Thursday, June 20, 2013

*Happy Fourth of July, 'Murica!

Remembering a fun day in Washington, D.C. with my boy last summer. Happy Fourth of July, 'Murica!

Bridger waiting his turn for a simulated ride at the Smithsonian
There are accents, and then there are outright mispronunciations. Yesterday, we were entertained for a couple of hours atop a double decker tour bus, careening down the streets of Washington, D.C. Our tour guide was a young woman named Ty, short for Tyreshia. She knew shared tidbits of trivia with us about the landmarks, and shared her personal suggestions for the best eating establishments in the area.
So many "memoriums" in 'Murica's capitol city.

"If you want to AXE me anything while we're on the tour, feel free," Ty assured us. "Axe" is a common pronunciation in the south for ASK, but it shocked my ears to hear it again. Outside of the south, most people recognize the K comes after the S in ASK, but here in the greater metropolitan area of the District, and throughout much of the southeast, it is reversed. 

"Just axe me," she repeated.  "Axe me anything."

My fifteen-year-old whispered, "Do you think she cares what kind of axe we use?"

"Oh, no, I'm sure you could use a hatchet, a tomahawk, or any sort of chopping tool you have on hand," I grinned.

At one point, my son turned around and said, "WHAT did she just say?" I do have a hearing disability, but I'm pretty good at using context clues to fill in what I missed. Of course, the mispronounced word happened to be another of her favorites, so we had more opportunities to decipher what she was saying.  

"There are a VIE-AR-I-TY of cuisines in Washington, D.C.  You can find any kind of food you like here."

There it was again. VIE-AR-I-TY.  

"Does she mean to say VARIETY?" Bridger asked. We smiled, and then grinned. We both delight in language, good and bad, serious and funny. Detecting errors in spelling, word usage, and yes, pronunciation, is a hobby I have shared with my children throughout their lives, and now we enjoy it together. 

"I was born and raised in Washington, so I know a lot about the area," Ty continued. "I am a true Washingtonian."

We noticed that any word with an /er/ in it, came out as an UR. America and very came out 'MURICA and VURRY. We wondered if she wishes everyone a MURRY Christmas during the holiday season. Another shared smile between us. 

The longer the tour went on, the more it became obvious that she was totally unaware of the word AN. Instead of AN apple, for instance, she would say A apple, with the A having the long A sound. If the word following the A began with a consonant, she would use the schwa sound, so for instance, it would be UH bus, UH tourist, UH landmark, which is accepted usage. Instead of saying AN apple or AN orange, she would just use the long A, A apple or A orange.  

"Have A awesome day," she cheerily told each group who departed the tour at the stops along the way.

We drove past the Vietnam War Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial.  There are many famous events and people from American history memorialized here.  Bridger swears she repeatedly said MEMORIUM for the word memorial. The Lincoln Memorium. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorium. She may have; I honestly couldn't detect that one.  He seemed to enjoy it without me, smiling throughout the entire tour.  

The District police had blockaded one street due to an accident, and there were inevitable lulls in the snarl of downtown traffic. Our bus was idling in front of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving for quite awhile. We were having a difficult time determining exactly what she was saying as she chattered about this landmark.  It wasn't her volume; the microphone took care of that. There was just one troublesome word. Bridger and I looked at each other quizzically, and then it dawned on us. She wasn't saying BUREAU, she kept calling it the Ba-ROO of Printing and Engraving.  We assumed she would call the FBI the Federal Ba-ROO of Investigation. Admittedly, bureau IS a French word, and so it could be difficult to pronounce, but perhaps if one is a tour guide in Washington, D.C., one should be able to pronounce BUREAU, since there are quite a few of those here.

All in all, it was a delightful tour; Tyreshia was knowledgeable about the history, and pointed out little-known facts that kept us informed. The weather was unseasonably cool, and was without the heavy humidity I've come to expect during my stays in the east. The open air bus kept us comfortable, as it rumbled down the busy streets of our nation's capitol. And Ty unwittingly entertained us the entire time with her Washingtonian expressions, and her own way of speaking.  

Today we are off to central Virginia to visit our loved ones. We'll say goodbye to the capitol city of 'Murica, and hello to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We are going to have A awesome day.  Y'all do the same!


  1. Replies
    1. Oh, Susan, it has been A AWESOME time, for a VIE-ARITY of reasons. Just AXE me about it Sunday!!!

  2. Too funny. You make me wish I'd been there too to hear it.


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