Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Toast on a Heel

My wife prides herself in speaking properly, being an elementary school librarian and teacher. I also make it a point to speak clearly and correctly, especially when teaching. However, I am a firm believer in "code-switching," the ability to speak appropriately depending on the social situation. When I'm not at work, or giving a reading or presentation, I allow my speech to relax and fall back on the Southwestern Virginia dialect I grew up on. My wife notices it even more when we drive up to Woodlawn, Virginia, to visit my parents. Though she won't admit it, my wife has a bit of her own Burke County, NC, dialect when she's at home. I thought I caught her the other day using it, but was humorously mistaken.

We were with her parents one weekend, when talk turned to breakfast. I already knew she didn't like eggs, but when she said she didn't like making "toast on a heel," I thought she meant "hill," because she pronounced it more like "heeyuhl."

"What do mean? Do you think it toasts differently at higher elevations? Are you afraid it's going to slide off your plate and roll to the bottom?" I asked. She just gave me that look she normally does when I make completely no sense, which is quite often sometimes. "You said you didn't like making toast on a 'heeyuhl.'"

"No, I said 'heel.'" I then immediately got what she meant, but just to be funny I kept yanking her chain.

"Fill in the blank for me -- 'Jack and Jill went up the _______.'" I swear she said it the same way at first, then corrected herself when she realized I was making fun of her.

To be fair, she always teases me whenever I talk about "strawburries" and "blackburries," or when I say I have a load of clothes in the "warsh," so I can't really tease her too much about it, but the running joke continues.

By the way, I like eating toast on a "heeyuhl," but not on a "heel." Those end pieces always taste like the plastic bag they came in to me.