July 7th…“AS A YOUNG BOY, DID YOU EVER HEAR SOMEONE SPEAK AMERICAN ENGLISH DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU DID?”
Her mouth was a movin’, but I had no idea what she was trying to say. Before divulging what that’s all about, let me digress a bit about language as I knew it.
Having been raised in the northern State of Minnesota since birth, I was accustomed to hearing and using the good old English language as my parents and siblings did. There was the exception, of course, when it came to the elders on both sides of my Norwegian clan. Those dear ones were only the second generation to America from the Homeland of Norway, so they had a bit of the flavoring of the “mother tongue” accent along with their English. Seeing that our grandparents AND our parents grew up fluently bi-lingual (Norwegian and English), I found it a special treat to listen to those two generations carry on conversations with each other.
Vacations came few and far between for a farmer and his family, but, in the summer of 1964 (I was 10 years old) we packed up and climbed aboard our 1956 Chevrolet. Dad pointed that metal, motorized machine towards Denver, Colorado to visit family in the “Mile High City”.
While enjoying the Rocky Mountains and our Colorado Cousins, one of my uncles invited some friends over to their house, one evening, to meet us “out of towners”. These folk were from the State of Oklahoma. I was introduced to one of the lady guests that evening in my uncle’s Living Room. She was a very elegant woman and seemed to think I was a very cute little boy by the way she gushed forth her effusing compliments about me. From her lips came phrases like, “Why hunny chil’, ya’ll are jus’ the keyootest thang Ah ever done did see!!!” Word alarms went off in my head as my northern little boy pea brain tried to decipher what she had just said to me. As far as I could figure, she was TRYING to speak English, but it was a foreign tongue to me. Our mother was sitting nearby, so I went over to her and asked, “Mom, what country is that lady from???”
After some laughter from she and Dad, Mom replied, “Well, Son, she’s from America, just like you”. My reply?…….“Well, I sure can’t understand a thing she’s sayin’ “!!!! Everyone had a good laugh from the first ever Southern Drawl that was heard by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.