the mix!
Enjoyed this, had never thought about ‘pulling the door to’ sounding strange, but now I think about it…..gor blimey what does it mean?
Thanks, aliciasunday. I know. It is funny to use a phrase for so many years and never think about it until someone questions the meaning. The Texans where I worked used to have fun with my accent. When my boss didn’t what I was saying, he would say, “Jersey…” I would respond to him with, “Texas.” It always lightened the mood in the office.
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This post made me laugh with delight. I love to hear regional accents, and, magpie that I am, I’ll pick them up immediately. I totally identify with your “I thought y’all gave a good tawk, fer sher.” People have asked me if I’m from: Ohio, Mexico, Ireland, and “the south” (wherever that is). Nope, I’m from California!
Thanks maggiebird! I can definitely relate!
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