Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doncha Know.

This is what 3 am in my head sounds like...

I was 7 when I truly remember hearing an accent. And I'm not talking about the Spanish accents that were so common in Texas - I never knew those were different until I was older. Southern accents? Didn't know there was such thing until much later. But when I was 7 the accent that really rocked my senses was the Northern one. It was my Uncle Mark - my Aunt Anne's new boyfriend at the time (in 1985 and now husband) and I can remember thinking I know that's English so why can't I understand him? We were in Minneapolis and here's how it went down...

Uncle Mark: Hey Nic, I'm a boat to go to the stoh, you wanna goh?
Me: You're what?
Uncle Mark: I'M A BOAT TO GO TO THE STOH. YOU WANNA GOH?

Clearly he thought it was a volume issue. I can remember we were in his tiny little kitchen on Dupont Street and I looked around wildly for my mom - or anyone - to translate. After some more back and forth, the mystery was solved and I crinkled up my nose and thought This guy sounds WEIRD. When we finally made it to the stoh, it was like someone turned the volume up and I began to notice the accents. And not only the accents but the phrases, all said in a bit of nasally tone, like their noses were plugged (through my 7 year old eyes). A lot of I you betchas, oh yeahs?, oh yeahs and doncha knows.

After living in Indiana for the past 4 years (wow), I have developed a whole new appreciation for the art of the Northern/Midwest accents and phraseology. Some are specific to their regions and the longer I live here I've even begun to pride myself in distinquishing the Minnesotans from the Wisonisinites, the Chicagoans from every body else, the South Dakotans and the Hoosiers. The Canandians are in a league of their own and all of these as a group don't even come close to the East Coast folk.

Here are some of my faves:

You betcha. I first noticed this one a couple of summers ago while working (digging) in South Dakota. I find it endearing for some reason. Did you finally get some good rain this spring? Oh, you betcha. Long day? Oh yeah, you betcha. Wanna meet at The City Bar later? Yep, you betcha. I hear this one in Minnesota and here in Indy, but I attribute it mostly to my SD friends.

Oh yeah? Said with a softer 'oh' and almost a 'yah' - oh yah - this one is everywhere. Often used to express surprise or feign interest, it could be substituted for an 'oh really?' or 'wow' but rarely is. My Dallas native sis-in-law who now resides in WI has officially adopted this one and she says it a lot. I don't think she realizes it but it makes me smile every time.

Oh yeah. Same soft 'o', 'yah' and rampant everywhere, this one is usually said as confirmation of something while nodding the head . I heard there was a fight at The City Bar last night. Oh yeah (head nodding), it was crazy. Or, I heard little Nicole couldn't understand her Uncle Mark, she must have poor hearing. Oh yeah, poor kid (head nodding).

Have a good one. Or in some cases Have a goodun. The first time I noticed this one was from a security guard at the museum when I started working there. Goodnight Amanda. Yep, have a good one. Every time, every day, Yep, have a good one. Another guard there changes it up a bit with haaaaaave a good one. Another? Have a goodun. Each distinctive to their speakers, I use the guards as my examples because those are the folks who, for almost 4 years, I have said goodbye and goodnight to every day.

Doncha know. This is one of my faves. Made famous by the Coen brothers' Fargo, it said not so much as a question, but as a statement of fact. We got a lot of rain this spring doncha know. Or, Doncha know there was a bar fight last night. A rhetorical 'don't you know' if you will.

It's funny to think about my first experience with the accents because a few years ago, one of my camp kids - she was 7 - crinkled up her nose and said Miss Nicole, what's that word you keep saying? And I'm like What word Dior having no clue what she could be talking about. And she said That word you keep calling us - I don't understand it. After some back and forth I figured out that the word was yall. Ha, busted. It made me smile.

So do I find ever find myself saying the above mentioned? Oh yeah, you betcha. It's easy doncha know. Have a good one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a great summary of Minnesotan, maybe the best online. I used it to confirm the meaning of the "doncha know" I would hear from my coworkers.