Thursday, August 5, 2010

It was pop, dammit, not soda

Having grown up in Wisconsin, I had to smile as I read an article by Joan Houston Hall, currently the chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English. Hall moved to Madison, Wis., in 1975, and she recalled being flummoxed by a restaurant sign that said: "BRATS ON THE TERRACE." She soon learned that this "was not an effort to segregate unruly children but to invite people to eat bratwurst alfresco." Some help with pronunciation would have given her a clue: When you pronounce "brat" you say "ah."

Hall also was amazed that Wisconsinites might call a pastry a "kringle" and a water fountain a "bubbler." (Actually, I only called it a bubbler when the water bubbled straight up from the center of the bowl - not when the water streamed across the bowl from the side.)

And she was struck by the idea of a "golden birthday" - when, say, you were born on the 20th and you turn 20. You mean EVERYONE doesn't know the concept?

My smile broadened as I remembered that Hall's "My Turn" article in Newsweek had been edited by New Yorkers. You don't pick up much lingo at 30,000 feet.

But then I remembered that when my wife and I moved to Montana, I just had to start talking and people assumed I was from Canada. Uf Da!

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