You Can Take a Girl to the Midwest…But You Can’t Make Her Talk Right.

6 Sep

When I moved to the mid-west there were several things I had to get used to. 1) The weather 2) The absence of the ocean 3) The language. There were probably more, but I can’t think of them right now. Either that or I’ve repressed them because they were too traumatic. Either that or I have gotten so used to them that they don’t feel weird any more.

The view from my house, growing up. A lot differrent from the prairie…

So…1) The weather.

Growing up in Washington and Oregon for the first 16 years of my life, and then spending my four years of college in Eugene, OR, rain was just a given. Rain came often, drizzling its way through the day and into our ears, insinuating itself into our daily lives so that umbrellas were third appendages that sprouted periodically from our hands and wet socks were par for the course.

Every car in the PNW contains at least one umbrella.

Here, on the other hand, I’m not sure I’ve used an umbrella, ever. I have one or two – that haven’t been destroyed by my children, that is – but I just never use them. If it’s raining, I run for it. Here it rains in BATCHES. Two inches here, half an inch there, maybe even five inches other there. Very different from the day-long drizzles I’m used to.

In the Pacific Northwest, by the way, no one has rain gauges. Well, not nearly as many people as do out here, anyway. Rain is just part of life out there…why would I want to gauge my life in a tube? It’s far too depressing.

Me…in the empty lot next to our house.

2) The absence of the ocean.

I miss oceany things in the grocery store. I miss briny scents as I drive into town. I miss views of headlands and sprawling acres of gray, undulating seas. I miss the tides giving rhythm to my day.

When I first moved to the Duluth area, well-meaning people said to me, “Lake Superior must make you feel right at home.” Now, I know I’ve whined about this before so I’ll spare you my soap-box. Let me just say this: Lake Superior is awesome. BUT IT IS NOT THE OCEAN. For many reasons.

‘Nuf said.

Me again. It seemed appropriate for the time of year…

3) The language.

There is much which could be said about this topic. I’ll restrain myself for today and say only this: to me, “lunch” means a noon-time meal of sandwiches or macaroni and cheese, for example, combined with a glass of milk, a banana, and possibly a cookie if I’m feeling reckless. “Lunch” does not come at any other hour of the day, nor is it accompanied by the words, “a little”, nor does it consist of sweet treats such as tea ring, coffee cake, or ginger snap cookies.

In addition, “dinner” comes at approximately 6:00 p.m. and NOT at noon. (Except on Sundays, of course. Then it comes at noon and is the big meal of the day with an evening meal of popcorn or something else easy on Mom.) So if you want me to get to your house for a noontime meal, do not be calling it dinner. Or, conversely, don’t be surprised if I miss lunch at your house if you insist on calling it dinner. Unless, of course, you want me to miss it, then call it dinner to your hearts content.

“Supper” is a weird word that is rarely used in the Pacific Northwest. It’s known…but it’s suspect.

I’ll leave my tirade at this for now, but know this: I have much to say about “borrowing” me your pencil. My eyebrows are furrowed as we speak…


23 Responses to “You Can Take a Girl to the Midwest…But You Can’t Make Her Talk Right.”

  1. hotlyspiced September 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    I agree. A lake is never an ocean. And we’ve had 10 years of drought in Australia so I didn’t have an umbrella either. But in the last two years we’ve had non-stop rain and that was when we invested in some umbrellas. Drought is so much better but I would never say that to a farmer. I have a friend from Minnesota who now lives in Sydney and she used to say ‘supper’ all the time. I’ve never heard ‘borrowing my pencil’ before though. Love the photo of you win the flowers xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      Wow – ten years! That must have been terrible for farmers, yes. Around here we can’t help but think of the farmers! I always love your comments – thanks!

  2. Blue Bunny September 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    Try moving to liberty county Ga and you can hear words you didn’t know existed in the english language. As a matter of fact you may think you are in an other country. : )

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

      I believe you! If the accent doesn’t get you the vocabulary does, eh?! So glad you stopped by!

  3. ceciliag September 6, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Oh do I KNOW what you mean.. mercy! I could go on and on about that but i can’t because I am a foreigner and of course dinner is not dinner it is TEA! unless you go OUT to dinner and then there has to be a white table cloth and cutlery.. AND no-one uses cutlery out here.. don’t start me on this! perlease! c

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 7, 2012 at 7:16 am #

      Funny! Yes, you do understand. And do you use “serviettes” rather than napkins?! I was with my great aunt in Canada years ago and was setting the table and she told me to get the serviettes and I had no idea what she meant!

  4. treadlemusic September 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Supper, dinner, lunch (little or otherwise), borrow to/lend from(?!?), hot dish, covered dish, casserole, bars, etc, etc, etc……no wonder those from other countries (states!) have a difficult time learning and communicating with our language (speak “English”….what DOES THAT MEAN???????? just sayin’….hehe!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 7, 2012 at 7:17 am #

      Ah, yes – “hot dish” vs. “Casserole”…and, did you know, “Topper” vs. “Canopy” – as in, the things that go on and cover the back of a pick up truck! I still say “canopy” and my husband refuses to understand me when I do!!!

      • treadlemusic September 7, 2012 at 10:01 am #

        And “hood” (of the car) vs. “bonnet”!!!

        • Gretchen O'Donnell September 10, 2012 at 7:30 am #

          Does anyone in America actually say “bonnet”? It just seems so British…

        • treadlemusic September 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

          We laughingly did when we belonged to the VW Club (owned a “beetle”) and did road rallies!

        • Gretchen O'Donnell September 11, 2012 at 7:06 am #


        • treadlemusic September 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm #


  5. Sandy Anderson September 6, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    As a young bride, I committed an error – mistranslated being invited to lunch as meaning dinner, being in the evening. We arrived and sat around, waiting for a meal, which was not to be – it was ‘coffee’ we were invited to, called ‘lunch’ at the Wisconsin farm…
    We never use umbrellas here in Colorado, unless we go way up in the mountains where it actually rains!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 7, 2012 at 7:19 am #

      And I can just picture you there! Great story! Apparently this is not a new dilemma. Hopefully my children, at least, will be prepared – wherever they end up!!

  6. Minnesota Prairie Roots September 7, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Well, at least you showed up at my house at the proper time for supper, your dinner. And, as far as borrowing, I will never borrow you anything. I will lend it to you and you may borrow. Just saying that some of us Minnesotans understand the differences between those two words. I recall traveling to the East Coast during college and asking what kind of pop was available in a restaurant. I got a blank look. Oh, that should be “What kind of soda do you have?”

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 10, 2012 at 7:29 am #

      Yeah, that soda/pop one is funny, too – and, by the way, I grew up saying “pop”! And as for showing up on time, I’ve learned to ask for specific TIMES…not labels!

  7. Alice September 7, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    I love the delightful regionalisms of our language, but it is funny to get the blank stares.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 10, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      It definitely is best to enjoy the language and not get bundled over it, that’s for sure! I have learned to ask for a specific time rather than assume I know what “supper” means!!

  8. gardenfreshtomatoes September 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    My ex once started an argument among his grandmother and her four sisters about “dinner” and “supper”. It was the stuff of family legend…
    He was only about 10 at the time, so he was forgiven. Anyone else who made jokes about it – even decades later – was not…
    I suppose the point is that there’s no settling that one, even within the same family, none of whom ever lived outside of a tiny piece of Oklahoma!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell September 10, 2012 at 7:33 am #

      I honestly cannot imagine never living outside of a tiny piece of anywhere! Your story is funny, though…I guess you learn to keep your mouth shut and ask gentle questions!

  9. Sartenada November 2, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    What a lovely set of photos.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 2, 2012 at 7:13 am #

      Thanks! I’m no expert with a camera, that’s for sure, but I’m enjoying learning a few things!

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