A long road stretch out ahead like a never ending run on a treadmill. Nothing is better than a road trip from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, all the way to North Platte, Nebraska, to see my aunt and her family again after 10 years. On top of that was getting to meet my cousin Jenny for the very first time. My sister Mey and I had talked to my aunt’s family countless of times over the phone and had never noticed the differences between our speech, until we had finally met.
The difference is subtle, subtle yet sharp like the sound of a pin drop. It all started from the conversation between Mey and Jenny.
“Mey, do you want a lillipop?”
“Huh, what’s a lillipop Jenny?¨
“You never had a lillipop?”
Out of all the confusion, we finally realized a lillipop is actually what we call a lollipop. Jenny grew up in North Platte, but had moved back and forth from Lincoln, she had said that most people call that type of candy a lillipop and does not hear much of the term lollipop. I come to realize that it’s not much of the full sentence that has an accent you’ll notice, but it’s the way specific words are said that makes it different.
One day my aunt called out to the little ones and I,
“Kiddos, come down it’s dessert time!” We came down to make ourselves an ice-cream sundae, and I had asked my aunt,
“Auntie can you pass me the caramel?”
Aunt and Jenny laughed, because they don’t hear it often the way I say caramel as “car-ra-mel, while they said it like “carmal.” My aunt told me this part of North Platte she’s in everyone knows everybody or knows how everyone talk, and they would know that I am not from around there right when I open my mouth. I felt as if I was a foreigner who was pronouncing things wrong. I started to feel uncomfortable with meeting my aunt’s friends or to talk to people in the neighborhood. I was a afraid to sound like a walking alien. The hardest part was being approached by nebraskan in that area, since everyone seems to love starting conversations with anyone.
Words are pronounced in many different ways throughout the U.S and some places do share similarities, yet certain places can automatically tell you’re not from that are. People of certain areas are so used to hearing what they normally hear or considers the normal. Just like in Philly with food, if you don’t use hoagie and use sub, they can identify you right there and then that you are not a Philadelphian.
Sometimes it’s the accent that can let people point out what region or place you’re from, it can just be simple by the use of a word that’s uncommon in a certain area. One day I walked into my aunt’s donut shop for breakfast. We told our aunt and uncle that Jenny and us are on a trip to Snake River Fall.
My aunt asked, “Ling, you sure you wanna go like that, where’s your tennis kiddo?
“Huh? I never brought any tennis equipment to Nebraska. auntie.”
“You don’t know what a tennis is kiddo?”
I was very confused until I finally realized she was talking about sneakers. Then on the way to Snake River Fall, we got lost, getting stuck in the middle of no where, which was surrounded by tall fields of grass. Finally saw a ranch when to ask for which route as in “root” to take, end up realizing they call it a “rut” instead.
It’s the few words that my family and I would say to sound so foreign in that area. I started to notice how different my family and I were. As soon as we ask for directions or when I had spoke, they can tell and guess what part of the U.S we were most likely from. I knew just by the look of their faces, some even started a conversation which ended up asking or guessing what state we were from. I did not mind it at first, but the longer I stayed, the less I wanted to talk, because I got tired of hearing the differences that made me felt like the way I speak was the wrong way my whole life. When to me, it sounds like they were the funny one. Also how they move their mouth in order to pronounce certain words, I tried myself and it felt very strange, trying to get the word out like how they did.
My mom probably had a harder time than my sister and I did when it come to speaking without people going,
“Huh, repeat that again?”
She has an accent from her motherland combine with how english is in Philly sounded. We never thought how few words said can make you stand out so much.
A quote from the article “The Woman Warrior” by Maxine Hong Kingstan was, “It was when I found out I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence became a misery.” It somewhat relate to how I was feeling. Even though it’s a different situation, I found myself double checking what I was going to say to make sure it was one of those words that’s pronounced differently. It’s not bad that they know we’re from somewhere else, it’s the fact that we constantly have to repeat ourselves because of a few words, or how we tend to drop the ending of the words.
I personally like the experience in the beginning, finding it interesting how only a few states away, a word can be pronounce so different and dominant in an area. As days went on, it got less funny and interesting, but more of an annoyance like a non stop bee buzz.I really enjoyed my time in Nebraska, saw more cows than I had ever did back in Philly, and they sure do pronounce things in such weird ways. I do like the people we met though, just not the language pronunciation part, I enjoyed seeing their facial expression more than actually talking to them. The way we talk probably sounded really hilarious to them too, even steven I have to say. I can’t wait to visit North Platte, Nebraska again!