Weekly Writing Challenge–A Diverse Manner of Speaking

Montage of state representations

By Bohemian Opus

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.

Fer sher

In response to the weekly writing challenge: A Manner of Speaking

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About bohemianopus

I live a gypsy’s life. I dance to the music in my head when no one else is looking. I can hear the stars sing, taste the sky, and see music in living color. I talk to animals. And the homeless. I believe that open fields are for flowers, critters, running, and making love – not war. I love to feel the sand between my toes, the wind in my hair, and the rain on my face. I often contradict myself. No I don’t. I hate to drive and sometimes hit the curb when I park. When I am bored, I fantasize about being a famous Broadway star. I do not know how to merge, speak Lithuanian or cook. I am West Coast in a Jersey sort of way. I can not tell a lie with a straight face. I think there should be an “off” switch for obnoxious, loud or boring people. I keep a sleeping bag in my truck in case I simply don’t want to leave. I once owned a heavyweight belt signed by Mohammad Ali. I am loved. Most importantly, I cherish each day as if it were my last.
This entry was posted in California, Culture, DPChallenge, Living, Misadventure, Observations, Weekly writing Challenge, Writing challenges and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Weekly Writing Challenge–A Diverse Manner of Speaking

  1. cynthiamc1 says:

    My aunts “pulled the door to” as well. Cracked me up seeing it in your post – for me that sounds normal. 🙂

  2. 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!

  3. aliciasunday says:

    Enjoyed this, had never thought about ‘pulling the door to’ sounding strange, but now I think about it…..gor blimey what does it mean?

    • bohemianopus says:

      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.

  4. Pingback: I Speak In Song Titles | Cheri Speak

  5. maggiebird says:

    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!

  6. bohemianopus says:

    Thanks maggiebird! I can definitely relate!

  7. Pingback: Weekly Writing Challenge: “Yo Falo Portuñol [and Spanglish!]“ | 3rdculturechildren

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