Saturday, January 30, 2016

The parrots go twinsies

Every so often, my German-English speaking tandem partner and I discuss our goals for language learning. In a particularly touching moment, she told me that it was her goal to one day sound like I do. I couldn't help it; I burst out laughing, and she did, too (we do a lot of that).

"So," I asked, "you want to be able to say, in your best Midwestern -- no, Michigan -- dialect: 'hey you guys, go get the car* and we'll go to Meijers** to buy some Faygo*** pop and Better Made chips****. Maybe we'll stop by the Purple Cow and get a scoop of Superman and let the kids ride Penny while we pay. Then we'll go to the lake and play euchre.'"

The funny thing is that one day she said something like, "so, did you guys..." and it sounded so much like the way I speak that it was striking. I suggested that we could be language twinsies. At least she's learning from someone who generally uses correct grammar and whose dialect is still within the range of Standard American English (which may or may not exist, depending on the linguist you ask). On the other hand, my friend offers a very clearly spoken Hochdeutsch so it's win for both parties.

The Matador Network article gets just about everything right - except who the heck from Michigan calls a shopping cart a "buggy?" Uh, no.

*To properly say the word "car," channel your inner Gilbert Gottfried, then dial him back a notch, wrinkle your nose, and then say "car." However, don't let it sound too New York-y because that's totally not how we say it.

**I do not agree with saying "Fords" instead of Ford [Motor Company], but I do agree with saying Meijers because its original name was Meijer's Thrifty Acres. However, there is some real internal struggle over transliterating that with or without the apostrophe.

***Faygo literally has a pop flavor that is called red pop. It's difficult to describe, other than to say that it tastes red. There are strawberries printed on the label but don't let that fool you.

****These weren't really on my radar, as a West Sider, until I moved to the Detroit area because a) I'm a West Sider [of the state] and wasn't as originally obsessed with Detroit as East Siders are; and b) I'm not really into potato chips.


  1. I have a question about the Michigan dialect. Do *you guys* add "once" to the end of commands - as in, "Jack, come here once" or "Look at this once"? This might be a Sheboygan/Wisconsin thing. I believe it comes from the German immigrants (Sheboygan has had a strong German heritage), since German commands often include "mal": "Schau mal!"

  2. Nope, not a Michigan thing. We're more Dutch so there's a lot of "if you ain't Dutch, you ain't much." ;-)