Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Talking funny . . .

I didn't know I spoke funny until my family moved to Westland, MI for two years when I was in fifth grade.

Waiting outside the building all the students gathered 'round, curious about the new red haired student with the funny way of talking. I was bombarded with questions - was I from Scotland? Ireland? Maybe Canada?

Mrs. Johnson seized the moment and taught an impromptu lesson on regional dialects. I sank in my chair, wishing she had simply introduced me as the new foriegn exchange student from some exotic locale. The lesson I learned that day - it is always best to have your speach patterns sound like those around you. Having red hair AND a foriegn language was two too many strikes for a young, scrawny tomboy to handle.

I proceeded to spend a lifetime trying not to sound like my mother - who despite retiring to South Carolina years ago still sounds like she is living in da Soo. She uses expressions like: "Wah" (Wow), "Holy wah!" (Really wow), "Eh. Okay" (What or hey), "Yah sure - hey" (You've got to be kidding. I don't believe it), and "Youbetcha" (Yes, without a doubt). My husband swears every other word she speaks is simply "eh". Really?

And even though the weather in South Carolina doesn't generally warrant them, she still keeps swampers (rubber boots), choppers (mittens) and a toque (knitted cap) in the front closet "just in case".

The last time I visited she spent an afternoon "oot and aboot" visiting a few lady friends.

The way my mother speaks actually has historic significance. In 2003 of House Resolution 183 in the Michigan Legislature in Lansing: "A resolution establishing  the Upper Peninsula's inhabitants way of speach as Michigan's official state dialect."

The whereas clauses gave this unique dialect antiquity ("around 1840"), an identity ("independent, hearty individualism and the active sportsmen's tradition") and status as reflecting "our multi-cultural heritage."

Most remarkable of all, this dialect is in peril. The resolution declared it to be "an endangered dialect that is on the verge of vanishing forever" from our Great Lake State. It didn't say anything about just what the dialect is.

But believe me, if you show up anywhere in the U.P. talking any other way we’ll know you’re not from here. Oh remember, camoflage or flannel are always in style if you want to blend in, eh.

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