You say pop, I say coke?

Burmese word for "Burmese (spoken) langua...

Burmese word for “Burmese (spoken) language” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

American slang, doncha love it? Succinct forms of expression = slang.  Winnie Churchill is said to have uttered…Americans and English…two people separated by a common language.

One of my Spanish professors said the first thing most us studying a foreign language learn is the slang.  Apparently, Americans are not the only people who use slang because she taught us many verboten expressions.

I am one whose writing is far more eloquent than her spoken language. I can always identify the snobs among us…they correct your speech. I’m sorry to say, I have done it too, only to be corrected by the person whom I corrected.  

One person or another corrected my speech at the Census Bureau where I worked with over-educated upper-middle-class people. One day, I asked one of my old bosses (from Buffalo NY)  if he thought I had a Southern accent, and he said ‘a little bit.’ 

Take the word ‘got’ for example.  An ex-husband (the one from New Jersey) corrected my speech constantly. He particularly hated it when I mixed up pitchers with pictures.  When he heard me use the word, ‘got’ he had a fit.

Krutch Park, Knoxville, TN

Krutch Park, Knoxville, TN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He also corrected my driving, probably one reason we are no longer together.

He complained about the route I took to retrieve my daughter from high school (in the old days, I said “I’m gonna get my daughter from school”).  He said the route I took was hard on the tires.

He corrected the way I adjusted the rearview mirror too. Said I was going to wear it out because I moved it. The marriage, such as it was, fell apart after I left his car in Tennessee and he had to fly to Knoxville to retrieve it….a story I told in my blog last year.   

My daughter, who is a linguist, says ‘got’ is a perfectly good old English word. My granddaughter, who hangs out with farmers, says ‘gitten.’  As in, ‘I’m gitten over a cold.’  I teased her about it one day, and then realized I use the same word, for example, when I say, “I’m gitten hot.”

I have found it impossible to root out the language I learned as a child kidMy parents may have been Yankees, but my northern cousins could never tease the southern lingo out of my speech. Neither could those nuns from Philadelphia I had in grade school.

I couldn’t hear myself for a long time. Because we were constantly giving speeches to dignitaries (I once testified before Congress and did about as well as Chuck Hegel), my boss at Bell arranged for a team of advisors to come from New York and work with his staff to improve our speech-making. When I saw myself on video, it was like looking at a foreign person.

David says I always gave great presentations, probably why we are still married.  


One day, David was teasing his mother about her Russian accent. She turned to him and said, “I speak four languages, how many do you speak?”

He had a good meeting yesterday. Two fellows, at the meeting, had more sobriety than he 80 year old guy had 40 years another 36 years. So, he was in the right place at the right time.

12 thoughts on “You say pop, I say coke?

  1. I’m already loving David’s mother. I heard a tape recording of myself a few years ago when we first arrived in Illinois and was surprised to hear the pidgin lilt in my speech. Then when I moved back to Hawaii, my uncle said, “How come you talk like a haole now?” The other night I startled myself by saying, “You want me to close the light?” Yikes!!!


  2. What on earth is wrong with got or getting? Maybe not ‘gittin’, but even that is just a matter of perception.

    My grandsons’ English is atrocious, I really hate the way they speak. My English accent is pure middle class, nobody can tell that I am a foreigner. My grandsons belong to the class of people who drop their aitches and go in for glottal stops. It drives me crazy. They have adopted the lazy speech of the area where they live. The English say: I know who you are the minute you open your mouth to speak.


  3. Despite being a Scouser, I used to be a real snob about accents until I took my degree. One of the courses was about the English language and it taught me that anything is acceptable because language is a living, growing thing.

    I also learned to stop being irritated by American spellings 🙂 When you won that little business in 1776, you made a deliberate decision to change many spellings, because a separate country has a right to a separate language.

    I was fascinated to be told that it is possible that northern American accents are nearer to how Shakespeare spoke than today’s Midlands accent (because of the Pilgrims, etc). Wouldn’t it be funny if all the snobbery about English accents for Shakespeare was misplaced, and it should sound American?


    • My daughter the linguist says the English we speak in the South is very close to the sixteenth century English Shakespeare would have spoken. One of the largest collections of his original folios are housed here in Washington DC at the Shakespeare Folger library.

      Years ago, I attended many of his plays at the theater attached to the library. Love the place.


  4. Ha! What a cute post! I was a radio commentator for 15 months, 2003-2005, and had the darndest time speaking like a radio commentator. My speech worsened when I contracted Bell’s Palsy and really slurred my words. To their credit, the news director and station manager never complained about it.


    • Thanks GG. I once helped broadcast a raido program called ‘Teen Pan Alley.’ We played rock and roll and talked among ourselves…and we were teenagers. I was totally not inhibited as this was the South and our listeners were Southern teenagers like ourselves. I think mostly we said little or nothing, but the management liked it.


  5. Great post. One of my former bosses, a Wisconsin native, teased me about that perfectly good Southern word fixin, as in “I am fixin to send that news release.” He also said I was pathologically honest.


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