The headline on the front page of today’s San Diego Union Tribune reads, “Digging Out Back East.” After living in California for almost six years, I am still not used to that phrase. “Back East,” what does that mean anyway? I get the east part, but what’s back about it? When I lived in the South we said, “Out West” when referring primarily to California. Upon further examination, that’s kind of weird too. Of course this led me to thinking about other colloquialisms that I or others use.
My parents were native New Yorkers, so while I grew up in the South, I was raised by two people who spoke with fairly strong Northern accents. As a result, I tend to mix what are considered to be traditionally Northern or Southern phrases and words. For example, I don’t say, “Y’all“ nor do I use the phrase, “You guys;” I blend the two and refer to more than one person as, “You all.” I also use the word, “Soda.” In Atlanta a carbonated beverage is most often called a “Coke,” probably because 99 percent of the time that’s what it is. In the North, I understand that the word for it is “Pop,” though no Northerners I know call it that. When it came to clothing accessories, I was raised using the word, “Pocketbook” while my friends always spoke of their “Handbags.” I have noticed that in California, pocketbook seems to be more popular than handbag.
Not surprisingly, there are words and phrases that seem to be more in vogue depending on which generation you belong to. I have to admit some of these drive me crazy. “Anyways,” for example, is not a word. I see and hear it used often, but last time I checked–not a word. “Addicting” is another one that bugs me. Yes, it is a word, but what’s wrong with addictive? Something about the use (and overuse) of addicting irks me. My kids, much to my dismay, will say something happened, “On accident, ” instead of, “By accident.” Where the heck did that come from?! Both of them say it and both have been corrected (repeatedly) for doing so. It is not only the younger set who utter odd phrases and words. I have caught myself using (both in written form and when speaking) “Folks” a lot lately. That’s old school, no?
In California, “Dude” is the most popular word of all. I thought that was just a stereotype, but it’s not, and yes, I now say dude too! Just when I say it, it comes out with a tinge of a Southern accent.
How about you? What words or phrases do you use that are directly related to where you come from? Is there something that others say that drives you crazy? And, if you are wondering what type of American accent you have, here’s a quiz you can take to find out.