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Vernacularver’nak’u’lar: 1. The everyday language of the people in a country or region, distinct from the official or spoken language. 2. The distinctive vocabulary or language of a profession, group or class.

From the time I was young, vernacular, as I suppose you would call it, has interested me. I first took notice in the words my extended, and very Polish family spoke; words that were not spoken in our everyday life. There are many examples, but the first one that comes to mind is my grandmother referring to her couch as “the davenport”. When I asked my parents why, I was just told that different people used different words. Well, ok then.

When we moved to the town I consider “my hometown” when I was 11, I was first introduced to the term “Duh”. The kids I went to school with inserted it in just about every sentence. “Duh, I forgot my homework!” “And then I was like ‘OH DUH!!’” “Duh” was probably more widespread than I had realized at the time, however coming from a strict catholic school with children who were sheltered it was probably the least offensive of the words that I learned that year which I had never heard before.

The language of the town we live in now, is something else. If you are an old school townie—like my father-in-law, the words “this, that and the” are pronounced “dis, dat and da”. This phenomenon is actually something my husband is sometimes a party to (when he’s not paying attention) having lived in this town for more than half of his life. You won’t hear people say “Those are good cookies!” but instead “Them (or dem as it may be) are good cookies!” Sandwich is pronounced “sandridge” or “sanrich” and you will often hear “batteries” pronounced as “bat-trees”. You don’t go out for a fish fry; you “go for a fish”. The biggest thing is the use of “ain’t it” at the end of a sentence or in completely odd context. It is typical in our area to hear something like this: “We need to get some milk from the store, ain’t it?” Or in a conversation between 2 people: Person A says “That guy comes around here a lot” and Person B will respond “Ain’t it?” Seriously. Hub and I started inserting it in to our conversations years ago because we thought it was hysterical, and now, it is kind of second nature to us….regardless of how incredibly wrong it is.

You notice things like this in your travel as well. When we were in New Hampshire on our honeymoon, there were many, but the one that sticks out is people saying “How you are?” (or in the NE accent, “how you ahhhh?”) instead of “How are you.” When my brother lived in PA last year he was appalled at the dropping of “to be” in most sentences. People would say “the car needs washed” or “the dog needs walked” or my personal favorite, “the laundry needs done.”

Today I put the call out to you who live all over this country and Canada, those of you who have traveled extensively, or any of you that want to respond. Blow my mind with what you have heard. Better yet, blow my mind with what you have said!

11 responses »

  1. Our poor kids are going to be so confused. Torsten has all these little English idiosyncrasies that aren’t totally correct but that I’ve wound up adopting too. I don’t remember what they are but I know that they exist. It’s a problem.

  2. Oh man, there are SO MANY differences between TX and MN/Boston.In MN, we say “half an hour”, in TX it’s “30 minutes”.In MN, we say “I’m good” for I’m fine, thanks, no more. In Boston, they say “I’m all set”.In MN we say “quarter to one” for 12:45, in Boston they say “quarter of one”In MN, “you bet” is interchangeable with “you’re welcome”. I say that one a lot.

  3. One that struck me was the use of “uh huh” instead of “you’re welcome” after thanking someone – we first ran into that one in Utah and some parts of Colorado.

  4. In Houston we call the roads by the number. For example “Take 45 South”. I noticed when I visited LA they call it THE whatever “Take the 405”. We have a DJ on the radio here that adds the “the” to the roads and it drives me crazy.Of course we say y’all. And pretty much any type of carbonated beverage is called a “coke”.

  5. Oh, I love this. I hear that Ohioans have the clearest speech (not much accent), especially this area where I live (if you get into sounther Ohio, you start getting a southern/hillbilly accent). My aunt said when she lived in AZ, they often hired newscasters from Ohio because of their clear speech.That said there are some funny things people say around here. Mostly only in the older crowd now (I can only think of one person who says this all the time), but they’ll say war-sher or war-sh instead of “washer” or “wash”. It’s funny. I think that’s fading out though. We call our carbonated beverages “pop”. I’m sure there are more, but that’s all I can think of now. This is very intersting to read.

  6. Tessie nailed all the MN ones.People here also add, “Don’tcha know” after statements, like “Harold had hip surgery, don’tcha know.”

  7. Tessie- We say half an hour too and also quarter to whenever. I also say “you bet” to customers all the time. I think I’ve picked up quirks from talking to people from all over the country.Lori- GAH!! My FIL will just say “ok” if you thank him for anything.Mommy Daisy- We also say “pop” here in NY. I hear a lot that I have a very clear speaking voice—which is probably why I do the voice-over stuff.Emily- we say “take THE 90”, or “take THE 400” here too.Shauna- All I think of when i hear “dontcha know” is that old Bobby’s World cartoon–I think his mom talked like that.

  8. You get a lot of “ya hey” and “er no” in this area.

  9. My parents were from Oklahoma, but my brother and I were raised in Indiana, so sometimes I’m not sure if some of the things I’ve picked up are Sooner or Hoosier things.For example, I honestly couldn’t tell you if my saying “pop” is a IN or an OK thing…..One thing both OK and IN vernaculars agree upon: “warsh” or “Warshington, DC” instead of “wash.” Neither my brother nor I say “warsh.” Go figure.In OK, instead of “what is that thing” they would say, “what is that deal?” Or “Hand me that deal.” But my favorite quote from my Aunt (spoken to a handful of us rambunctious kids) was, “Y’all go in over yonder room!” Over yonder was a big one.In IN, “chili” is what my Okie mother always referred to as “goulash.” You don’t put macaroni in “chili!” But any recipe I see for “goulash” is completely different from what my mother made–more stew-like than well, chili-with-macaroni, as my mom made it.In IN, they say puh-cahns for the nuts, while here in upstate NY, it’s pee-cans (how did upstate NY get a Southern pronunciation for that nut?).My Okie father still says “wraslin'” for “wrestling”–even though he’s lived in IN for far longer than he did in OK.And I always used to love my Okie grandma saying “tarred” for “tired.” Or even, “The car needs new tars.”I grew up calling my close family members, “Mom”, “Dad”, and “Grandma.” But in OK, my cousins always said, “Mama”, “Daddy”, and “Granny”–even when they were adults themselves.In IN, a green pepper is a “mango.” I also get amused at the different pronunciations for city names. Thos Jefferson’s house was “MontiCHELLo”, but in IN, the little town is called “MontiSELLo”, just like it’s spelled–duh! Hoosiers also put the wrong stress on the wrong syllable for “GalVESton” instead of the “GALveston” you would find in Texas.And no Hoosier seemed to agree how to say another town near my Hometown. Peru, IN was pronounced “Purru”, “Peeru” and “Payru” from folks all living within 20 miles of it–and sometimes in the same family.And I’ve been thwarted twice by two different Avon’s in OH and here in NY. What my Hoosier toungue kept wanting to say like the cosmetics company, was quickly corrected to say it with a short A instead of the long. And here there is a town named Chili that you learn very quickly is not pronounced like the food, but as CHI (like the tea)-LIE (like a fib). Sister city to Chili, IN, which I never ever heard pronounced like anything but the food.

  10. Some of that stuff, strangely, seems like it could have been said around my neighborhood. Of course, now that I am trying to think of stuff, my head is empty.

  11. I remember being shocked, too, when we lived in PA and “the laundry needs done.” Down there they also called a chipmunk a “grinny,” and the streets weren’t slippery, they were “slippy.”


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