By: L.A. Kohl
January 30, 2006
(published in the Feb. 22, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")
Most of you reading this article were most likely born and raised in Missouri. That makes us about as Midwestern as you can get, right? I suppose technically back in the 1800’s we were classified as a “slave” state, thus uniting us with other southern states…but just look at a United States map. It seems to me you can’t get much more “middle” than Missouri.
When I was growing up, I remember a conversation with some fellow classmates - I believe we were enlightened junior high students at the time. We all agreed that Missourians talked "normal." After all, we talked like most other people that we heard talking on the news, on TV shows, and in the movies. Didn’t we?
Those people down south had their slow, distinct drawl (“just ‘cuz I talk slow doesn’t mean I’m stupid”) and people up north had their characteristic, fast way of talking (ay?). But Missourians? Well, we just talked like regular people.
That was before a girl from Minnesota moved to our small town during our freshman year. She spent a fair amount of time during her first few months enlightening all of us to the errors of our speech. She later became one of my best friends, but during most of our freshman year, she sometimes had a way of making us feel like we were just a bunch of ignorant hicks.
I remember several ribbings about the word “y’all." Seems like there were also a couple of teaching sessions on the differences in pronunciation of the words “pin” and “pen." But I distinctly remember the day she decided to let us know that we all said the word "wash" incorrectly.
"There is not an 'r' in the word -- you're supposed to say it 'wash,' not 'warsh,'" she explained to a small group of us that was gathered around during lunch break. (You pronounce “warsh” like war with a “sh” on the end, in case you’re not from Missouri and don’t know how to say it.)
Well, it was hard to argue with her. Even though most of us preferred to say "warsh," we were all literate enough to know that "r" did not make an appearance anywhere in the word. We sat there rather humiliated and dumbfounded, wondering how we could convince this “Yankee” that we really weren’t as ignorant as our speech sometimes made us out to be.
The basketball coach, who was sitting nearby, decided to restore our dignity and come to our Midwestern defense with his own unique reasoning.
"Okay, I understand that when I’m talking about laundry, I'm talking about the 'wash' and not the 'warsh,'" he politely conceded. "But I tell you what -- when a big rainfall comes, the gravel road definitely does NOT 'wash' out -- it 'warshes' out!"
With a lot of laughter and a few high fives, that was the end of that Missouri style English lesson.