Regional dialects often amusing point

Published 7:45pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A friend of mine from Massachusetts whom I worked with for thirty years while adjusting NFIP flood claims across the USA always amused me with his pronunciation of certain words. By the same token he often told me I amused him with my style of talking.

The last time I saw him was during Hurricane Katrina and his Bostonian speech was even double funny because he brought with him a young man who was training to become a flood insurance adjuster. I could not help holding back with laughter listening to them talk.

I asked the young man if he were from Boston and he said “no, my home is Wohsta” (Worcester). My adjusting fried explained to me that his “ahnt” (aunt) raised the young man and actually paid for his college education. My friend said yes she was a very “deah” (dear) aunt. His biggest problem in college was drinking “beah” (beer.) “But, with the help of the Good Lord he has stopped drinking beah and now goes to church every Sunday,” my friend said.

I got a kick out of several other words. He called rain “wain” and clouds “kawouds.” A real common word was look. He would say “vawook” and he called really “vawilly.”

He got right back at me for the way we talk. For example he said “you southerners have a bad habit misusing verbs like done for did.” I had to agree with him because that is one of my peeves. I hate to hear a speaker say “I done that” when he should say I did that.

My friend really got a charge at how we say “tarectectly” (“I’ll be back directly”).

He was amused at our using the word “litard”, fat wood for lighting a fire. Of course the proper pronunciation is “lightwood.”

My friend had a Masters degree from Boston College and he and I concurred that TV personalities and writers incorrectly use the words “only other” in the wrong manner. Proper use of these words is  “only” or “other”. And you never “return back.” You simply return. Back is not needed.

We also disliked the over use of “you know, you know” and “know what I mean, know what I mean”. This is especially apparent when interviewing ball players. And, you know many of these ball players have a college education.

Writing narratives in our adjusting work was a requisite and proved beneficial for our success.

I met that friend back in 1979 when Hurricane Frederic hit our Gulf coast. Over the years we worked flood losses in Los Angeles, Houston, Galveston, Miami, Kentucky, Atlantic City, New Orleans, St Petersburg, Baton Rouge, Pierre Part , Pensacola, Mobile, Bay St. Louis, Slidell, Austin, Elba, Brewton, Charleston, Memphis, Sopchoppy, and many, many other towns and cities.

Sadly my friend passed away last week at the age of 81. That young trainee I met in New Orleans sent me an email informing me of his passing. That trainee now owns a very successful adjusting company and uses dozens of adjusters when storms occur.

In some other news back in 1959 and 1960 I went with a couple of friends to a “cockfight.”

I bring this up because of a January 21 news release appearing in “The Republic,” an online internet publication.That story indicates the State of Alabama will be asked to “take a look” at this bill which could provide tougher penalties for those engaged in “cock fighting.” The bill is being pushed by the Humane Society of the U.S.

I won’t mention the names of the two men I went with to the cockfight because they were rather prominent. I also do not know where the fights occurred. I do remember it was somewhere in another county near us.

After leaving our car we walked down a narrow trail leading to a barn-like frame structure where the fights were staged. Along the trail  lay numerous  dead roosters, apparently killed in the fights.

Inside the building were rows of wooden seats stacked almost to the ceiling. The seats were filled with onlookers, some yelling at the handlers located in the oval fighting ring at ground level. I don’t recall their charging us a fee to get in. But I did see money being passed around as some onlookers were apparently making bets on these birds.

Those roosters were equipped with steel-like spurs on their feet and legs. It was obvious they were trained to ram those spurs into the heads of their opponents. To say this was a “gory” event was mild at least.

It didn’t take long for me to tell my friends “meet me at the car, I have had enough.”

One of the amusing things about this trip was seeing so many of my friends in attendance.

I never went back, I never wanted to and I don’t know what ever happened to this site.

I hope this Alabama Legislative Bill will pass and prevent such cruelty as I saw that night in “a neighboring county.”

More next week.

“….yes…it always whispers to me…those days of long ago…”
Lowell McGill can be reached at

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