When in Rome, Talk Like the Romans

When I was in college my friends were afraid to have me meet their families. I don't really blame them. I'm not totally sure what all of the reasons were, but I think the primary was the fact that I have a mouth like a sailor. I'd like to thank my family for the gift of vulgarity. I was raised among blue collar workers, loggers, truckers, and a generally loving, yet tough crowd of people. I spent many a night coloring at the kitchen table of my grandmother's house, surrounded by adults chain smoking, drinking coffee or beer, and arguing about anything and everything. Every other word was an f-bomb of something of the like.

My mom, a selective swearer, taught me a few rules about using my vocabulary wisely. I was allowed to swear at home but never at school or in the presence of non-family adults. I'm proud to say I never got detention in school nor do I think most adults in my life knew about my potty mouth. That is except for my BFF's mom, whose house I spent a great deal of time in, and who knew full well that her daughter's trash talk was greatly influenced by yours truly.

Growing up as a blue collar Hilltown kid, I adopted lots of slang, not just the kind that could get me suspended from school. I've noticed when I return home I have a tendency to drop the last letter of a word, particularly gerunds, and to use other unique phrases:

"I was talkin' to her an she was sayin' that it was prit near time to go..."

These kids are drivin' me f'in' crazy. All they do is slop drinks all day.

This cat keeps rootin' into me.

What time is it? Turpen-time!"

My liberal arts education clashed with the language of my upbringing, but I adapted. A great deal of writing, reading, and critical thinking assisted me in adopting a much more academic way of speaking. By senior year, my college friends could even invite me to social functions with their family where I could discuss 19th century furniture and material culture with their grandmas, totally free of profanity and full of gerunds.

Graduate school and a decade of professional life has furthered a change in my vocabulary. I have adopted work-speak, using phrases like:

"I'll reach out and touch base with him next week.

Kindly return the attached document at your convenience. Best Regards, M.

The challenge we are presented with is examining the pedagogy as it relates to the strategic framework."

I suppose when in Rome, I talk like the Romans. When I am at my birth home, I slip back into a comfortable place where it makes more sense to use straight forward words, drop letters not needed, and fill in the blanks with swears and slang. I have been mentored professionally by a few awesome writers and speakers and use their communication methods as a model for myself.

At home with Andy and the girls, I have found a happy medium although Andy lectures me often about my use of swears. I think I use a different kind of slang with the kids. We use words like poop, buggy (who reading this knows what that means in my house?), pee pee, potty, tubby, and blankie." At my house, you might overhear this coming from me:

"Please stop putting your hands in the potty.

Put on your listening ears, please.

No, you may not ride the dog. Ever."

We have a lot of please, thank you, and no going on in our house.I do my best to use an up-beat teacher voice, until I break out into a full scream.

Here's what's curious that I've noted of late. I have a different tone and vocabulary at home, but usually only when talking to Andy. If we are having a casual conversation, and I like him, I may say something like:

"Dude. You are a fool. That is hilarious.

Hey, what's up? Can you pick up milk on the way home?

O.M.G. Shut the front door. Are you serious?"

As you can see, it's a little valley girl mixed with some basic phrases. But, let's say I am mad at Andy and he's pushing some buttons. The conversation could a little like this:

"As I stated previously, I placed the diapers and wipes beside the diaper bag.

I'd rather you not be late and that you arrive home on time this evening.

I do not know where to locate your keys. I suggest you find a consistent spot to place them in the future."

It's a sure bet that work-talk with Andy is going to lead to an explosion of expletives in the near future:

"I find it disconcerting that you spent $100 on toy soldiers on ebay. What? You are the breadwinner so you deserve to splurge once in a while? Well, you motherf'ing a-hole, go to hell!"

I wish that I could provide you with a pithy summary of why it is I have a variety of phrases and tones depending on my environment. I do apologize if, at some point in our relationship, I have embarrassed you for something I have said. Just be glad you aren't my husband or kids. Or just pretend you don't know me. That's what Andy does, even at home.


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