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Over Easy: Friday Free for All

I’ve always been fascinated by what I call “regionalisms” — differences in word pronunciation, names of things, or commonly used phrases that vary according to the region of the country where one lives, or where one’s parents and grandparents lived. Terms or phrases used outside the U. S. add an extra dimension to our speech (ever been gobsmacked?). We tend to bring our regional pronunciations and expressions with us when we relocate, and they can cause amusing conversational glitches.

I’ve spent my entire life in the Midwest: Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, and my parents and grandparents were from NE Ohio, where both Pennsylvania and Appalachia influenced their everyday speech. When I was growing up, my family used certain words or phrases routinely, and we all knew what they meant. For example, when guests were arriving on short notice, we all pitched in to “redd up” the living room. That term is listed in a Wiki entry Pittsburgh English; the Danish “rydde op” means to clean up. It apparently dates to the Danish occupation of Britain 1000 years ago. My NE Ohio relatives said “you’uns” (yuns, yinz, yins) instead of “you” or “you all,” and often referred to whole family groups by one person’s name, as in, “Denny’s will come for dinner tomorrow.”

Perhaps you’ve seen or heard “Uff da,” which residents in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest use to express overwhelming astonishment, relief, or dismay. I’ve seen commenters use it occasionally here at FDL (also a few Facebook friends) but I had to look it up when I first saw it. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone actually say it.

Not everyone calls soft drinks “pop” as most Midwesterners do. In many places, a soft drink is a “soda,” and in parts of the south, “Coke” means any kind of soda. Here in South Bend, people say, “I’ll have a diet” in a restaurant when they order diet Coke or Pepsi.

When I moved to Cincinnati I heard for the first time someone say, “my bad” when acknowledging a mistake. Friends raised in the South speak of “leaving out” when departing for a trip, as in “We will leave out on Saturday.” Here in Indiana, people refer to their “back deck” even though nobody I know has a “front deck.” Every time I hear that, I grin.

Some years ago I participated in an online survey that asked me to choose among alternate pronunciations, spellings, or phrases. The intent was to map them to specific regions of the country. I’m not sure the Dialect Survey was the exact one I took, but the results listed are very similar to the questions I recall answering. You might find it amusing to explore the list of results and see how you compare.

Let’s share our favorite terms or phrases this morning, and see what different ones we discover! Would you have a garage sale or a tag sale? Do you drink from a water (or drinking) fountain or a bubbler? Do you bring grocery items home in a bag or a sack? Is your evening meal dinner or supper? Does your water come from a spigot, a tap, or a faucet? Do you wait on line, or in line? (And do you have a back deck??)

This is a perfect opportunity for lurkers to come out of the shadows and speak up! Let us know where you live and share some of your favorite terms and phrases. We’ve been talking recently of meet-ups (is that a regionalism?) and it would be fun to learn who’s out there, and at least generally where you are.

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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."