Thursday, December 25, 2014

Language & Regional Differences

I have been blessed to live in a number of different places, and to travel to even more. I was well aware, from early on, that not everyone was like me. Those difference were often more regional than related to religion, race, gender, etcetera. At college I lived with an Italian Catholic from New York. With the exception of insisting that I get up at an ungodly hour to decorate a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, we were very much alike- in attitude, dialect, and body language.

In the last 6 months we've done quite a bit of traveling. I have been in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Muskoka, Virginia, New Jersey, Ottawa, and Toronto. I've visited at least 31 States in the US, plus Washington DC. If I take a dialect quiz, I am most like New York, NY, and least like Akron, OH. Born and bred New Yorker that's me. Still, I've picked up bits and pieces from many friends and acquaintances over the years. I say "y'all" for second person plural. Unfortunately I use it incorrectly. "Y'all" can refer to one person, as in, "Y'all want to come over for a cuppa tea?" I can't head south, listen to too much British TV, or go to Israel without it affecting my accent.

Still, no matter where I go the differences from home are noticed. In Texas everyone called me "hon." In New York that could get you slapped. In North Carolina I was "Ma'am." In Hawaii I was "Auntie." These titles came not from people I knew, but from strangers. Only in New York do strangers get my father's weird joking. For example: the owner of a local deli bringing my father coffee (pronounced  caw-fee), "Watch out. This is very hot." My father- "Oh good. If you spill it on me I'll sue." Owner- "I don't have any insurance." Hahaha. This is not actually funny, but in the moment it somehow is. In Texas everyone was nice, and willing to share their guns. (Okay, it was the one guy, but it's still strange to wear a holster to shul.) In North Carolina, people make all their turns at right angles and very, very, very (did I mention very) slowly. In New York, people are friendly and happy to help you, but they're moving so fast, and they don't make eye contact, so how would you know?

Toronto's multicultural nature suits me. I feel at home, but can enjoy everyone else too. And when I'm back in New York, with its bigger than life, over-whelming New York-ness, I can appreciate when I get to go home too.