Saturday, July 22, 2006

By George She's Got It!

I'm reasonably sure that my speaking voice is clear, easy-to-understand, and pleasant. All of these are qualities that are nice to have when a big part of your job is to talk to people all day. I don't know that if I had the voice of Harvey Fierstein coming out of my 5'4" frame, that it would necessarily affect my ability to give good librarianship, but speaking clearly must have its advantages. I've even been professionally trained in proper enunciation and diction in one of my earlier careers. Sadly, I did not have anyone pompously cute like Professor Higgins to teach me how to speak propply, but I did all of those "give me the gift of the grip top sock" exercises until I had the most (as Tim Curry playing Dr. Thornton Poole would say) nicely rounded diphthongs. Rowr.

I still retain my Midwest accent, which I happen to love, and can spot in others a mile away (yay for Bill Murray and John Cusack). But other than that, sometimes I fear my speech can be, well, a little boring. I think regionalisms are cool, and random quirky speech ticks are even better. I had a kid come up to the reference desk and ask for Eragon and she pronounced it "Eee-RAY-gun" and I liked that. E-Ray-Gun. It's like a ray gun that shoots people through the power of the internets.

My friends and family all seem to have their own uniquely-pronounced words. Biology Girl, for example, busted out one time, talking about a book that she read, and called the genre "mem-wire." Mem-wire! I can't tell you how much I love that. Dahling, I've seen it all. I'm going to write a tell-all mem-wire. Here's another one. Neighbor J likes to make some of her "eh" sounds "a" sounds. She does so, with pleasure. Or should I say Play-sure. Plaaaay-sure. She works at the thee-ay-ter with im-may-surable playsure. That's better than the Rain in Spain! Wait, there's more. Neighbor B calls "yeah-hoo." It's so laid back, so appropriate for him to say it this way, because he is so laid back. What site are you on, dude? Yeah-hoo. And, perhaps my most favorite of all, Neighbor B's dad can cook you up a nice breakfast and announce them as Eggo Wiffles. WIFFLES! That is so cute I can't stand it. I'll take some more syrup with those wiffles please. I don't know if this pronounciation has any relation at all with wiffle-ball, but I like to think so.

Then there are those that have bard's blood running in their veins, who purposefully re-invent words. Think Snoop Dogg (fo shizzle my nizzle). I am proud to say that Nordic Boy is one of these. He likes to put a random k after s sounds. Where'd you eat lunch today? Skubway. If he's feeling especially jaunty, he'll shorten it even more. Skubbies! Who's this message for? My skister. It's so lovely. Aweskome.

All of these are not really regionalisms, you might be thinking. Yes, that's true. I think Neighbor J's are, but the rest of them, well, people are just saying things wrong. Why do I like that? It's just so individualized. It's like they have claimed a word and put their mark on it. This will be MY word. I will say it how I want to say it! It's how language should be, and is, on a larger scale: creative, evolving, poetic. It's so endearing, and it makes whatever word that you've butchered somehow associated with you. Every time I see a waffle, I think "wiffle!" and think of Neighbor B's dad.

So as I started thinking more about it, I noticed that everyone that I know and love has something like this, even if they don't know it. This made me feel covetous. "Nordic Boy," I said, "do I have something that I pronounce weird?" He thought. And thought. "Nope. I don't think you do."

I was incensed by this. Because I, ladies and gentlemen, am an Individual. (Especially when it comes to something everyone else does. Har har.) So I asked my other friends. "Hey, do I have a word or phrase that sounds funny and distinctive that you've noticed?" Nothing, people! I even asked them to monitor it over a period of time. I'll be waiting. As soon as you notice one, shout it out. Mmm-kay? Thanks.

Months went by. I reminded people at times, just in case they had forgotten. Still nothing. "You just don't have one!" Sigh. I started to resign myself to this sad fact. Until.

Me: "I really want to set up the guest bedroom this way, except I don't think there's room."
Nordic Boy: (pausing like Bambi in the thicket, ears perked up) "That's IT!"
Me: "What? What's it?"
Nordic Boy: "That's your weird pronunciation thing!"
Me: (gleefully) "Where, where?"
Nordic Boy: "Say what you just said."
Me: "I really want to set up the guest bedroom this way, ebsept I don't think there's room."
Nordic Boy: "Ebsept? What the hell is that?"
Me: "I didn't say 'ebsept.' I said "except."
Nordic Boy: "No, you didn't. You said ebsept."
Me: (happier than when re-runs of Welcome Back Kotter came back on the air) "I did??"

And since then, it's held up. When I am not thinking about saying the word "except," I say "ebsept." I don't know where the F that comes from. And my real-life Henry Higgins doesn't want to train me out of saying it. He's skuch a skweetheart.

Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Librarian Girl


Anonymous said...

I realized a few years ago (while singing along with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's) that I say review mirror instead of rearview mirror. Oh, the humiliation!

Anonymous said...

Yeah! So glad you found yours! It gives me much Playsure. Now get you butt over to my house for some wiffles!

Katie Kiekhaefer said...

aww, what a great post! First of all, I love My Fair Lady *sigh*. Also, love regionalisms! Especially since as a born and raised Sconnie girl, I've got a plenty. Beyond the regionalisms, I'm known to say fajita funny and groccery store shopping instead of groccery shopping. My fav though is my friend who says "orange" "Urange." Glad you found your own!

Anonymous said...

I love Midwest accents! I am unable to say "vague" or "bagel" without drawing laughter from my non-Wisconsin-born friends.

Librarian Girl said...

I'm sure I say "vague" and "bagel" as you do. People where I live tell me they like the way I say "tacos." I have no idea what they mean.

Darlene said...

Such a great story! I have to inquire as to whether or not I have a special word or phrase as well - I'll get back to you though...hahaha Thanks for this story!

Anonymous said...

Having lived in the South practically my entire life, I had no idea that the term "fixin to" was uniquely Southern. During a brief, rather misguided attempt to live on Long Island, I told a few of my co-workers that I was "fixin to" do something. They all just kind of stared at me with blank expressions on their faces. I had to explain to them that I meant I was getting ready to do something.

At my place of employment (okay, it was Blockbuster), each employee had their own drawer to keep their possessions in. And each drawer, was labelled with the employee's name, followed by "Draw". As in, Joe's Draw. When I asked about that, I again got the blank looks. Apparently, on Long Island, drawer is spelled without the -er. (Which is odd, because they pronounce "saw" as "sawer".)

Anonymous said...

Oh, if I ever write a memwire it will mention how much playsure I get from eating wiffles! Ebsept for donies, they are my favorite breakfast food.