Sometimes, I forget where I'm at and fall back on old habits when talking to people. I tend to assimilate pretty well in new places, picking up the local dialect and customs. I guess it's because I like learning new things and new experiences. Sometimes I use the expressions and accents without even realizing it until someone points it out.
I picked up some friends from Arizona and I was going to show them around the area for a few days. I hadn't seen them in a few years, but we've kept in touch with letters, emails, and the occasional phone calls. I told them I was going to take them to the Alamo in San Antonio, because well, it's symbolic of Texas, just like the Liberty Bell is to Philly or the Statue of Liberty is to New York. I was somewhat surprised when my friends burst out in laughter as I didn't think I said anything funny.
So when my friends saw the confused look on my face, one of them said, "Dude, you really are a Texan now."
I didn't get it, so his wife explained, "You've got a twang in your accent and said 'San Antone' instead of San Antonio, and you kept using 'y'all' and 'fittin to'."
Ah, well then, I explained I didn't realize that I was saying 'San Antone'; and that 'y'all' and 'fittin to' were things I picked up while living in Georgia. That got more laughter. When my friend finally calmed down, she said, "You even sound funnier saying 'JoeJaw' instead of Georgia!"
Hey, when I lived in Georgia, that's how we pronounced it, JoeJaw! Still, that got me thinking about some of the other phrases and expressions I've picked up over the years. In California one summer, I picked up 'you was' instead of 'you were', and I still make that slip every now and then:
Friend, "I was just at the mall."
Me, "You was?" And if I don't get a funny look, I don't even realize I've said it.
Now, I don't always pick up on all the local customs. Sometimes, old habits die hard; I still use 'fittin to' instead of the 'fixin to' they say in Texas. I also make a conscious effort to resist some terms. But it does help to know what they mean to minimize confusion. Take the word soda, for example. I call it soda. But when I was visiting a friend in Chicago, I asked for a soda, and got a raised eyebrow from the waiter. My friend had to explain that I wanted a 'pop'. And when I first moved to Texas, I learned they called it a 'coke', which was confusing as hell the first time I heard friends ordering them during lunch.
Waitress, "What you like to drink?"
Friend 1, "A coke."
Waitress, "What kind?"
Friend, "A coke."
Waitress, "And you, sir?"
Friend 2, "A coke."
Waitress, "What kind?"
Friend 2, "A Pepsi."
And I'm sitting there thinking, did I just hear that? I still call it a soda. I refuse to call it coke or pop; and I will not compromise and use soda-pop!
The rest of the day, my Arizona visitors made fun of how I said 'cain't' instead of 'can't', 'perrty' instead of 'pretty', and then asked me to explain what 'ain't' means. They about done wore me out. Bastards! Still, it's great having them here, and I'm perrty sure when it's time to say good-bye, I won't be able to resist saying, "Y'all come back now, ya hear?"
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