This weekend, I flew to Warwick, R.I. to attend my 15-year high school reunion. For this blog to make sense, you should know that I lived in the Ocean State for five years, to the day, between 1987 and 1992. Born in Milwaukee, my family moved to R.I. when I was 13; I stayed on the East Coast for college, then moved back to Milwaukee in 1996.
I went solo to the event, opting against bringing my wife, who would know perhaps two people at the party. (It's not that I didn't want to prove to people that the kid with braces, big glasses and "A Flock of Seagulls" hair married a beautiful wife -- rather I'd like to show her where I lived during a less stressful, more laid-back trip).
So, for the first time, I sought to pay enough attention to my surroundings that I could properly explain what it's like living in this tiny state. It's been five years since my last trip (and just my fourth or fifth in 15 years), so I finally had enough distance, I thought, to view the weekend with an objective eye.
Arriving Thursday night, the first thing I noticed, of course, was the accent. When really strong, picture how a New Yorker would sound -- after he's been punched in the mouth. It's not just different pronunciation -- it's the syntax, colloquialisms and entirely different words that we're used to in Milwaukee.
Above and beyond the obvious dropping of R's, Rhode Islanders drop G's, too ("shopping" becomes "shoppin"). They also use adjectives like "wicked," "retarded," and "queer" with reckless abandon, as they did when I got there in '87. The concept of "PC" language doesn't resonate even with educated, enlightened people like it does here -- which isn't to say these people are homophobes or insensitive, because the majority are not (full disclosure: I found myself slipping these words back into my vocabularly within just a few hours at the "bah").
They call purses handbags. Subs are grinders. Milkshakes are cabinets. Cream for coffee is cal…Read more...