Claudia Myers column: Whaddya say where you come from?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not making fun of the way anybody speaks or the phrases they use. I find it all pretty fascinating.
My friend from Baltimore that used to come out and visit every August and December loved to make fun of our Minnesota accent. He would say, with a cheeky grin and a loud voice, “Oh, fer sure you got some cyuute shews, dere."
I, being born and raised in upstate New York, was positive that I had no such thing as a funny accent. When I came to Minnesota, in 1957, I might have been wearing "sneakers.” But, after time had passed, I was wearing "tennis shoes.” I suppose, after 65 years, I might have picked up a tiny bit of a Minnesota sound. "Dontcha know."
I once got a big laugh from a California crowd at a quilt retreat by saying “Hi, dere, yaaa hey, I’m here from Minnah-SUO-tah! Then I had a hard time convincing them that we really don’t actually talk like that. Do we? Of course, they had all seen the movie "Fargo," so they weren't going to listen to me. They'd heard it with their own ears.
And I have a friend from the Iron Range who always says, when I show her one of my completed quilts, “Aww, didn’t that come nice?”
Speaking of food, when my parents and I moved to Minnesota from New York, we couldn’t find any “hot pie,” meaning pizza. We would be directed to the nearest bakery for apple or blueberry. In New York, you can also score some pizza by just asking for “a slice.” But, you can’t get anything to drink by ordering “pop” as you would here. You have to order “soda” or a “soft drink.”
Then you get your “purse” out of your ”pockabook” to pay for it. If you’re in Minnesota, you would probably say “let me get my beg” (bag). If you’re south of Illinois, you would say, “Ah’ll git mah BAY-ugg” — two syllables. And you probably ordered a “Co-Cola,” anyway.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not making fun of the way anybody speaks or the phrases they use. I find it all pretty fascinating. We had some neighbors in Rochester, Minnesota. They were originally from Waterloo, Iowa, and when describing something that took a long time, Betty would say, “It took ‘til who laid the rail.” What the heck does that mean? Who is “who?” And where did he put his rail? Now I sound like Abbott and Costello.
So being raised in New York, you would probably expect that I would have that New Yawker accent, like Fran Drescher in the television sitcom, "The Nanny.” I remember reading that Fran took voice lessons, at great expense, to try and get rid of that accent and the snort of laughter. Like "pounding money down a rathole,” it didn't do any good. That wise-cracking voice is the real Fran Drescher.
However, being about 185 miles due northwest of Manhattan, in the small town of Vestal, we just never picked up that East Coast twang. We did say “ruff” instead of “roooof,” and our front steps were called "stoops.”
You also have "stoops" in Baltimore, where I used to go two or three times a year to work for the opera. But there, they are white marble and get meticulously scrubbed if there's a conscientious housewife in residence — a point of pride. There, I was called "hun" by the friendly waitress who would ask "Whadda youse want, hun?” The city was "Bwaula-mer" and in the summer, everyone went "danneeoshun" (down to the beach).
Some friends were driving to the big national quilt show in Kentucky one year and asked me if I wanted to "come with.” We decided to take an impressive detour and go by Elvis' house in Memphis on the way. Along the highway, we kept seeing billboards for a restaurant that claimed to be "The Home of the Throwed Rolls.”
Finally, we couldn't stand it anymore and went at least 20 miles out of our way to check this out and learn what was a "Throwed Roll.” We get to this place, kind of an "all-you-can-eat" establishment, and get settled into a table with built-in benches, which felt like grade school. We're looking at the menu, thinkin it was just a bit "spendy,” when the waiter comes by and says the buffet is the best bet, so we order that.
Before we could even mosey over to the salad bar, this guy comes booming out the kitchen door with a whoop and a holler, carrying a big dishpan and barbecue tongs. He reaches his tongs into the pan, pulls out a big butter roll and flings it at the guy at the table next to us, who leaps up and makes the catch, pretty as you please. All around us, folks clapped. Woo-hoo!
We three look at each other, the lightbulb coming on over our heads. "Throwed Rolls," just like the billboard said. Mystery solved. Good thing, because the next ones came right at us.
"Aw, geez Louise! Watch out, you guys! Here they come!"
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.