My Accent

One thing about being edited is that you start to really get a feel for not just your writing quirks–there is no sentence I will not stick “and” in front of–but also the ways your language marks where you’re from, the language in which you were raised.

I regularly write “I’ll be over in a half an hour.” I’m pretty sure I say that, too, unless I get self-conscious about it. I’m not sure it’s always audible–that “a” between “in” and “half.” Saying it outloud to myself right now, I kind of feel like you might not hear it, because the “a” could almost be because of the shape of my mouth going from “nnn” to “ha.” But I always mean it to be there, even if you don’t hear it there.

I still go “over to,” though this is a harder usage to explain. But I think “over to” usually connotes “I didn’t really have a task or reason to be there. Like “I went to Walmart” means “I had some things I needed from Walmart and thus went there.” “I was over to the Walmart” or “I went over to the Walmart” usually just means I was farting around at Walmart, burning some time.

I’ve lost it some living down here, but there are a series of places that, in my Midwestern accent, have a “the” in front of them if you mean a specific place.  If someone says “Jewel has hamburger on sale,” you can lay money on the fact that they acquired that information by reading the paper and all Jewels throughout the area are having a hamburger sale.

But, if someone says “The Jewel has hamburger on sale,” they mean “The Jewel I shop at has hamburger on sale.” They probably saw it for sale there.

And backwards and towards. Though I’ve become really self-conscious about it and it makes me mad that I’m self-conscious about it. That’s how I know those words. Why should I be embarrassed?

I’m also lately fascinated by how satisfying “Bugsy Siegel” sounds. I think it’s because of the palindromic satisfaction of the vowel sounds–uh ee ee uh. I don’t think “Bugsy Green” is going to be as well remembered. How many ordinary people remember the name “Meyer Lansky,” Siegel’s running buddy? And I think it’s because the name just isn’t that satisfying to remember.

Charlie Birger fought the Klan and won, and even has a folk song about him, but who remembers him? He should have been Glenn Birger, and had that palindromic satisfaction.

4 thoughts on “My Accent

  1. I don’t know how ordinary I am, but I think anyone who remembers mobsters will remember Meyer Lansky. It’s true, I think, that most people don’t care about gangsters of the past, unless they’ve had movies made about them. If they’ve been pictured by name in a movie, then everyone remembers whatever cinematic legends they were shown about them.

  2. If you’re called “Bugsy,” the odds are you have a more memorable name than your buddies. Any Bugsy; any buddies.

  3. I think this a Chicago and suburbs thing but we call all Jewels the Jewel. As if The Jewel is the name for all of them and if I wanted to point out a specific one I’d say the Jewel on Waukegan or the Jewel by the cleaners. This applies to everything that’s got more than one the Kmart, the Walmart, the Auto Zone. If it is a one of…I was going to say there’s no the but I just realized last week I said the Jade Dragon for a non-chain place. Articles for everything!

    I have noticed that a lot of my spelling mistakes are because I am trying to phonetically spell words according to my specific midwest accent. :)

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