Saturday, April 9, 2011

Words Away

Just before my fifth birthday my family moved from New Jersey to California and I was amazed at the difference in how people talked.
In a previous post I mentioned baby carriages and buggies, but that was only one of several differences I noticed. For example, back East we had a sofa in our living room, but out West people sat on couches. One friend, whose family was from the South, had a Chesterfield instead.
The little store in New Jersey where my mother shopped only had a small freezer and sold different kinds of popsicles depending on the season. The ones everyone in the neighborhood called Summer Popsicles were the fruit kind and Winter Popsicles were chocolate covered vanilla ice cream.
After we moved we were visiting another family on a hot, Summer day. I was shy and didn't know any of the kids. When one of them told me there was a whale waiting for me on the kitchen table I assumed she was teasing. An hour or so I learned that "Whale" was what she called a Winter Popsicle, but mine had completely melted by then. I later learned Whale was a brand name and most California kids referred to fruit popsicles and ice-cream popsicles.
Missing out on that treat was probably one reason I later became interested in linguistics.

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