Language


Over on my August96 moms group, we have segued from a rather lively political debate (LOVE Palin, HATE Palin, Palin = Reagan, No, Palin = Bush at *best*, Cheney at *worst* etc etc), into a truly fascinating discussion of regional vernacular. It started when we mentioned GOP congressman Westmoreland from Georgia referring to Obama as ‘uppity’ and how that was a negative racial slur. Several moms said they had no idea that the word uppity in reference to an African American would be taken as having racist overtones (undertones?). That got us into a discussion about which of us knows that particular twist on the word and where we learned it – largely the origins seeming to be in the southern states – which would seem to give Westmoreland no room to spin out of this one as a life time Georgian.

Now we are talking about other terminology that is regional and can be taken MUCH differently from state to state even. I got quite a giggle when our Connecticut mom who summers in Ontario Canada state that the term ‘homo’ there is a reference to homogenized milk since they also sell (or some time in the past did sell) non-homogenized milk. She said they did a double take in the store when another patron instructed her son to “grab a homo”. Oh my. Can you imagine if the milk ads here were translated up there? Got Homo? Aaack!! Well, obviously that would not go over all that well here in the U.S!! We also have moms in Ireland and Australia and we’ve discussed the variations on terminology between the different countries, but I think the differences just within our own states is really a hoot. I know a word we *never* use here in California is ‘pop’ to refer to soda, but I know it is used rather regularly elsewhere, right? I’m also not so sure that California has any particularly unique vernacular. Well, other than we are all currently obligated to properly pronounce our state as Kah-Lee-For-Nee-Ah at the moment 🙂

So what unique words are used in your neck of the woods? Or words used differently?

6 thoughts on “Language

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  1. When I was backbacking around Europe in the early 90s I overheard a guy in a Pub in London come in and asked the bartender if they had a “fag machine”.

    I lived in Georgia for 3 years amongst people from every other Southern state in the region and in Florida for 18 years. I would have never imagined that “uppity” had any meaning of any racial significance. I still do not get it.

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  2. “sooooda?” Vat ees zees “soda” you speak of? Is it like pop? No, seriously, I remember asking for “soda” in Canada and being asked if I wanted club soda, and then asking for “pop” in Austin and being looked at like I had 3 heads. It’s much easier just to ask for Diet Coke…since Diet Pepsi tastes like Drano.

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  3. no one is actually from DC, so there’s little native anything 😉

    but where i grew up in NJ, there are words that identify you as a native. the one that comes to mind for me: i grew up near the ocean. if anyone asks me, i grew up “down the shore.” people from NJ have immediately placed me as being from NJ from that phrase alone. (in MD, they have something similar: “downy ocean hon.”)

    and of course, it depends on where you are in NJ when you’re ordering a sub (north, central) or a hoagie (south.)

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  4. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody in real life use the word “uppity,” but I have heard it in movies and TV (for example, I’m pretty sure they use that word in Gone With the Wind, and probably also in Roots). I think every time I’ve heard that word, it’s been used as an adjective to modify the n-word. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used to describe a white person.

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  5. Ditto heidilou’s comment.

    We have plenty of slurs (I know you asked for terms, in general, but what came to mind were negative terms for people of color) where I’m from. Kids on my bus (white kids on my bus) used to call our high school Vato High instead of Valley High. (They also called it Valium High.)

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