Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where'd we get that "North Coast Drawl"?

I've only been in the Eel River Valley since I was born so I can’t say what influences might have effected our language before that time. But when I was young there were still a lot of “Okies”, “Arkies” and people from the poor states moving to California to get jobs. Their language was heavily accented and simplified. In the earlier days, there were a considerable amount of Irish and Scandinavians that had moved here to work in the woods, mills and fishing industries. And then, there were the local Pioneers that had been here from the gold rush days. They had lived in the Eel valley since then and had little means to get an education.

Until I recognized the accent I would say, “Huh?”, Then they would repeat what they said much slower and more distinctly, but their speech still contained their misconceptions of the way words were pronounced, and their sentence structure was much more simplified than it is today, as in there was no such words as “were” or “whom.” I think that the language got simplified because there were so many Scandinavians, that had to learn English, that it was easier to speak a simplified form, and after all, language is not about correctness, it is about communicating. So, everyone slipped into a pigeon English form of speaking until it became our local dialect.

We spoke that way until the newcomers showed up and brought their "Proper English" with them. Being that it was probably apparent that we didn't appreciate their intrusion, they took great joy in correcting each and everything that we did wrong. Our way of speaking was paramount in their criticism. It caused me to speak much more slowly than I normally would, because I would be thinking about sentence structure along with what ever else I might be saying.

I had the good fortune to have known my great grandmother when I was growing up. She was born in Laytonville in a cabin at home. She was a very small baby. She was kept in a shoe box on the open door of an oven for an incubator. As an adult and in her later life she was married to a man that was quite deaf. She often had to repeat herself, and she became quite used to doing so, she would say something, and then she would say, without prompting, ”I say”, and repeat herself much more slowly and distinctly, but her language was “Pioneer Uneducated”. I loved her dearly, she was my kind of folk.

The combination of all the different factors, language, region, difficulty hearing, and so on, is what I think caused the slow talking “North Coast Drawl”. If you want a damn fool’s opinion.

Oh yeah, I left out that the men folk, when by themselves, had the most colorful way of talking that you ever heard. Every other word was a swear word whether it was needed or not. Then, there was special swear words for extra emphasis. That was back in the day’s when men were men, or at least they thought they were. And when they were around women, or polite company, they talked much more slowly because they were carefully deleting the swear words between every other word. I've given three theory’s on the “North Coast Drawl“, both educated guesses. Educated by the fact that I lived it. You decide!

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