Thursday, February 21, 2008

Squawkers and other regionalisms

I was talking to a lady in Pennsylvania the other day and I was asking about her family’s roofing business. She stopped dead in her tracks and said suspiciously, “Are you from Wisconsin?”

Of course, I’m not from Wisconsin. Except for a brief stint in West Virginia during my freshman year of college, I’ve lived in Northwest Ohio all of my life. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying.

She told me I said the word “roof” just as her Wisconsin cousins did which according to her was wrong, wrong, wrong. I had said the “oo” in roof like someone saying the word "foot." She said the sound “oo” like some saying the word "boo." It’s not the first time I’ve been taken to task by a Pennsylvanian on how I said the word roof. A tax teacher, a transplant from Pennsylvania, told me that we locals also say the word “wolf” incorrectly. Our wolf rhymes with our roof, and their wolf rhymes with their roof. Big deal, right?

I looked the words up in the dictionary, and it turns out their way of pronouncing those words is the preferred way, but our way is listed in the dictionary as well. So take that Pennsylvania!

I began to think about other regionalisms that we might have. The biggie that I came up with is one that most of us will deny doing, but if we aren’t thinking about it, we do it anyway. Simply put, instead of saying Washington, we add an “r” so it comes out Warshington. I was in sixth grade before someone pointed this extra “r” out to me. We also “warsh” our hands, dishes, and clothing.

People who don’t add the “r” get all creeped out by this and take on an oh so superior attitude on this. (See Like saying, Washington without an “R” adds sixty IQ points automatically. Whatever!

Most of us also say the word “aunt” the same way we say the word for the little bug that you squish between your fingers with a Kleenex if you find one in your house, and WARSH out all the cupboards and then spray insecticide if you find more.

Locally we say the word “creek” two different ways. Some of us say the word so that it rhymes with leak, while others say the word so that it rhymes with brick. I’m not sure which way I say it. I think I do it both ways – I don’t like to be too predictable.

Many of us call the little maple seedlings that blow all over during the spring “squawkers.” It was such a common term with all the people I grew up with that I was startled when I mentioned the word while working in another county and they looked at me as if I was crazy. I was insistent that they needed to look it up in the dictionary. They did. To my chagrin, it wasn’t there.

Why “squawkers” you ask? Because when you pick them up off the ground, put them in your mouth, and blow on them, they make a squawking sound. Okay, put like that I can see why people looked at me incredulously. You know what those people in the other county called them, helicopters. Helicopters? At least we get points for originality.

If often takes outsiders to show you what your regionalisms are. If you think of any more oddball things that we do in this neck of the woods, please share. You know how odd things appeal to me.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, February 21, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

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