So last week there was a come-and-go for Ma and Pa’s 50th, out at the Quonset, in the R.M., just past the slough off the grid road.
I forgot to hit up the L.B.S. on my dinner break, so we stopped at the offsale in the hotel. Jerry drove home and almost took us into the dugout — had to change my gitch after that.
Then we got there and I spilled Pil all over my bunnyhug. It still needs cleaned.
It’s taken me roughly three-and-a-half years to reach the point where I could interpret the preceding three paragraphs.
Growing up in Ontario, if I’d overheard anyone talking like that, I’d have assumed it was some kind of code language. It’s amazing how we can detect distinct differences in regional dialects across Canada, even when you’re only a couple of provinces away from home.
After two years in Davidson and 18 months in Moose Jaw, I’ve had enough of a Prairie education to understand some of the regional sayings and expressions that Ontario people would never recognize.
(To be fair, I’m sure some of the confusion is due to my urban upbringing, as some of these phrases would probably be familiar to rural people coast to coast.)
Working as a reporter helped in that regard. I’m not naturally an outgoing person, but I was forced to dive right into things, get to know people and understand what they’re saying.
While reporting from town council meetings, terms like “nuisance ground” were the source of much confusion.
Covering events made me familiar with terms like “beer gardens” and “midnight lunch,” which still sounds like a contradiction to me — since we always called the noon meal lunch back home.
To this day, whenever I hear of a small town hosting an event with a cabaret, the image of Liza Minnelli pops into my head.
I also had to adjust to the system of rural municipalities, similar to counties and townships in Ontario.
When I didn’t understand, I had to ask or try to piece it together — the former being a much safer bet. But some things really threw me off guard — like the pronunciation of certain town names.
I was foxed by names like Findlater, Kenaston and Dilke, none of which were pronounced the way I initially guessed. Fortunately, I was usually briefed on these matters before I embarrassed myself.
One winter, I was interviewing our MP. He mentioned one of the communities he was visiting — Marquis — and I almost did a double take because he pronounced it as if it was an English word, rather than a French word.
I didn’t want to question a politician’s intelligence to his face, and it’s a lucky thing I didn’t, because when I returned to the office I discovered he was simply pronouncing it the way everyone else here does.
I’ve noticed some variation in speech patterns, where certain verbs get dropped. This appears to be more common in rural areas, where you’ll hear people say things like “I was on YouTube and I seen this video” or “The car needs fixed.”
Also, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that many of you pronounce Co-op as a single-syllable word, more like “Kwop.”
I must say that you’ve all been patient with me, and over the last few years I think I’ve learned to be a better listener — out of pure necessity.
Now I can more or less blend in around here, verbally speaking. I can usually understand you and make myself understood, and I feel much more at home. The winters, however, are still a different story.
Follow Joel van der Veen on Twitter @JVDV88.