Thursday, December 14, 2006

Just because it makes me happy to think about. . .

. . .and I am a vain little fucker. I don't know what to do about that. Oh, well.

All right. There are plenty of studies/catalogues of regionally based dialects. You know, whether something is "soda" or "pop," in some place, or a couch or sofa, and so on. But I get the feeling that my family, specifically my mother's side, being large and starting out its recent history isolated (sort of) on a man-made island in Long Beach that was populated by recent immigrants, the uneducated, the self-educated, and gangsters, has developed a fairly peculiar dialect of its own. Some of it is Southern Californian in general, but some of it is just pigheadedness. Despite not being actually cut off from the outside world, we are a somewhat persistent bunch, and if Grammy Jane (the Matriarch) calls something the heater, you ain't breaking the rest of us out of the habit, even if it's a matter of wild over-generalization on our part.

Chris makes me aware of it all. Delightfully, I swear. But I wield these findings at my mother and it sounds like she's been put on the Teacups. Positively dizzy.

Here is a partial list of places where Chris and I speak at odds:

Heater/Furnace
Barbecue/Grill
Light socket/Electrical outlet
Butter knife/Table knife
Sink/Countertop
Electric bill/Light bill
(e.g.)"The 99"/"99" or "Hwy 99"
"Shut over the door" or "close over the window"/"Leave it open a crack" or "?"

(Mine are on the left, his on the right.)

Now, the problem is that the things I say meaning one thing are not only different from the words my Love would use, but they often have alternate meanings, for him. Sometimes it's just a matter of being foreign to him, but most of the time it causes confusion. When I cave and say, "All right, you can turn on the heater," he thinks I could actually be talking about one of the little space heaters. Rather than the furnace. Ha! But a heater, he says, is not the same as a furnace. Central heat is a furnace, and "the heat" can be the furnace, but a heater is a concentrated heat source. I.E. not what I'm calling a heater.

Apparently, my mother's mother's house has an actual heater, rather than a furnace. So this is probably where we get it. She is the Mighty Mighty Matriarch, after all.

"Barbecue," also, is not the grill on which one barbecues. Barbecue (he claims) is the style of grilling that involves pork and heavy sauce, or the product that comes out of it. I suppose, to me, his version of barbecue is "BBQ." I still claim to barbecue shishkabobs. He grills them. He would eat barbecue. I would not so much.

Light socket is just wrong, I know. Because the light socket is the socket that the light bulb goes into, not the outlet the plug for the lamp goes into. But, habit. I heard "look like you stuck your finger in a light socket" so many times that I associated it with the much more accessible outlet. (My mother calls the outlet "the plug.")

Butter knife is what my folk call any non-steak and non-chopping knife. That is, table knives. I don't know that any of us actually has a proper butter knife, but we use table knives mostly for butter. This is yet another one where Chris is officially right. But, eh.

Sink is, I suppose, objectively wrong, too. This is the point around which Chris accuses my family of speaking its own language. "Would you put that on the sink for me?" "You want it in the sink?" "No, no, like over there by the coffeepot." "On the countertop." "Yes." "Not the sink." "Well. . . " Because, while once in a while my family refers to that tiled area around the faucet area and above the cabinets as "the counter" (never the countertop), it's almost always also the sink. We differentiate with "in" or "on." At least half of the surface space in a kitchen is "the sink."

Now, light bill is his thing: Pittsburgh pickup. For once, I get to pretend to have some high ground, but then I have to let go, because that at least has a proper origin, and is supported by more than 20 people. As the bill covers all electricity, however, it is, strictly, less correct than electric bill, as far as energy usage is concerned. However, "Electric Bill" implies a bill which is electric. So I suppose the most proper would be the TID (Turlock Irrigation District) Bill, the Electricity Bill, or the Bill we Pay to Keep the Lights On. Still, I'm a little righter.

The freeway thing Chris thinks is SoCal, rather than just strictly my family, but he's never heard it outside of my homeland. It's likethis: I will never, NEVER say, "Take I-5 North" or even "Oh, you take 99 down to Merced. . ." God forbid I ever utter the words "California Route 4" or "Highway 1." Oh no. They are Entities, apparently. "You take the 110 up to the 405. . ." (Oh, and while we're at it, "up" consistently refers to North and "down" refers to South, regardless of whether one is going towards the center of the city or away or whatever the usual meanings for up and down are, around towns. Screw that.) It's even THE Pacific Coast Highway. THE Harbor Freeway. I know it's just one silly little article, but I'm committed.

And "close (sthg.) over"/"shut (sthg.) over" are just.. . Idunno. They're perfect. This one came to light when Chris would ask something like, "Do you want me to shut the door?" And I would say, "Oh, no, just shut it over." Hilarity ensues! Ah, well. I know that generally something is closed or not--i.e., if it's a little open, it's open--but my family once again operates contrary to this. If it's not all the way open, for us, it's partly shut. If we're opening something, goddamnit, it is going to be OPEN. If you remove it from that wholly open to the hinges position, at all, you've shut it over. Maybe this is rooted in my family never actually closing doors or windows completely. If it's really, actually cold enough, we will maybe close them over (move the door towards the closed position, still leaving it several inches open). But it's something like pulling teeth to get us to actually shut anything properly.

Well. So. That's that.

Now that anti-climax is achieved, I'm going to go upstairs and fiddle with recording some vocals for things Chris has laid down guitar tracks for. It should be fun!

5 comments:

Doc Nagel said...

Now that it's in print in front of my face, "countertop" makes no sense at all. It's just a counter, ain't it? "Light bill" (which, like "electric bill," offers a strange mental image) probably comes from the fact that most of the Burgh gets electricity from a company called Duquesne Light. But then, people there have cars that need washed, so what do they know?

The word verification thingy says "tdslurt." Wasn't that the name of a detective on that late 70s TV show, kinda comedy/detective show, you know the one... T. D. Slurt: Crime Alert. Something...

Lulu--Back in Town said...

Okay, I know where you are, right now, where you just made that comment.

"T.D. Slurt: Crime Alert" even rhymes, it's so hep.

Westside Goth said...

dialect is overrated. we should all just go abck to groping and htiting each other with clubs.

Lulu--Back in Town said...

Ooh, now that's a good thought. I'm all over the groping.

lizld said...

Doug makes fun of me too, but he's never been on the 405 at rush hour when it takes on a life of its own. Or the 101. You can take the girl out of SoCal, but you can't take the SoCal out of the girl....