Monday, September 7, 2009

Dragonfly fly-by

It is my job to correct people. Wrong word usage, mistaken historical references, crazy notions that needs disabusing? I'm your girl. If your inaccuracy gets my attention, you're in for it. It's referred to around here as being "MAJ-ed." I am somewhat related to that hopelessly self-involved man on Flipping Out. Not genetically -- but I have a real sense of dread that on some level we are kindred souls.

I'm trying really hard to sit on it, because I know this behavior is wrong, rude, and boorish to the max. But can you tell me why people insist on saying "for-tay" (Italian for loud) when they really mean "fort" (French for strength)? I know they're spelled the same (forte), but they don't sound the same at all. And why do people say "HEENY-us" when they mean "HAYnus" (heinous)? Or "misCHEEvy-us" when they mean "MISchev-us? Are you feeling my frustration yet? (Don't I have anything better to do? Of course I do, but here I am, facing a blank screen and a promise to myself to be disciplined and write something on it every day.)

I think it comes from being frequently corrected as a child, and later as a wife. It became part of who I am and I perpetuate it out of a sense of duty. When I switched from wife to partner, did it stop? No. When one is sharing life with an English professor, grammar becomes an issue.

When I moved to the south from the west coast, my grammar began to slide. I when I was commuting to Nashville while we were waiting for my house in Oregon to sell, I overheard one of a group of men waiting in the Minneapolis airport say, clear as a southern bell, "He dudden like it."

"Hicks!" I thought to myself. "Dudden." They looked like business men. "Must be selling snake oil," I thought.

Now I catch myself saying "dudden" all the time. It's a perfectly good word. It covers didn't, doesn't and who knows what else. Don't have to even think about being precise. Laura doesn't even correct me. She's so used to being around firemen, she doesn't even hear it anymore. She has, however, cured me of saying "lay" when I mean "lie," and that was not easy.

Another southern-ism I've adopted is sitting on the front porch in a wicker chair, watching the world go by. Not much world on our little cul-de-sac, but enough. Watching the trees turn now. The Redbud is going rusty gold from the edges, at least those few leaves that are still left. This sunny afternoon, a dragon fly flew by. In some cultures, dragon flies represent self-awareness. I'm hoping she brought me some.

photo credit: John Kereny

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