Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Did You Say?

I love words. I love the way they rearrange and group together to change things. I love to arrange and rearrange them myself and I am a word-watcher. I notice and appreciate the way word-skilled people carve with them.

Words build and destroy; encourage and devastate; control and free. You can do a lot with words. I hope I am never without them. Words are my friends and like all exciting friends, they've bailed me out many times and they've landed me in trouble more times than I can count.

I'm intrigued with the way people who supposedly speak the same language can have a conversation and be totally in the dark, too.

When I first moved to Northern Wisconsin from Central Illinois, I had to learn a new dialect. "Come by me once, eh," meant "Please come here." Who knew?

When I moved to Appalachia I learned again. "I kindly just cut iverthang off," meant "I conserve electricity."

Friends from Australia were amazed when we asked them if they "shagged." Ooops. We meant danced.

And Brits! Well, one hardly knows where to begin. They don't know a torch from a flashlight, a chip from a fry, or fancy from like. And while the Aussies are often crude, the Brits think it's rude to come out and say what they mean. It's amazing that we aren't at war with them.

Where I grew up the word you could mean one person or several people. Up North multiple people were addressed as yous. In Appalachia it's you'ns. In the South it's ya'll. And using the wrong word can cause you to sound snooty, stupid, alien or any combination of those.

All this mumbo-jumbo, gobbledeegook, and falldarall just to make a point. Words are important. We must choose them with care. When we don't make sure that a word or phrase means the same thing to you as it does to someone else, we risk a great deal. We could ask someone to dance and end up in a most embarrassing situation.


  1. Oh you danced around words and meanings at the start of the post, very nice and then you moved to accents. So I'm replying here on the accents half of the post.

    Yes ya ye the English have it all wrong. But the Scotts, the Welsh!!?!?

    I wonder if the term Mate that is used so much between Aussies it rooted in Prison Mate and if not Ship Mate (but probably the former). Aus and US are versions of English from 200 years ago that both took a slightly different tack from the English of the time. Irish and Spanish even African having big impacts on the US English too.

    The UK has far more slang and a more rapidly evolving use of words especially as used by the youth. Also UK has distinct accents for even just 30 minutes apart on the map.

    The biggest adaptation of English is with the Indians who have even made their own grammar in the 200 years they have had the language. Most Indians have English as a 2nd or 3rd language and they have adapted it to their style much more than the US or Aussies and so English really is very commonly spoken but..

    We don't have a scooby what most are gaan on aboot 'cuz of the ferkin' mouth on the lottarem.

    I'm from the UK by the way and if it probable that we can only communicate in the written word - If we met we'd need translators :D

  2. Ah, another wordie! You're right, it wasn't my best put together post.
    I'm not sure you Brits can claim more slang than we. But as I type that I think I'm thinking dialect, which is what I was talking about in my post rather than accents. The accents do add to the problem.
    The Scots? I've got to admit (said Fay Campbell) that I'd probably need a solid couple of months there before I understood a thing. I'm willing to go and try, though.
    Thanks for reading.