Where language took me…
My maternal grandparents retired to Century Towers apartments, Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. I treated it like a second home as a child into my teens.
My crew was the over seventy crowd.
I never saw other grandkids visiting their grandparents like I did.
Backgammon, shuffleboard, early bird specials, rummy, walks on the beach… I enjoyed the benefits of early retirement before I ever started working!
Then one day, I heard French at the pool.
“À la piscine!” a girl my age shouted to a boy who looked like her brother.
As an only child hanging out with people seven-times my age, I was captivated by the intimacy of children raised together. I so wanted to play with them.
When kids cannot communicate verbally, they find other ways.
An overweight man, the shape of Hitchcock in profile, eased himself into the pool. The French girl and I shared a giggle, a "look at how fat he is!" eye roll.
It’s such a vivid memory. And yet, I feel bad about it. Kids can be mean.
Which brings me to the difference between Pop and Soda.
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I grew up on the East Coast where we called it Soda…
Not soda-pop, not soft drink. Maybe the brand name: Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Fresca, Tab... I never touched Pepsi.
Definitely not Pop.
We moved from Washington DC to Michigan when I was seven. I had no friends… I’m noticing a theme!
The Midwest was as foreign to me as France.
I didn’t think of Michigan as the Midwest. Didn’t think of Michigan at all. Or the Midwest. Or the West Coast.
While I was not interested in where Michigan was on the map…
I was interested in making friends. I made an effort to go to birthday parties, Chuck E Cheese, Theatre Organ Pizza & Pipes, and roller rinks.
It took some time before I noticed kids would react when I ordered soda.
“Ha ha, did you hear that? Soh-Duh!” they’d laugh.
“Why? What do you call it?” I asked.
“Paap!” they’d say with authority.
Apparently, I also hyper-accentuated my G’s.
“Why do you say, Hayn-Gher?” they’d ask.
I began hiding my G’s. Even now I’ll say, “I’m han(g)ing my coat on a han(g)er.”
Four years later, we moved back east to Baltimore.
“Ha ha, did you hear that? Paap!” they’d laugh.
At that point, how I pronounced soda or pop was a non-issue. I was too confused by preppies who said my feathered hair, purple and yellow mascara, and tight jeans with rhinestone studs made me a 12-year-old slut.
Kids can be mean!
YOUR TURN: Where does LANGUAGE take you?
Share your musings in 150 - 200 words. PS: One contributor sent a message praising the restraint of the word count. She said it was like “cutting your hair after a break-up”, which I think is a great way to look at it. I write in Word and check the word count there, but there are word count apps if you want to play.
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I'm twelve going on thirteen, and the French teacher has called on me to recite the dialogue from memory. I stand beside my desk and wipe sweaty palms on my dress. The room is deathly still, all eyes on me. Mother and I had practiced the night before. As usual, she donned her beret and butchered the vocabulary words, probably on purpose so I could correct her. But for recitation, I needed to hear the words spoken by someone who knew how to pronounce them. As Henry Higgins said in My Fair Lady: "The French don't care what they do actually, as long as they pronounce it properly." So, there I was, standing in the classroom, seeing the dialogue in my head, and speaking the lines. Until this: "Tant Mieux." I can see it, I can see it, but how do you say it? Don't pronounce the t at the end of the first word, but the second? Too many vowels. Everyone waited. And waited. And waited. My body became as cold as my face was hot. Finally, the French teacher prompted me. Tant Mieux - so much the better! Mercy. Merci. Hand me my beret, won't you?
The accent can make the difference.
The trio awoke, a few hours post-performance. Too early in the morning to escape a cider headache earned from the last night’s gig in a cramped Basque bar outside of San Sebastian. Antonio Luis (drums) took responsibility and drove the tour van across the border into southern France. The border crossing was a first for Antonio, who had never left Spain. 9 hours later in Paris, Jorge (bass) and Eric (guitar/vocals) failed to convince a tired and culture-shocked Antonio to leave his hotel room in the 14th arrondissement for their short appearance at Le Pop-In. “Don’t worry, I get it. We’ve got this,” said Eric. “It’s only a 20-minute slot, we’ll go acoustic.”
The duo performed to a sweaty and packed basement. After the set, an announcer’s voice boomed out of the main sound system. “Thank you. That’s it. You’re geeks. Geeks. Geeks!” Eric stood stunned. Was it the acoustic set in a rowdy room? Too soft? Is this guy serious? What nerve!
“Gigs. He is asking if you have any upcoming gigs,” Mich (manager) shouted from the front row. Confidence restored. “Oh. Ah, yes. We’re off to Gent and Amsterdam. See you there!”