Thursday, January 9, 2014

Will I ever speak Kentucky?

You would think that after almost 20 years in the US I would have figured out accents - but not only am still struggling with the language barrier I have not got the hang of some of the accents. Yes, there is a language barrier .. see my previous post.

When I was a child, there was an 'American Accent' and it might have been from the deep south up to Northern Canada - all of the continent of North America, to my ears was an 'American Accent'.  It really did all sound the same to me.

Since moving here in 1994, I very slowly started to hear the regional differences in accent, at the same time as realizing to my horror that I didn't speak the same language, at least not the same language as the 'English' spoken in Central Texas.

One of my earlier examples was 12 years ago, towards the end of October. I was sitting at my desk trying to look busy, when the director of development, a man from East Texas who I knew fairly well, having worked with him at a previous company, came out of his office and ask me if I knew where to get 'dry ass'.  I was speechless. Many thoughts crossed my mind.  Why did he think I would know where to dry his ass? Why ask me? Why was his ass wet? And most important, what the hell do I answer? Luckily he expanded. Apparently his wife was looking for dry ice to complete a hallow 'een costume.  Phew!  Thank goodness I said nothing.

Well, that was 12 years ago, I had only been here 7 years.. 7 years? surely I would have learned the language in that time.  Apparently 19 years later I still have a problem.  I wonder if it is something to do with the fact that I am tone deaf?  I have heard that the more musically inclined you are, the easier language is for you.  And I know I am NOT musically inclined.  Oh, I love music, but I couldn't sing to save my life.

I have known my mother in law for over 12 years, and we have lived in the same house for the last 3 years. Surely I should be well able to interpret her Kentucky English and understand her without a problem.  NO. I can't.  We were discussing the very cold winter and she said that she feared the intense cold would have killed the wall flowers.  While I was puzzling over what wall flowers, and I couldn't recall every having seen a wall flower in Texas, certainly not in our yard, my husband was telling her (he has a Texas accent which I am getting much better at interpreting) that wild flowers need a freeze.

Texas Wild Flowers
Wall Flowers

Another occasion illustrates my total lack of expertize in Kentucky'ism.  We had a crew of stone masons working on a stone patio and paths in our back yard.  It was the middle of the summer - and in case you don't know, the middle of the summer in Central Texas means over 100 degrees F.  My mother in law was gazing out the window, watching the men working I thought.  She very casually asked me if I had a glass of water.  I thought 'oh goodness, one of the men has collapsed from the heat'.  But then I thought, no, she is a very cool, sensible woman, but even she would have a sense of urgency in her voice in that instance.  So I said 'a glass of water?' .. somewhat impatiently she said 'yes, a glass of water!  there is a fly here I want to kill it!'.  I believe she thought I was at least a bit slow, possibly an imbecile. 'OH!  I said, a fly swatter! No, unfortunately we lost it in the move' and I found her an old magazine to use.

Fly Swatter
Glass of Water

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