Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Down By the Lake (or How To Speak Sheboyganese)

by Wendy Burke

      I must admit, at one time I had a terrible accent – no not that gorgeous Southern Belle ‘Nawlin’s drawl. I mean a SHEBOYGAN accent. That’s Sheboygan as in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (There’s another blog lurking about how allegedly native of Wisconsinites pronounce the state WisGONsin, but that’s for another day!)
    Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Since, I left college hoping to make my living in radio; the quaint, yet obvious, Sheboygan accent had to go.
     Before you go running to your medical symptoms dictionary, a Sheboyganese accent is not a physical malady (well, not ANYMORE for me) but at one time, it was fairly prominent.
     To set the stage, Sheboygan, Wisconsin is a lovely – and I do mean BEAUTIFUL city of 50-some-thousand right on Lake Michigan half way between Milwaukee (or M’waukee in Sheboyganese) and Green Bay. It was an outstanding place to grow up.  The accent of the true Sheboyganite, however, is so pronounced and so specific that even those in other parts of Wisconsin can tell if someone is from Sheboygan.
    Lovely, lovely town, but, it has its linguistic idiosyncrasies both verbally and in verbiage.
    To set the stage, think of Frances McDormand in the movie FARGO. I have to say, one of the reasons I will watch that dark flick every time it’s on, is BECAUSE of the true-to-life accents – Sheriff Marge Gunderson (married to Norm – that son of a Gunderson) is what I at one time sounded like and what many of my friends and relatives STILL sound like back in that fine berg. (GRUMPY OLD MEN also falls into that ‘homey accent’ category.)
    My dear friend from the time I was two years old, Laurie (last name withheld to protect the innocent) has the most beautiful Sheboygan accent. During a visit one Christmas, she conjured up the spirit of Marge Gunderson and said to my husband as he sipped a beer, ‘Youah knoah that lady in Fargoah? I was soah embarrassed, I thought I sounded just like her.’ It’s a good thing we all knew the Heimlich, we had to dislodge the beer can from my betrothed’s throahat, (throat in English) he sucked it in while laughing so hard….with Laurie of course! (Love ya, Laurie Jean Punkin… last name withheld to protect the innocent!)
    Going along with that style of accent, I grew up counting like my very old uncle, ‘one, tooah, tree.’ We would ‘go der’ and ‘take dat,’ and ‘bring deez ones, enso.’ (To translate: ‘go there,’ ‘take that,’ and ‘bring these, okay.’)
     Any word with or ending in a long ‘o’ or ‘a’ automatically had it drawn out – ‘Where are youah goahing?’ ‘Take your coaht if you’re going to buy soahp.’ ‘Noahp, doahn’t knoah where to goah. But maybe by the Laaaake, ensoah?’
   Oh, Yah.
     Growing up, my (and others’) speech was dotted with ‘Yahs,’ and ‘enzoahs.’ (Which I will explain momentarily, enso?)
    Going back to the title of this blog, ‘down by’ is in regular-standard-American English ‘to’ or ‘at.’ ‘Bei’ (pronounced BY) in German is ‘at’…so with all the Deutsche in the area it made sense. ‘I’m going by my friend’s house,’ or ‘You want? I’m going by the store, enso.”
   So now that you know where you are (or ‘are at,’ if you’re from Toledo, Ohio – but that’s another topic for yet another blog) it’s time to learn some of the more ‘colorful’ phrases in Sheboyganese! Yay!
    ‘Let’s ‘goah down by the Laaake, once yet, ensoah?’ This statement includes proper (well Sheboyganese pronunciation.) As for translation – ‘Let’s go to the Lake.’  Say that to anyone in Sheboygan, they’ll point you east…Lake Michigan is always east if you’re in Wisconsin.
     But, hey, der! (Or ‘hey there’ in English) look at all those extra words!
    For some reason, everything in my hometown was done once. ‘C’mere once,’ ‘let’s goah by the mall once.’ And for some reason, - once- a vast majority of the time was followed with ‘enso.’ Or ‘and so.’  Who knows why!’
    And ‘yah’ is a given – direct translation form the German ‘ja’ or ‘yes.’
    Zoah, now that you got dat down, once, you can talk like a Cheezer! J (That would be a Cheesehead – Wisconsin natives - for those of you who haven’t heard.) (cheesehead pic)
    I’m back next week with more Sheboyganese – next Wednesday, learn how to tell the difference between a fryer and a Weber- why you should never put your mouth on a bubbler- tasty coolers are great on a hot summer day – and how to have fun at the Coahhoah (Coho) Derby! (coho fishy here)

Wendy Burke blogs regularly for A Daily Dose of Decadence and is currently in the editing process on RESPITE, a post-WWII romance to be published soon by Decadent Publishing. She can be found on Facebook – Wendy Burke Author, at her blog site, Whatever Wendy! and lurking around the Internet – usually giving Deanna Wadsworth ( a load of crap because she truly deserves it. When not playing with the people in her head, Wendy has a fine life with a chef husband (YES – no cooking!) and two furry feline kids and a full-time job that keeps her from writing fulltime in ‘beautiful’ Toledo, Ohio.



Deena said...

Oh Wendy, you had me in tears! I just got up off the floor from rolling on it! I can't wait for our next lesson, fer sure. I'll be here, enso?

Hales said...

I'm still sick and lauging inspires coughing fits. Gotta take a inhaler puff now lol! Too funny :)

Author Leanne Dyck said...

Love this--looking forward to more.
Never thought I had an accent until I was at a Christmas party with strangers. I struck up a conversation with a guy. "You were raised in the Manitoba's Interlake, right?" I had just moved to BC and was feeling a little homesick. His pronouncement delighted me.

Gracen Miller said...

Hmm...I didn't realize my southern accent was considered "gorgeous". LOL

Thanks for the laugh, Wendy! It seems we all butcher good ole' English words wherever we live. Do you know what a "piller" or "tomater" is? In Southern Alabama lingo, it's "pillow" and "tomato". =D Where I grew up, we called the "trash can on wheels" a HOBO. When I moved just an hour north in the same state to go to college, I called the city and asked for a HOBO. They had no clue what I was talking about. lol


Sheila said...

Tanks foah duh lesson.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for the fun post. It's interesting to hear the accents from different places. I wonder if I sound like the kids from Jersey Shore, since I live in NJ. lol

Wendy Burke said...

If ohnly we could all be sitting by da laaaake, sipping a soahda, eatin' a brat ensoh?

Vielen Dank for the comments!

Constance Phillips said...

Wonderful post, and I had the added visual from you explaining all of this at a lunch not that long ago.

Maureen said...

Ah, to live in California where there is no accent.

Fer shur, D-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-de!

I have a friend who just moved to LaCross, must send her this blog address!


Redameter said...

You know we all talk with some kind of accent, even the ones that don't have any. Down here in Texas we got our own, but I never listened to it. One should listen.

This was interesting. I love hearing accents, but sometimes because I'm nearly deaf, I can't understand people. Forgive me!

Love and blessings
Rita (and a Texan never laughs at an accent)

Anonymous said...

I got new ideer whatcher takin' aboot. I never spook like that when I was in WisCANsin.


Kelly Daniels said...

Uff da! What a great post, der. I almost fell off da davenport I was laughin so hard. :0)

I guess I've lived just over the border in Illinois for to long. I say WisCONsin. (and Pop, never Soda)

~Kelly Daniels

Unknown said...

Wendy! Thank you so much for this post. It brought a tear to my eye - both hysterically and sentimentally. I'm a homegrown Cheezer, transplanted in Pittsburgh. I miss hearing the WI accent SO much. I miss soadah and bubblers! Not to mention carrying things in a bahx or saying hi to people with names like Dahn (Don) and Jahn (John). The Pittsburgh accent is so different. My kids adopted it within 2 weeks of living here. Now, instead of them calling me Mahm, they call me Mawm. :(

Wendy Burke said...

@ Gina -- we'll talk about BUBBLERS, FRYERS, and WEBERS next week! :)

Ohah...and GOAH PACK!

Mari Freeman said...

Whoooa there, Missy. That's there's a might much for a little 'ole girl from Texas!