Ever since moving to Texas, this Jersey boy, normally so sure that my flawless diction and impeccable inflection are both flawless and impeccable and not at all accented — because they’re not and I will cut you if you suggest otherwise — I have had occasional moments where I begin to doubt myself. For instance, I know that I pronounce the hard “r” at the end words like father and mother. This is called a “rhotic” pronunciation and most American speakers of English use it. Note that I said “rhotic” (from the Greek letter rho) and not erotic. Gee, that wasn’t a clever way to drive traffic from search engines… And yet, some of the people in my life (OK, my students mostly) try to mimic me by slipping into some kind of bizarre Dallas twist on a comical Brooklyn accent. Sad, really. Still, I sometimes doubt myself. I drive home from work, burst through the door, kiss my kids, pet the dog, and yell out “Honey, it is pronounced /wahw-derr/, right?”
And this brings us to tonight’s Daily Post prompt.
What are some (or one) of the things about which you usually don’t trust your own judgment, and need someone’s else’s confirmation?
I’m sure most people looking at that prompt would not automatically jump to the way in which a person pronounces common words but it happens. What happens even more frequently, though, here in the Lone Star State, at least for us Yankee transplants, is the choice of words and phrases. Let me explain what I mean. Recently one of my wife’s cousins was performing with his band at a restaurant out in Fort Worth. He and his mates are all in their 50’s and sing exactly what you’d expect middle-aged, wannabe rockers to perform. Touch Me In The Morning by Diana Ross. No. Actually they sing standard classic rock tunes. On our drive out to see the show I turned to my wife, not knowing exactly who these people were or what they’d be singing, and asked “Is this place more of a BBQ joint or a cabaret?” “A what?!” she asked. Well, it seems that here in Texas the word cabaret can only refer to what we in New Jersey like to call a strip club. However, in the New York City sphere of influence, where true showmen abound a cabaret is a restaurant with a small stage for a singer and accompanist. I could see how the thought of her aging cousin singing Mustang Sally at a strip club might scandalize her.
And that brings me to another turn of phrase. The Big Apple. Not going to spend a whole lot of time on this one since it’s so painfully obvious I’m talking about NEW freaking YORK! Come on, right? In class one day I mentioned the Big Apple and was met with stares of confusion from the 25 teenagers sitting in front of me. “Mr. H. where are you talking about?” I started to second-guess myself. “Kids, it’s New York.” “Are you sure,” they asked, “because the Big Apple is Las Vegas.” Really? It took me ten minutes to convince them I really did know what I was talking about. Even then most of them insisted that New York’s adoption of the moniker must have come after Vegas’.
Finally, let’s talk about a common article of clothing. Earlier this evening as I was preparing to get my kittens ready for bed I told my daughter the following. Keep in mind that she’s 4. “Sweetheart, go get ready for your shower and Daddy will get you a nighty from the laundry.” Again, my wife began to question my sanity (nothing new there). “A nighty?” she said. “What is it now?” I replied, second-guessing myself. She looked me straight in the eye and said “You mean a nightgown?” Of course I meant a nightgown. But growing up with 8 sisters (yes, 8!) I had always heard little girls’ nightgowns referred to (lovingly, I might add) as nighties. “And the problem is?” I asked her. “Well,” she said, “a nighty is like lingerie, like… a teddy or something.” Exactly. First my dear, don’t ever say “teddy” in front of me again. It creeps me out. Second, did you really think I was implying that we give our precious daughter a bath and then dress her up in a Victoria’s Secret neglige? How ’bout we go whole hog and get her something from Frederick’s? Nighty. Meanwhile twenty minutes later Baby Girl was comfortable dressed in one of Daddy’s old tee shirts so the point was moot.
I think from now on I’ll stick to second-guessing pointless things like whether a precancerous mole has changed color or whether I’m losing my hearing. But then I wouldn’t have the fun of bantering with the people I love and learning new things about the world around me through our shared experience of our language. Until then, you can find me, my wife, and our beautiful children (our daughter in a teddy) at a strip club in Las Vegas drinking wahwderr, generally enjoying life.