Friday, September 11, 2009

Slang, vernacular, and misunderstandings

Warren's clever comment on my last posting started me thinking about plays on words, local definitions, and misunderstandings.

When I first moved to Maine, I had some trouble understanding the local dialect. DownEast locals back then didn't pronounce their "R's" at all. So, car is, cah, storm is stohm, etc.

Hanging out one beautiful summer day with the locals, I commented on what a beautiful day it was, "Ca-ca" replied one of the guys.

I was totally confused. Having grown up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, to me, "ca-ca" is yiddish for poop. if something is "ca-ca", it was not very nice.

Asking for clarification, I found out the guy was actually saying, "cocker" which was local slang for awesome.


My kids have had the dubious distinction of growing up as "Mainahs". One of the things Mainers say if someone is upset or unhappy or angry is that they are "ugly".
We were eating fries at a fair one day, and from a distance someone we saw looked like someone famous, and we were rather rude in staring and chatting, to the point the poor fellow got up and walked by us.

Feeling like an idiot, I smiled and nodded, and my son said quite audibly, "he's ugly". Meaning, of course, that the fellow was not too happy with our obvious staring, but it must have sounded like a comment on their personal appearance. Embarassed, yeah, teach me some manners!


Recently I was chatting with a man who told me a story of buying a SAAB in Sweden. The horn didn't work, and the mechanic was trying to explain the problem to him. "You're going to put DIRT in my brand new SAAB?!?!"

No, the word for dirt in Swedish is the same as ground. The ground wire on the horn needed to be fixed...LOL.

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