Thursday, February 21, 2008


So the other day driving to work a strange thought came to mind...

Garnish is a strange word. As a noun it's often (but not always) an edible accoutrement to embellish the presentation of food (usually in restaurants). Something that is added to make something better.

As a verb on the other hand, it generally means to take away-- as in garnishing wages. Something taken away, generally against one's will.

Speaking of language, one of the companies my company works with is based in Quebec. Whenever I call I get their receptionist which speaks a delightful hodge-podge that can probably best be described as Quebenglish. I generally need to speak to one of two people, both of which with very French-Canadian sounding names, so I try to "French it up" to confuse the receptionist... Sometimes she replies: "un momen' si vous plait" and other times it's more an "un momen' please." It really makes me miss my days growing up on the NY/Quebec border.

Here in the Chicago area I get a rather different mix of languages... Far more Spanish, little or no French, and a surprising smattering of Polish (although not too surprising, the Chicago area has the largest Polish population outside Warsaw), Italian, Vietnamese, Korean, and a handful of other languages. It's particularly interesting to scan the AM dial and pick up multiple Polish stations in addition to the many Spanish stations.

Speaking of Chicago... There is a Chicago accent. It's generally limited to those who live on the South Side of the city and hasn't really spread out to the burbs. Some examples of the Chicago accent:

Words with "th" endings drop the "h"-- So they aren't southsiders so much as Soutsiders.
Sammich -- people don't eat sandwiches, they eat "sammiches"
Sassage -- Many "soutsiders" like to have "sassage" in their "sammiches."
And on a chilly autumn Sunday afternoon many "soutsiders" are likely enjoyin' an Italian Beef "sammich" or possibly a "Maxwell Street Sassage" while watching Da Bears in their "frunchrooms."
The best way to experience the Chicago accent is to hear a press conference or interview with "hizzoner da mayor," Richard M. Daley has the stereotypical Chicago accent.

Oh and Chicago style hot dogs and pizza are da best!


Dantallion said...

I love the Frenglish that many people speak here - it's usually limited to the Montreal and Ottawa/Gatineau regions. It upsets many 'purists', who feel that the (French) language is being lost or bastardized, but it gives me the warm and fuzzies, somehow.

I'm a fluently bilingual Anglophone, and what often occurs in my daily business is that I'll speak in French to a Francophone, and he/she will respond in English. It's a respectful sort of banter that I always get a kick out of.

Lauren said...

That is super interesting about the word garnish. Never thought about it before but very very interesting!

Susan as herself said...

I am horrified almost daily by the Chicago dialect. I find it so gauche. (There is a good French word for ya.) My friend Mary is born and raised on the "Sout-side" and still lives there, and I cringe at her phraseology quite often.

Also, why do folks here call going to the movies "going to da show?" I am always confused by it, and think they mean a play!

Oh, and as a side note, I will always prefer NYC pizza to Chicago. I am surpised I have been allowed to live here.