This summer, I took two major trips. The first was to Minneapolis where our family rented a car (okay, a 12 passenger, gas-guzzling van the likes of which we haven’t driven in five years!). So we all piled in said van and tootled on down the road through Iowa (drove the kids around Ames to see where their father went to college–GO CYCLONES), all the way to the bottom of Missouri. Then we made the reverse trip and flew home again after a lovely wedding in Minnesota.
Two weeks later, I hopped a plane for North Carolina and a writer’s retreat. This trip was highly educational, so I decided to share my lessons with other Californians (and I think it is probably beneficial information for most of the western US. Just sayin’).
Let’s start with Pronunciation.
Lesson 1: For those of us on the west coast, we’re accustomed to thinking of those in the south as having “accents.” These I was prepared for. After all, I was born in Oklahoma and I’ve lived in Missouri and Texas. Accents are no stranger to me. I’d forgotten, however, that with accents often come interesting pronunciation issues. For example, in Texas, they do not wash. Apparently it’s just dirtier there or something, because it takes an extra letter in the word wash, turning it into warsh, to get the job done. I once heard it posited that that extra R came from all the Bostonian words ending in R. They just sort of swirled around in the sky, got caught in a gust of wind, and funneled into a tornado which deposited them in the word “warsh.” While this is an interesting theory, I have a different one. I think they just hop the MTA and zip on over to “Brender’s” house. Ahem.
I digress. I was talking about pronunciation in the southeast, not the northeast/southwest. Let’s get back on track here. So, North Carolina is literally dripping in towns ending in –v-i-l-l-e. You have the town I first flew into—Charlotte (which isn’t a “ville,” but I’m just aching to call Charlottesville now). The town I stayed in—Asheville. The town near where I stayed. Hendersonville. The town near where the retreat was—Boondocksville—I mean Bakersville. Trust me, there are many more “Villes.” You’ve got villes coming out your ears. It’s like they’re fish gills that give life to the place or something.
Anyway, I mentioned to one of the women at the retreat, quite innocently, that I had flown into “Asheville by way of Charlotte.” And this is where things got interesting. Or is that “interestin’?”
The woman immediately teased me saying, “Oh, anyone would know you’re not from there.”
To which I replied, “How? Would it be my lack of a southern accent. I can pull one of those off. Not a problem.”
No, no. no. Apparently people in the Carolinas and the Virginias “swallow” the –ville when they speak it. It’s not ASH-ville. It’s AsheVOLL… but that voll gets choked back a bit as if hearing of their “hometown” brings out all kinds of deep-seated emotions.
And apparently there’s a place in WV (okay, so there really is because I went there! WOOT! Go… um, what were they again? Oh, MOUNTAINEERS! Shh… don’t tell my husband). Where was I? Oh, yes. There’s a place called Monangalia county. Not Monongahela like the river (sorry Oak Ridge Boys)—Monangalia . Apparently some people who live there can’t even pronounce it themselves—they just call it Mon county. So all those names we can’t pronounce? They can’t either. Thought you oughtta know. It’s probably payback for them coming to California and visiting La Jolla and not being able to find it on the map because they’re looking for La Hoy-ya! Yeah. Kind of like when my mother-in-law arrived one day and said she loved her meal at the restaurant, but they put way too many “jal-LAP-eh-noes” in it.” Ahem Mon county. AsheVOLL. Got it.
Next time: I’m going to give away a Southern and Midwestern secret that will ensure a mass exodus from the west to the central and eastern portions of our lovely country. A hint? They don’t have germs!