Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What does that mean?

(Sorry about not posting an engineering Tuesday yesterday. These things happen. But I hope you enjoy today's Western Wednesday.)

I recognize that there are regional dialect differences in America. My dad is from New York, and my mom is from Georgia--so I was aware of this from a very early age. But for the most part, I thought regional dialects just meant different people said words differently or had unique regional sayings.

For example, the word "crayon." My dad says "cran", as many Northerners do. My mom says "cray-on". My sister and I, as their confused offspring, say "crown" and always have. I always make sure I say a "coloring crown" so people don't think I mean the regal headgear of kings.

I spent most of my life in the South so I say "mirra" instead of "mirror" and "I'm fixin' to do something" instead of "I'm about to do this". However, because of my Northern dad, I do not say "ya'll". I have nothing against the word. My friends use it all the time. But I say "you guys", like many Northerners do.

So strange pronunciations and sayings I always knew existed. But I never really realized before that its not just pronounciations and sayings. Different regions call objects different things.

Take the above picture. It shows the top of a stove, which consists of four round objects on which you generally place pots to heat them up. Bring water to a boil, cook some soup, make an egg, whatever--that's what you do here.

What do you call those round things?

I thought everyone in the world called them what I did. I thought that these objects had a universally recognized name in the American version of English. And I thought it was "eye". As in: "don't touch that hot eye!", "Put the pot on the eye", etc.

But recently a Western writer friend of mine was reading my story. And when my narrator described something as feeling like "a hot eye on a stove", my reader said: "What? What's an eye? Does that maybe mean the center of the coil?"

To which my response was: "Uh...coil? Like a helicoil? What are we talking about here?"

Turns out not everyone calls these round heating elements the same thing. That my Western writer friend calls them "coils". Since my story takes place in the South, I'm not planning on changing it. My narrator would think of it as an eye.

Another word my reader commented on was "lanai". She said she thought people only called patios lanai's in Hawaii. Well in Florida me and all my friends had covered pool areas that were called lanais. I think a lanai is different from a patio, which is different from a porch. When I think lanai I think concrete/stucco ground in which their is a pool, and its all screened it. When I think patio.....honestly, I don't know what I think when I think patio. Seems like if its not a lanai its a porch. At least we call my grandmother's covered, un-airconditioned, astro turf back area a "porch" and not a patio. I can't actually recall using the word "patio" in everyday language. "Go out to the back patio" just doesn't have the same ring as "go out to the back porch". But this might also be a southern thing.

Have any of you ever run across regional differences like this? Objects that are called completely different words from what you're used to calling it?

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