Do you know who the Igs are?
I didn’t. I do now. But there’s no reason for me to call them the Igs. Because I’m not from Philadelphia.
I had no idea that there was so much colorful slang just a little to the south and west of Boston. I knew that they call a long bread sandwich filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables a “hoagie” (and if it’s toasted, a “grinder”) while we call it a sub, toasted or untoasted.
But a new one on me was “yiz.” It’s apparently Philly’s answer to the collective plural pronoun “you.” So “You want anything at the store?” becomes “Yiz want anything at the store?” (In Pittsburgh, it’s “yinz.”)
Then there’s “worsh” (wash), and “jawn,” the etymology of which is unclear, but it certainly is useful. It can be used to describe a thing (“Hand me that jawn”), a female person (“That girl’s my young jawn”), or a place (“I was over at my boy’s jawn last night”) and is used in many situations to describe almost anything.
By far the most baffling idiom to me is the use of “anymore.” It doesn’t have a unique pronunciation, but it’s used as a positive, and means “nowadays” or “from now on.” I still can’t wrap my head around this. “Anymore we watch videos rather than go to the movies.” As Emily would say, “Crazyville!”
So if you’re with a bunch of football fans and you’re in Pixburgh, yinz can go watch the Stillers play. But if you’re in Philly, yiz can go and watch the Igs. Den you can eat n’at.
By Steve Boudreault
Scientists at the University of Reading completed a study that identified which are the oldest words in the English language and which modern words are likely to go the way of the hypodiastole. That’s a little editing joke. No one uses the hypodiastole punctuation mark anymore. Get it? No? Moving on, then.
Using an IBM supercomputer, scientists who study the evolution of language were able to track words back 30,000 years. They discovered that the oldest words in use today are numbers and pronouns, and that the words “bad,” “dirty,”’ and several others will soon disappear.
But before you begin to fret about what this evolution will do to your personal life, take heart! There is something you can do. The more often a word is used, the less likely it is that the future will leave it behind. So if you have a few favorites, use them often and encourage others to do the same. I’ll do my part by reminding all of you of Michael Jackson’s Bad with the hope that the song will get stuck in your head and you’ll absent-mindedly sing it in public and help protect one of my favorite words.
By Emily Olson
A study undertaken by the Spelling Society claims that Americans are worse spellers than the British. Apparently, more than half of the surveyed Americans were unable to spell the words “embarrassed,” “liaison,” and “millennium,” among others.
In response to this, some American experts are blaming the problem on high school dropout rates; others argue that the problem is our dependence on technology, including such tools as spell check functions and Google. The Spelling Society blames the issue on irregular spellings in both American and British English, and they proposed setting up a cross-continental committee to promote spelling reforms.
I agree that indeed we have become dependent on these technological tools, and that this reliance likely has made us lax in regard to spelling and grammar. I admit to using these tools frequently; and I admit, they often catch my mistakes (gasp). However, I don’t trust that spell check will correctly edit my work. I use it as a first opinion. I trust that I or one of my colleagues will do a much more thorough spell check in addition to grammar checking and editing a document.
I often find myself arguing (sometimes out loud) with the spell and grammar check functions in word processors. They still are primitive and don’t account for the nuances of the English language. If you happen to spell search terms wrong in the search field, Google generally provides an alternative spelling (usually correct) of the search terms; however, it always amazes me how many results actually come up with the misspelled search terms, demonstrating how unreliable technology and the Internet can be. For me, this reinforces the fact that we should not be totally dependent on them!
Although Americans fared worse than their British counterparts, the Spelling Society stated that the results were rather appalling on both sides of the pond, which makes it all somewhat less embarrassing. So as we forge ahead in this millennium, we all need to brush up on our spelling and become less dependent on our liaisons with technological tools.
P.S. When I looked up information on the study in Google, I found this comment on a British website: “No word on whether Yankees got dinged for spelling ‘color’ without a ‘u’ in the middle.” So cheeky …
By Emily Trask
I read Tropic of Cancer during my senior year of college, and I have a confession to make: I didn’t like it. Not even the dirty parts. You may think that this doesn’t warrant a confession, but I felt really guilty about not enjoying an acclaimed piece of literature. I also hated The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Reading these books made me react in a gut-churning, visceral way that I just couldn’t explain. Looking back on it, I think my extreme reaction had to do with where I was in my life. I was graduating from college and single-mindedly preparing to do my part by entering the workforce. I ignored the little voice that whispered, “But backpacking around Europe would be fun!” and “By getting a job you’re just supporting the capitalistic culture that we must reject! You’re such a consumer!” Actually, that second little voice may have been my boyfriend. But the point is, I had a goal. And no matter how attractive those little voices were, or how big a part of me did want to drop everything and go Kerouacing around the country, I simply couldn’t embrace the Beat philosophy of non-conformism when I was doing everything I could to conform.
But then something funny happened. A few weeks ago, I had an evening to myself so I took Tropic of Cancer from my bookshelf and could not put it down. I found it inspiring. Even the dirty parts.
Anyone who has ever helped me move will tell you that my collection of books is ridiculously large. They were stacked two deep on my bookshelves even before my husband added his collection to mine. But despite the desperate urgings to pare down that I get from friends as they struggle to carry box after box of books to each new walk-up I call home, I can’t get rid of them. They’re a chronicle of my life. I stand in front of my shelf and think, I read that one when I was in China and that one when I was in Rome. That one was a gift from my college roommate and that one made me cry. Love notes fall from the pages of some and the pages of others are filled with quickly scribbled thoughts and underlines. But more important than the sentimental value of these books is what a re-read years later can teach me about myself. People evolve slowly and almost imperceptibly, but when my reaction to a book that I read years ago has changed, it’s a powerful reminder that I have changed. And that’s worth all the box-carrying shoulder strain in the world.
By Emily Olson