Thursday, September 8, 2011

Language Arts

For me, being around a new language, accent or dialect is like putting a little kid in a candy store. I gorge myself on the idiosyncrasies until they're involuntarily spewing out of my mouth and pores.

Involuntary cases in point:
  • When I see one of my relatives (all from Texas, Arkansas, etc.) on the caller id, I pick up the phone with a southern accent.
  • Once when I was cutting a Bostonian's hair, I said to him, "Ya, yuh has reeeally causs." (That's the best phonetic spelling I could come up with for a Bostonian saying, "Yeah, your hair is really coarse.")
  • Once a British man pulled up to me in a BMW and said, "S'cuse may?" (translation: "Excuse me?") to which I responded, "Whuss thah?" ("What's that?")
When we were in Southeast Asia, I stopped using articles or plural endings, and one night after a couple gin and tonics while suffering from severe sleep deprivation and a terrible sunburn and surrounded by a mob of Vietnamese speaking broken English—as well as Brits, Aussies and Dutch—I looked at Kady pitifully and bemoaned, "Eye-eee duhn't ree-moomber hoy I towel-kuh..." (Try and pronounce that; it's worth the effort.)

"I don't remember how I talk..." Pathetic.

New Orleans has been no exception. The jargon and dialects I'm exposed to in the field at work are highly contagious.

First of all, we use the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet to identify our devices. That means all day I say:

Alpha for A
Bravo for B
Charlie for C
Delta for D
Echo for E
Foxtrot for F

On top of that, here are some of the words that now come out of my mouth:

Neutral Ground (n.)—the grassy area that separates lanes of traffic, more often called a median; an area people congregate with lawn chairs, grills and coolers of beer instead of their yard.

Zink (n.)—a basin or receptacle, as in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry, usually connected with a water supply and drainage system, for washing dishes, clothing, etc; more often called a sink.
Url (n.)—any of a large class of substances typically unctuous, viscous, combustible, liquid at ordinary temperatures and soluble in ether or alcohol but not in water; used for anointing, perfuming, lubricating, illuminating, heating, etc; more often called oil.

Burl (v.)—to change from a liquid to a gaseous state, producing bubbles of gas that rise to the surface of the liquid, agitating as they rise; boil.

Snowball (n.)—a snow-cone.

People who be still (n., pl.)—street performers who paint themselves silver and stand like a statue

Itis [eye ⋅ tiss] (n.)—that sinking spell or drowsy feeling that happens after eating lunch during the workday

But despite all of the imitation faux pas I've been guilty of, Kady takes the cake on her FIRST DAY OF WORK:

Boss: "I think I'm going to head to Walmart."

Kady: "Aaaah thaaank aaahm gown-uh hid to duh Wowel-mart," at which her own jaw dropped to the floor in astonishment at her impudence.


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