Friday, June 20, 2008

Mysteries of American regional English

My poll revealed that most of my readers say "lightning bug" rather than "firefly." The weird thing is, a lot of the people who say "lightning bug" come from more or less the same region of the country that I do, and I say "firefly." I'm grew up in Buffalo, NY for those of you who don't know. I asked Jon, who grew up a few blocks from me, and he says firefly too. I'm trying to remember my childhood summers in Vermont and Canada, but I don't recall thinking the kids I knew there used a different word than I did, and I do recall the fireflies were a frequent topic of discussion due to some kids' trick of killing them and wiping the phosphorescence on their arms in order to glow in the dark. I never did that.

The regional differences in American English are interesting to me. I like the southernisms I hear down here in Virginia. Like being told to "have a good evening" at ten o'clock in the morning. Or hearing a shopping cart called a "buggy," hearing trousers referred to as "britches," people saying they "about fell out," exclaiming "great day" when they are surprised, and mothers referring to their children as "brother" and "sister."

Why do parking garages, even brand-new parking garages, always smell like urine? The big new garage near UVA, next to the Studio Art Shop smells like a toilet already and it just opened.

That is all I have for today.


  1. That urine smell in the parking garages was created by UVA bigwigs who want to mark their territory. They worked so hard to raise the $$$ to build the garage (and other buildings) that they need to leave their mark, so to speak.

  2. I'm so irritated by the lack of curb cuts and reasonable sidewalks on 11th street that I had to express my frustration by peeing in all the corners of the parking garage every time I walk by. Do you know how much water I have to carry to make it that far? It's crazy! I'm going to have to get a wheelie bag just to haul the water.

  3. one time i was talking to a fellow (not a guy, not a man, and not a feller) from england. we were laughing about the differences in english english and american english. he informed me that in england pants are underwear. since then i always use the term trousers.

    i'm not even sure which term i use, firefly or lightening bug. i think both. though i think firefly more often. i've lived all over the place, but grew up mostly in pa, directly south of buffalo.

  4. Jocelyn--did you notice how they put the crosswalk across 11th street so that you end up directly in the line of traffic coming out of the garage? Whose bright idea was that?

  5. Yes, the pedestrian situation on 11th street is just peachy. It's pretty crazy. And the signage for that garage is amazing. Out of towners are constantly backing out of the right hand side entrance so they can go into their proper entrance that looks like an exit.