Slip of the Lip


All families have things which make them laugh. At our house it’s mistakes we make when things we say come out differently than we intended.

We used to live near a conservative Mennonite settlement and forged several friendships with those wonderful people who still use horses and buggies and speak Pennsylvania Dutch among themselves. One day my husband’s attempt at Pennsylvania Dutch caused gales of laughter as we listened.

He was phoning a Mennonite man to ask a question. What my husband didn’t realize was, the man wasn’t home and his wife was outside at the clothesline. Their little preschool daughter answered the phone. Tiny Mennonite children speak only Pennsylvania Dutch until they are old enough to attend school.

“I want to speak to your daddy,” my husband said in English, when the little girl picked up the phone.

No answer from the child.

Realizing he had to say something she would understand, my husband hesitated until our children came to his rescue. Recalling some Dutch they had acquired from our Mennonite neighbors, our son whispered, “Dad, tell her, 'Can ich mit du Daddy schwetza.’” (Translation: Can I speak to your daddy?)

My husband repeated what he thought he heard. Instead, he said, “Can ich mit du Dawdy schwitza.” The little girl giggled.

“No, Dad!” our son hissed. “You just told her you wanted to sweat with her grandpa!” Gales of laughter.

Our Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors furnished us with some giggles as we compared ways of speaking. They would say, “Put some a-loom-e-um foil on that pot of pasghetti and set it on the a-nol-e-um floor in that cordboard box.”

And then there is my own midwest upbringing. My way of speaking as a new college student brought regionalisms which I was unaware of until I attended school in a different part of the country. For instance, in Indiana we would say to visitors, “Would you like a Coke?”

“Sure,” they would reply, thinking we were giving them Coca-cola.

Then we would say, “We have Dr. Pepper, Sprite and Pepsi; which would you like?” Hoosiers know any kind of soda pop is called a coke.

Other Hoosier regionalisms include iddn’t duddn’t and waddn’t as in, “Iddn’t your friend going with you, or duddn’t he want to? What? He wuddn’t plannin’ on it?” Those unique regionalisms caused my southern friends a lot of grins.

Of course, you wouldn’t be a Hoosier if you didn’t drop the g on all words ending with ing, such as, “Where you goin’? Feeshin’ in the crick?”.

Living in the south for a time honed our skills in Southernese. Our friends there might say, “Joonyer, go across the holler, slip under that there bob war fence and borree a light bub from the neighbor.” And yes, we know people who talk like that all the time. Where do you think I got my training for Cousin Rufus?

Ah, regionalisms. You just have to love their ability to bring a smile to your face.

Any thoughts on regionalisms in your part of the country? We would enjoy your comments below.