Language Moments

It struck me last year that i’ve had some language moments that some people might find entertaining, especially if i don’t go on and on about them and just use them as interludes to lighten the tone.

The first of these moments was in June of 1955 when i was thirteen and my family was visiting my aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At that point in my life i had not been out of Texas, and even though i had noticed that my aunt and uncle talked funny, the idea that i might be described as having an accent had never occurred to me. As a Texas friend of mine remarked to me after i returned home in 1966 upon completion of a two year tour of duty in Germany, “Ah doun’t haeuv an akseyunt”.

So there we were in Pittsburgh, and my uncle gave me a quarter and suggested that i take my sister off to the drugstore a few blocks away for a soda. Innocently, i set out, clutching the coin in one hand and my sister in the other.

We found the drugstore, went in, and sat down at the fountain. When the waitress came around, i ordered a coke for Becky and a Dr Pepper for me, but we were immediately surrounded by a crowd of grinning, funny talking people who sounded just like our uncle but who were delighted by our performance, never having seen two little kids who could effortlessly sound exactly like Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.

And they got a full performance as i tried to get the waitress to understand that i wanted a Dr Pepper, unaware that Dr Pepper would not reach Pennsylvania for two or three decades. Well, if it ever did. Cincinnati friends in 1970 tried it and called it “fly spray”, so i’m thinking you have to be born in Texas to like it.

[For my foreign friends, here’s a wonderful description that captures the essence of the largely vanished American drugstore. It’s on a Roman Catholic propaganda website, so parental discretion is advised. Wouldn’t want my loyal readers to fall prey and be struck with an uncontrollable urge to kiss His Holiness’ red slippers.]

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