Dialects. 

Every year we get warm tidings from my inlaws. The card or text or email or whatever will say something like “We hope youses have a wonderful Christmas”. Not only is the sentiment much appreciated and well received, I am also fascinated by the pluralization of a word that is not part of my regular vocabulary, and that’s “youse”, Philly speak for “you guys” or “y’all”. 

When I was first acquainted with my in laws, it was pointed out that I have a very distinct accent that places me well above the New York City limits. The similar sounding words in the sentence “Mary was merry when she got married” all sound the same. Mary, Merry and marry are all the same word as far as I’m concerned. Apparently my face is very wide when I say “dollar” or “collar”. “Wallet” sounds similar to “dollar” not “wall”.  A big wide “ah”. 

Having grown up right on the soda/pop line, as I kid I would hear both, especially if we were getting a treat at Westons Department Store, in Oswego (20 miles to the west) the cashier rang up a “pop”, but in Watertown (30 miles to the north), the cashier rang up a “soda”. Living in the Southwestern corner of the state for several years solidified “pop” in my vocabulary and I never bothered to change it. When I was in California a couple of years ago I asked for a diet pop and there was much discussion amongst the counter staff at Chipotle about what I had just said.  They were amused as they sipped their Evian. 

I lived in the greater Boston area for a few years in the late 1980s but I don’t think it affected my accent all that much.  Earl and I were in New England a few years ago and I was talking with some of the natives. I mentioned that at one time I lived right outside of Worcester, which I pronounced “Wooh-steh” like a native and it caused Earl to give me a second glance. The only holdover I really have is the use of “wicked” for emphasis, but that was common where I grew up as well.  “He was wicked angry about the toll about the Thruway”. Just this week at work I said, “she’s wicked smart”. My manager, originally from Maine, agreed that the woman we were referring to was wicked smart. 

Working with folks based in South Carolina finds its share of “y’all”s but I try not to use that phrase because I think I sound like an ignorant Yankee when it comes out of my mouth. It’s easy to pick up, though. We don’t really have a second person “you” word up here in Central New York unless it’s “you guys”. It perfectly normal to hear “what are you guys doing tonight?”  As I’m typing this I’m saying that sentence out loud with different dialects and “you guys” and the Pittsburghese “yunz” feel the most natural to me, though the Philly “youse” feels quite natural to me as well.  “Y’all” brings up the ignorant Yankee bit. I think some “yunz” might have snuck into Southwestern New York, or at least people I knew, maybe because I used to DJ in the thriving metropolis of Erie, Pa.  And by the way, we never went to Erie, we always went to Erie P-A. 

I find the varying dialects and such in the Northeast and Midwest to be quite fascinating. New York (City) and Philadelphia are just a couple of hours apart but the accents are nowhere close to each other.  Boston is in a league of its own (“use yah blinkah”). And Pittsburgh has its own Pittsburghese, which I’m trying to figure out how it influenced my speech patterns because I say “let it alone” instead of “leave it alone”.  I’ve never lived in Pittsburgh. My friend Matt in Williamsport says “slippy”. When asked by Earl how many beers I had after flying with other pilots, I usually say, “I don’t know, two, tree”.  The “tree” is not a drunken slur.

The one term I have always said that catches people off (though I don’t know why) is when you’re at the office gossiping around “the water bubbler”. I was 19 when I first started working in a corporate environment and I remember a glance or two when I asked where the water bubbler was. 

I was thirsty.

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