I grew up in the New York Metropolitan area so currently I’m stumbling over going “to the coast” instead of “down the shore”. But my largest indoctrination into another subset of American English was the 17 years I lived in Tennessee.
Right away I noticed that Southern speech was more “picturesque” with much more use of idioms than we used in New Jersey. I remember my mother-in-law, when adding her effort to a community food drive commented, ” ‘Every little bit helps’, said the old lady who peed in the sea.”
So, this past week I have been feeling puny and I think I finally understand the use of that word for “sick”. I just can’t do what I need or want to do…and thereby I am diminished. Yup, feeling puny.
Here is an pretty funny video of Irish people trying to figure out the meanings of some Southernisms.
Few of us are as fully bilingual as some of the high school sprinters I got to know when my son Sam was running for his high school. These guys always spoke to me in perfect English, and then I would overhear them talking to their cohort in another language. It had English words but I certainly did not understand that street talk or jive talk or whatever it is called. When I pointed out to one of the guys how perfectly bilingual he was and how that could be an asset for later employment he looked surprised.
Some people spend years in the American school system and do not learn to speak grammatical English. Some people claim to be pretty proud of their use of slang and swear words. This has to be by choice. A bad teacher here or there who might have their own idiosyncrasies of speech can not be blamed. A choice to SOUND stupid IS stupid.
American English has constantly evolving slang. The “groovy” of the late 1960s is long gone from vernacular use but still understood. Yet “23 skidoo” from the 1920s left me pondering. Check out this website with lists from each decade. That would be sweet.