Often, you can tell someone's a Long Islander if you're within hearing distance. Whether it's that distinct Long Island flavor or mispronunciations and misuse of words, our diction is a dead giveaway for where we live. We asked readers for true stories about accents and pet peeves in speech. Here are some edited responses:
My late father grew up on a farm in East Northport and went on to have an excavating business with his brother. Part of their business was to dig "sisspolls."
And I'll never forget "the 'earl' man came today" and "we got an 'earl' delivery."
--Margaret Hubner, East Northport
We drive across the country every year. While visiting Yellowstone National Park, a forest ranger who was talking to us yawned. My husband asked, "Did I make you yawn?" The ranger looked confused and said, "What's a yorn?"
In Chicago, our car started to overheat. My husband pulled next to a police car and asked, "Where can I get some water?" The officer said, "What is worter?" Often, I'm the interpreter.
--Sherman and Sandy Robinson, Oakdale
A particularly annoying gaffe is using "anxious" when one means "eager." "Anxious" implies a sense of dread, while "eager" has a positive connotation. I can understand being anxious to meet one's in-laws for the first time, but why would one be anxious to try out a new restaurant unless it was been rumored to serve E. coli-laced food?
--Tracey Simon, Oceanside
So, we are at my nephew Andrew's fifth birthday party, and my brother-in-law is standing next to me as I am videotaping the children playing. All of a sudden, he yells to his 4-year-old daughter, "Lysa, don't you want no cake?" I turn and look at him with my jaw on the floor, and he yells it again, louder. I looked at him. He didn't comprehend how he sounded or the comedic value it would have as we watch the tape in years to come.
--Joan Burbes, North Bellmore
My husband and I cringe at the misuse of the pronouns "I" and "me" when speaking about oneself and another person. The rule: use "I" for a subject and "me" for an object; if in doubt, remove the other pronoun and determine which is correct. For example, should it be "it was a tough decision for Mary and I," or " . . . Mary and me"? If you remove "Mary," the sentence should read "it was a tough decision for me."
Another pet peeve is the misuse of apostrophe "s" when pluralizing nouns, such as "Daily Special's" or "Free Soda's."
--Marleen Fenton, East Meadow
After a certain age (I am far beyond "a certain age"), some people going into a diner or restaurant may not want to hear: "How you 'guys' doin'? What can I getcha?" or "Everything OK here, 'guys'?"
--Patricia Rosalia, Levittown
There are two offenders that rank high. The first is the mispronunciation of the word "ask." How many times can I "ax" people to pronounce it correctly? The second is the use of "have went" instead of "have gone." I once heard a news anchor say that the victims "should have went to the police."
--Ellen Edelstein, Brentwood
I always thought the correct spelling for the word dilemma is "d-i-l-e-m-n-a" but cannot find this spelling now. I am 80 years of age, so I must have missed school that day. Have many words changed their spelling over the years?
--Mary Cawley, Middle Village
I was in Nebraska for a high school reunion, trying to get to the Missouri River to cross over to Iowa, but I was lost. I pulled into a convenience store and said, "Can you tell me where the river is?" Since I'm an old Valley Stream boy, the word came out "rivah." The man behind the counter laughed and said, "Rivah? Where are you from? We don't say that here."
--John Cunningham, New York City
The misuse of the word "for" is annoying. When something is free, the correct terminology is not "for free." Another annoyance is the use of "um" between every third word. We were taught to stop and wait for our brain and mouth to catch up. It is called "speech art."
--Marion DeVito, Patchogue
I wrote this in response to all the "I'm like" people that I know.
A Modern Day Conjugation
I'm like; you're like; he's like; she's like; it's like; we're like; you're like; they're like . . . I don't like.
--Chris Month, Stony Brook
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