Saturday, March 29, 2014

You say tom-ay-to, I say to-mah-to.......

I love language. And by that, I mean, I love all the versions of the English language one hears when traveling to different parts of the good 'ol US of A. Our recent trip to Ohio did not disappoint. Besides the "accent" that makes them sound different, there are the delightful words and phrases that confused and charmed me.

Now, before you think this is a post slamming another part of the country's language/accent/phrases, let me be the first to say I spent some time in southeastern Ohio myself and upon moving to other states, was often told I had an "accent." Later, someone clarified to me that it was my "Midwestern accent" and was more about where I put the emphasis on certain words. Since I've lived all over the United States, my "accent" is more of a mash-up of several states' and probably not as easily identifiable as it once was, but I know I have my own funny way of talking and using phrases that would befuddle another American.

So, for example, while I might "push" something (emphasis on the "oo" sound, as in "book") my relatives would "poosh" it. When I'm "tired" they would be "tarred." It's not that we don't both know what the other is talking about, it's just that our mouths form the words differently.

My sister giggled when she found out what a "foldover" was. I, myself, had no idea until my aunt explained it was what I would call a half sandwich. It's simple - you put what you like on the bread, and fold it over. A foldover.

The main purpose of this trip was to attend a huge surprise party for my Aunt Laurie. My other aunts, Mary and Leah (my namesakes!), along with my aunt Margi and some friends prepared all the delicious food for the party. My aunt Leah was worried she didn't have enough homemade (!) noodles - can we just stop here and admire someone who goes through the trouble to make HOMEMADE noodles? - and so she asked my sister to pick up some "cheater" noodles at the store. You know, cheater noodles. Not homemade.

One day while we were there, my husband wore a beanie on his head. You know those stretchy knit hats that are ever-so-popular with all the teenagers right now? His was more of the tight-fitting, logo-inspired variety, but you get the picture. Only, in SE Ohio, it's called a "toboggan." You know, like the sled? In fact, I called those hats toboggans for YEARS until someone corrected me and said a toboggan was a sled. REALLY? I had no idea. Now, I just call it a beanie because that's what all the kids call it. But my Ohio family still calls it a toboggan, and at least I know what they're talking about. My husband can learn.

During a conversation at my Aunt Margie's house (my dad's sister) the conversation amongst the older set turned to health. Everything from who had which cancer to who's heart had recently been catheterized filled the conversation until my cousin's significant other asked if we "got sugar?" Noting no sugar bowl on the table, I had no idea what he was talking about until my sister figured it out as a question pertaining to diabetes.

My Aunt Leah makes some killer apple pie. Also, they put milk and sugar over their pie. Isn't that just the craziest? I don't know, it sounded pretty good to me, although I was always too full to even try her pie, so I'll have to take their word for it. My brother-in-law inquired as to the secret of her fabulous pie. She began to list off the procedure, explaining that she used a "knuckle buster." A what? We soon learned that a knuckle buster is actually a cheese grater. But, c'mon, who hasn't busted a knuckle on one of those things? Makes perfect sense to me!

Jeff and I spent a lot of time driving aimlessly through the beautiful country for no other reason than to enjoy the completely different geography and beauty that Ohio has to offer. It was fun to explore, get lost and found, and take pictures of the rural loveliness. We were discussing where we'd been when my Uncle Joe started telling a tale about days gone by. He storied on about a particular road when he mentioned how the "meat wagon" used to go out there a lot. I thought, wow! They had meat delivery? I mean, I still get my milk delivered and I love that small-town charm of getting my milk from a local dairy out here in suburbia. Meat delivery would be awesome! Until my Aunt Leah noticed our expressions and clarified that a "meat wagon" referred to an "ambulance." Which, incidentally, they call a "squad" in their neck of the woods.

But my favorite "lost in translation" moment happened when Jeff and I were discussing the following day's plans to hike a nearby state park. My Aunt Leah and Uncle Joe were full of great information, including which hikes to take in our short time allotted and where to see the highlights of the many beautiful sights the park had to offer. While discussing one particular hike, Uncle Joe suddenly said "You got wind?" Thinking he meant the gassy variety, I shot a menacing look my husband's way. How dare he fart in mixed company? Both Jeff and I stopped talking and a beat of uncomfortable silence followed, until Jeff suddenly realized he was referencing our aerobic capacity, not the state of our intestines. Whew!

I love my family. I love language. And I love that we have so many words to mean the same thing. I really pity anyone who has to learn the English language. It's so confusing. And so much fun!

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