A Particular Set of Skills

WARNING: Strong language that is likely unsuitable for people with access to language skills may appear in the following post.

I have a particular set of skills, not the kind that would help me find any missing relative or deal with their would-be abductors in an action movie, but they do count as skills or maybe more precisely “skills” in air quotes. They’re not the kind that my parents are particularly proud I possess, but on occasion, they have made my friends laugh. (And the “skills” I’m referring to are not abusing semicolons and parentheses, though my editor David might argue that I’m quite skilled in those areas as well.)

I can rant.

I can rant in a way that will make a room go silent. I can rant in a way that will make you spray water onto your screen. Your reaction depends on the topic at hand and my mood or my objective. I’m that person people have said, “I bet it’s cute when you get mad,” and immediately the “oh shit” or “eject” cartoon bubble appears over their head when they’ve accidentally discovered how woefully mistaken they were.

This ability doesn’t make me particularly different or special. It’s just that in my basket of ways/tools I can pull from to express myself, I happen to be better at that style. My precision with the English language becomes sharper. My sentences become simpler. I’m like an angry Hemingway. Again, it’s not so much a thing to brag about. It just is what it is. Thus, I have a blog. It’s here to help me work on communicating my thoughts better. That’s a lot of blahblahblah to start a story, but you needed some background.

Tuesday was the anniversary of Jay’s death. It was also two days after a cookie misadventure, which nearly left me without a thing to bring to a gathering of friends. On that day I went to see one of the few people I can be around on that day: my trainer. I have a lot of great friends, but my trainer is one of the few who can successfully navigate through all of the mess that is me some days. On Tuesday, I walked in pretty wound up and then launched into a story about some cookies. As I’m working my way into the second or maybe third sentence she says, “I’m going to stop you for a second. You’ve now said “fuck” five times. Normally you say “fuck” zero of the times. I just wanted to make you aware that I’m counting. Continue.” Oops. I completed the story without another incident. At least I don’t recall one. Although, as mad as I was I probably had “fuck” amnesia and said it ten more times to emphasize all of my crazy buttons had been pushed. Yay amnesia that lets me believe I stopped at five! Ultimately, through the use of that expletive, I successfully (and emphatically) communicated that I was completely amped up about the thing I was amped up about. All before 6 AM. Go me!

On Thursday new thoughts on “the Great Cookie Massacre of 2019,” which is really how it should be referred to from this moment forward, were shared.

Now I realize you’re probably thinking, “this is a lot vague talk about some sort of cookie thing, and I’m not entirely sure where we’re going here. This seems like a “near” rant, but not quite an “actual” rant. I thought I read this far for a rant. Where is the payoff? Didn’t you say you were good at it? I’m not feeling the “good” here. I knew I should have picked up the New York Times instead. This is bogus!” Well, first off: when did you become such a rant critic? And your sticking around is really on you, but also you’re not wrong. I’m fence-sitting because I’m torn. You see, I promised my Dad today that I wouldn’t go on an epic cookie rant on my blog. However, a good friend thought it might be a fine idea and encouraged it. I’m sure he could picture himself tucked in, reading it and chortling. (People really don’t chortle enough these days.) Then there was another person who, without context for the story, felt I had the potential to turn it into something funny, which I’m also failing to do.

So, what I’ve successfully delivered here is an unfunny brag about ranting where I didn’t rant. It’s a post where I threw in several expletives, and you learned nothing about a supposed cookie massacre. However, had I chosen to crush my father’s soul and gone through with the rant, you likely would have heard things like: “self-deprecating,” “I Love Lucy,” “parchment paper,” and a declaration that “peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookies are the best!!!” (Because they are.) There likely would have been a story about how I used to work at a cookie store in a mall, and there might have been a brag that I can out-cookie most people. Although, in true rant style it probably would have digressed into a vague threat to the universe regarding dough storage, and someone would have restarted the “f-bomb” counter.

A Rose by Any Other Name

My question to the group was fairly straight forward, “Has there been a proven Y-DNA link between my ancestor and a certain ill-tempered curmudgeon on the Mayflower?” I’ve been told by several people that one exists, but when I start asking for the proof what I get in return is anecdotal. One of the big family tree lessons I’ve learned from digging around on Ancestry.com is that among the good information there is a such an amazing ton of bad information, so take all information with a big grain of salt. Unfortunately, in large part thanks to the internet, the bad information easily and quite quickly hops from family tree to family tree with ease.  All you need to do is press a button.  One of my favorite examples involves my 3rd great grandmother having my great-great grandfather at the age of one according to several trees.  Think what you will about my family, I’m 99.9% (leaving that .1% to account for physiological wackiness) certain that my 3rd great grandmother wasn’t having children quite that young.

In this particular email to this group who all share my last name, I threw in a little “P.S.” asking, “Out of curiosity, how do you pronounce our last name?”  I might as well have made that the subject of the email and posted it in big, bold, capital letters, because while i got a few “no one is quite sure about your Y-DNA question and the Mayflower Association will not accept DNA evidence as proof of descent” everyone else immediately jumped on the pronunciation thing.

So, basically this past Friday night I unwittingly started a small family war.

You see, the first part of my name is “Dough”. I pronounce it the way it looks, like dough or doe. A few people chimed in with “no, it’s like ‘dow’”, or “no, it’s more like ‘dah’”. Then came the proclamations: “We here in Ohio say it…!!” or “Well, in the northeast we say…!”  This was followed by a quick shot across the bow, “oh, so when you make bread, do you make it with dow?”  They added a little wicked emoticon smiley face to soften the impact, but that comment was met with a picture of and recipe for pandowdy to strengthen the dow/food claim.  Touché, mon frère. touché! Points to the chef!

There was a brief intermission of kvetching about people adding “er’s” to our name and some general fussing about the difficulty in trying to get people to pronounce correctly.  A friend of mine suffers from a similar issue with her first name.  The issue being you pronounce your name and the person you’re speaking with repeats it back with an entirely different pronunciation despite having just heard the correct version.  In my friend’s case, her name is Anna, but when she introduces herself as Anna more often than not the person she’s speaking with changes it to Anna. You easily see her dilemma and frustration.  (Yes, sometimes I’m difficult on purpose.)

My whole Y-DNA question was drowned out by “o” and “ow” sounds..

That’s when my favorite part of this discussion appeared (although “do you make your bread with dow” is easily my second favorite).  It began with “there’s a street in London with that same name, maybe we should find out how they say it” to which a gentleman from the UK stepped up and boldly claimed, “the correct pronunciation is ‘dow’”.  Now the use of the word “correct” would be enough to send both of my eyebrows skyward, but what edged his response up to the very top as a true favorite was a truly delightful paragraph about the history of language   My favorite line being one where the author carefully explained to the American dullards what was meant by the tern “18th century” with an “or as you would say” for the rest of us who couldn’t keep up with that fancy “18th century” talk. Whoa! Easy there feller.  You’re saying 1850 isn’t in the 18th century?  But they both have the number 18 in them!!! MIND BLOWN!  He also added that the 1700’s really only covers 1700-1709, a statement with which I would tend to disagree, but hey I’m American like that – fat, loud, simple and wielding a gun just like everyone else I know, bless my heart. This fellow then followed with another fun bit that basically stated, “the reason you pronounce it incorrectly is likely because you’re making a faulty assumption about the origins of your name.”

A short note followed from another fellow in the UK asking, “what do the English know? In Scotland and Ireland they say ‘dough’” followed by even more winky smiley emoticons. 🙂 😉 😛

Half a day went by without any further response while the Americans were undoubtedly using the time to take careful notes about the whole “century” thing. “Ok, so if 1700-1799 is the 18th century, then that would mean… Holy cow! It’s all coming together now.”  And just when I thought we’d spend the rest of the weekend contemplating these latest revelations, Braden from Ohio stepped in to give his own take on the history of language, as well as a general history of the name. Then all hell broke loose as Braden went all haplogroup and Y-DNA on the guy. Oh snap! History/Science nerd smack-down DNA style!  The gist of what he said, since it was a rather long and detailed email,  had to do with discussing the moment in history when spelling became more standardized.  He used the aforementioned haplogroup to shed doubt as to whether we Americans, who share that name, have actual ties to those similarly named in England since apparently it’s an uncommon haplogroup for the area.  To finish off, he cited anecdotal evidence based on his own UK travels of places he found where folks, when presented with the spelling, pronounced our “dough” as “doe” to prove that even in the UK there’s not necessarily one “correct” accepted pronunciation.  I nearly sent Braden a “Bravo! Well said!” email, but decided to hold off.

As of this morning, the “dough” battle rages on ignited by my simple question.

My take on the whole thing, history and haplogroups aside, is that the “right” way to say your own name is the way you pronounce it.

Writing, Lists and Other Random Thoughts

I promised myself that this year I’d write more. I didn’t promise I’d necessarily blog more, since I tend to wait on life to be randomly absurd before making a post, but I decided I’d write a few more sketches.  While I have managed to work on a sketch (just one while I think of a new one), I still feel like I’ve neglected my blog.  My excuse has been that life hasn’t thrown anything overly zany my way to warrant a solid post.  So, I’m in a bit of a writing limbo where I’m not writing and thus you get this thrown together post – some randomness from my head which will allow me to put a mark in my 2014 writing book that means “hey, I wrote a thing! Go me!  Kudos GIRL!”  I may high-five myself at the end – not because of the content of what I plan to write, but because I made words.

Without further ado…

One of the many things I hate about FaceBook is that every now and again someone will create a status update that outlines a peeve they have that serves as a general notice to their many friends – a warning.  For example, they’ll post a shared photo that points out how people use language or turns of phrases incorrectly.  Your job as a friend is to take heed and ideally respond that you are either of a like mind and equally offended by the foolish masses that clearly cannot use language or you confess to your own writing indiscretions and vow on bended knee to make changes.  On the one hand, it’s a fine way for you and your nearest and dearest to feel quite smug about your superior grasp of language (aka a bonding moment) and on the other it allows the huddled ignorant masses to see you as the bright shining beacon of intellectual superiority you always knew you were and genuflect accordingly (as is your due).  Thankfully you are content knowing both spoken and written English haven’t evolved since the first spoken word was, well, spoken.   I mean, who can’t read the works of Chaucer or the poem Y Gododdin without translation? Imbeciles!

Ultimately, I suppose I could care less about this. (That’s right language snobs, I threw down that gauntlet!)

By that same token, I also hate those lists people post of books you’re supposed to have read to be considered intelligent.  They usually invoke a line about how the British or possibly some British publication has actually made the list, so your job as a patriot is to show the British that you can read words on paper.  Now go ahead and substitute “British” for “you” since Snopes has fact checked the truth of that statement and found it to be false.  The British may suspect (and likely do) that we’re idiots, but they’re savvy enough not to put it in a major publication, which means I’m supposed to prove to you I’m well-read.  Here’s a fact: I will never read “Far from the Madding Crowd” nor will I read “Crime and Punishment” to prove to you I belong in your book club.  You’ll have to continue to love me for my belligerent idiocy.

So, I decided in honor of all of this recently getting under my skin, I’d make my own list of pet peeves that my friends can work their way down to see if they conform to my ideals of a good world citizen.  In my opinion being an offender of any of these makes you a lesser person and me better.

  • People who stand in line in front of me.  I don’t have time for you to shop.  I’ve got pressing things going on and need to leave before you. Your behavior is rude.  Move along.
  • People who enter an aisle at a store that I’ve claimed.  I’ve claimed it by being there.  Please peruse the end cap until I’ve exited the aisle.  Definitely, don’t snuggle up next to me. It’s too close to hugging and you’re not family.  I don’t want stranger hugs while I’m trying to locate the wheat flour.
  • People who drive near me and are not going the same speed, but are either going faster or slower.  The perfect speed is the one I’ve randomly chosen.  Please choose another road.
  • The word “cause” being used instead of “because”.  If you use “cause” please follow up with an “effect”.  I don’t want to be surprised when you start blurting out an excuse and I’m expecting something grammatically different.
  • Lottery-style games that are rigged against me.  If you’re going to give me the opportunity to win a Big Foot costume to promote the upcoming movie “Big Foot Wars”, then I want to win.  I don’t want to be in a pool with others and you draw one of their names. Don’t make me angry at statistics. This holds true for my chances of winning an autographed book by Josh Gates (host of “Destination Truth” as you know) and any other drawing I’ve recently entered.
  • People who make me take knitting classes with them when knitting classes are up there with poke-myself-in-the-eye classes on a perfectly good Sunday like today.  Especially those same people who ditched the Special FX makeup class I signed us up for, which was by all accounts (made by me) a better class. By better, I mean “cooler”.  This is a random item on my list. Honest. A hypothetical. I’m not stuck in a knitting class today as 2 1/2 hours of my life drains away.
  • People who don’t appreciate how much I typo in a blog and don’t understand that it will take me reading a post through at least 50 times before I catch most of my errors.  This quirk makes my blog charming.
  • People who make ridiculous lists and expect people to live up to their standards.  Wait… ummm….

Rant: Accents and Intellect

I’m a Texan.  On any given day, I could say that as a boast or mutter it under my breath in shame.  (Which, incidentally, I just typed “Shame” as if it were a place.  That tells you something about my state of mind.)  For the most part, I like saying I’m a Texan and I like being a Texan and I wear it as a source of pride.  However, some of the things that make Texans stand out from say New Hampshirites are things that can make us a little embarrassed at times or peevish at others. (I had to look Hampshirites up, because no one actually knows what they’re called, because no one calls them.  This is a fact.  I just made it up.)

Accents

I have one. You have one.  The only place you don’t have one is likely around the people you grew up with.   Even then, you might still have a distinct accent.  For example, my friend who grew up in Decatur, Texas sounds nothing like his family.  (Jers, that’s my shout-out and I love the sound of your voice.)  My aunt also sounds nothing like my Dad or the rest of her siblings.

Here’s a really great map where you can see just how varied our accents are across the United States.

Huffington Posts: Dialect Map of US Shows How Americans Speak by Region

But let’s get back to being a Texan and our accents (yes plural, look at the map).  As a Texan you get to hear a lot of people on TV and on film take a stab at their impersonation of a Texas accent.  It’s usually cringe-inducing, because it’s almost always heavy-handed and sprinkled with a lot of “Howdy’s” as if we “Howdy” everything as we swagger from the doormat to IH-35.  I don’t “Howdy”. (Nor do I swagger, ride a horse or play with tumbleweed.) In fact, I can only name one bona fide Howdier.  You see, no one “Howdy’s” here that often and if they do they’re trying to sell you something. They’ll probably call you “hon”, too. Don’t trust them.  For the record, I also don’t know anyone name “Pardner” either.  If I saw that as a name, I’d assume it belonged to some kid whose California parents thought the name would be “cool” or “ironic”.

Now the problem is that usually when I hear that pregnant TV/movie Texas accent, I know it’s an overture heralding the movie/show poking fun at how backwards Texans are. I’m rarely disappointed.  You add “reality” + “any place in Texas” and now you’re in for some good ol’ fashioned, ratings-winning, hillbilly shenanigans.  Yee haw! So, let me just say: some people do sound that way depending on where you are in Texas and some people don’t – it really all depends on where you pullover and how big the town is.  The best popular examples I can give where you can hear what I think of as a true Texas accent (and realizing I grew up in a real live city free of cattle stampedes) are those of Tommy Lee Jones and George Eads.  Of course, they’re from areas that I grew up around.

Tommy Lee Jones – The Fugitive:

George Eads Interview:

When you come into my state from wherever the heck you’re from and declare, “you have an accent”.  Remember this: Son, I don’t have an accent in my state.  You do.

Dialect = Intellect

Here’s where the crux of my beef lies – that ignorant assumption that because I have a Texas accent, I am somehow less intelligent.  It’s worse for my Texas brethren in deep East and far West Texas, but still the arrogance gets to me.  It’s as if my dropping the “g” in any given “–ing” word cost me 30 national IQ points.  I have a related story you may have heard me tell before.  Out of college (I gots me one of them degrees and it din’t come in the mails and it ain’t in agriculture or home ec) I started my first full time job where I met this guy from Ohio.  One day I asked him how he decided to come to Texas, because as a Texan I am somewhat arrogant (especially when I forget how we’re depicted in the media) and I was fishing for some story that would make Texas sound like a promise land – that maybe a little halo appeared on the map and angels sang when he was choosing places.  Instead, he said out of college he worked for some company selling some thing and was given a choice of three locales.  He chose Texas because he knew people here were stupid and therefore would be easier marks.  My jaw dropped.  He failed in sales here, by the way.  I can’t imagine how that happened. (Sarcasm) I just stared at him and asked, “you honestly think I’m stupid?” “No, you’re smart.  In fact, you’re the smartest Texan I know.” Such an honor. (Err, sarcasm again – it doesn’t translate so well in writing.) As I became more appalled, he backpedaled and I want to say at some point he doubted that I was actually a Texan, which was his form of a compliment.  “I said you weren’t a Texan.  That’s like the greatest compliment EVER!!!” His brain couldn’t reconcile that someone could be both smart AND a Texan.

I’ve had people, based on my accent, question my education to my face. Rather bold.  Also, rather rude.  I kindly offered to compare our educations – mine, here in Texas to theirs in wherever the fuck they came from – let’s dance, monkey! They became disinterested in the subject.

So let me state again: Dialect does not equal intellect.  In other words, a drawl does not determine your IQ. Words flowing slowly don’t always mean a slow mind.  However, it shows a lack of intellect and really a lack of exposure to a wider world if you fall for that.

This is getting overly long and you’re about to drift off, but just one more tiny rant.

The Right Pronunciation

I distinguish “pen” from “pin” when I speak.  I can say “Harry” in a way that doesn’t invoke an image of fur, while my long “o” sounds would make a Canadian proud. My “get” is questionable, but on most days if I’m awake or not mad there’s more “eh” to it than “ih”.  Do something embarrassing on my front lawn and then you might hear, “git in this house right now before the neighbors see you”, because whatever it was you did shocked the “e” right on out of that word. Now growing up everyone around me said “Chester drawers” (I thought it was a type of drawer you put your clothes in, like a Chesterfield is a couch). It was a huge shock to see “chest of drawers” in an ad one day and have my world rocked.  But the most distinguishing thing I drawl are “oi” words (unless I’m traveling or making an effort). Oil, boil, roil, foil can be said as one syllable.  It’s a one syllable word.  I’ll bust it out occasionally to make my friends laugh, because you see not everyone it Texas says it the way I do.  Did I mention that map of dialects? Go back to that.  I’m ok with the way I say it, but here is my major pet peeves when pressed about it:

“That’s not how it’s pronounced.”  You want to know how I pronounce that? Oh, I pronounce that: BULLSHIT.  It’s pronounced that way in some parts of the country. In fact, there’s some argument that I’ve seen made by linguists that it is actually more correct than the more popular version.  So, let’s just say this.  You find me the person who originated the word, any word – whether it’s Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, Germanic or in this case Old French and let’s see how they pronounce it.  I’m guessing neither of us would be close, which would make you just as wrong.  Don’t tell me it’s not how it’s pronounced and produce a bunch of people I don’t give a shit about and say “see, they don’t say it that way”.  Well, neither do a lot of people, but then again, so do a lot of people and unless you’re that French guy who originally spoke it, I don’t care.

Always keep in mind that you have an accent, too. Remember, that we backwards little Texans have our own stereotypes about you and they’re not always “Oh, he’s not from Texas?  He must be that brilliant Messiah foretold in our ancient cave drawings that will lead us out of ignorance into the glory of books and a new age of reason. I can finally stop drooling. Praise be! My degree won’t be signed in crayon!”

Oh, and that accent of yours that you find to be so swell and hold above mine?  Well, it’s not so pretty. Texans aren’t dropping to their knees in worship.  In truth, the prettiest accent I’ve ever heard comes from a Russian friend of mine who speaks with a hint of a French accent.  Unless you’re her, your accent? Not so great.