Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Trip - Back in Cisco Again

After we left my aunt's house in North Carolina, we pretty much made a bee-line for Cisco. No more sight-seeing, beyond looking at the scenery along the interstate. We took I-85 to Atlanta, where we caught I-20 and stayed on that all the way home.

Our internet access suffered as a result. One RV Park had secure internet, but because they had family visiting from England, they had the office closed and their "after hours" info didn't include the secret security key for the WiFi. Another place had unsecured WiFi, but they must have had a satellite link, because the lady at the office said they couldn't get to the internet on cloudy or rainy days, and that was our first seriously overcast day in a couple weeks. I got internet access at one place just long enough to pay my bills on time, and that was about it. It sure is nice to be back where the internet works all the time.

Now that our Northeastern Loop has ended, the most striking thing about that trip was how quickly the accents changed. Some of the changes were expected: A little more "R" in the non-Boston parts of Massachusetts than there were in Maine, the New-York-lite accent in Philadelphia. But it seemed as though we had hardly left Pennsylvania before we started being met with Southern Drawl. In one day we cut across parts of Maryland and West Virginia and stopped in Northern Virginia for the night. They're so close, so how can they speak so differently?

There are words, in the non-accented American English, that are one-syllable words, but some of them become two-syllable words (or almost) in certain parts of the country. I already mentioned a couple of them from New York (Dawn, sauce). Back in Texas, the name, Jim, can be two syllables: "Jee-uhm." In North Carolina, though, Jim was "Jim," but now became "nay-oh" and self became "say-ulf." Those two words are one syllable in Texas.

When we stayed overnight in Vicksburg, Mississippi, I overheard a woman talking on her cell phone in the restrooms (!!). She was leaning against the sinks, but still... That's not my point though. She said something about being "over in Mississippi," so she was probably from Northern Louisiana, but possibly from Alabama. Then she went on to say, "I'm Zack's wife." The word, "wife," came out with a major nasal sound along with the drawn-out "ah" for the "i."

This is America, and we're not supposed to have nasals in our language, but there it was. And it sounded exactly like a preacher I watched on a video, when he said "Why?" Very distinctive, but I can't remember where he was from.

Nasals are what they have in French (and in Polish, but nobody here knows about that). I used to work with a guy who was married to a woman from somewhere south of Mexico, so he spoke Spanish fluently and thought the language was beautiful. Not like French, he'd say, where they have that nasal thing that makes the language sound ugly. Then he'd pronounce the word, "Renault" with two nasals to prove his point, even though Renault doesn't have any nasals in it.

But proper English doesn't have any nasals in it. Or so I thought, before I watched "Pride and Prejudice," with Keira Knightley, who is from England and knows how to pronounce British English correctly. There's the scene, after Mr. Bingley leaves for London and Jane is sure he never really loved her, and Elizabeth (Keira) says, "He loves you, Jane. Do not give up." And she says, "up," with a nasal. I've watched that movie a bunch of times, and the nasal appears at random times in the conversation, without any detectable rules for usage. Strange, but it proves my theory that only Americans (of the non-accented variety) know how to pronounce English properly.

Accents weren't the only interesting thing on our trip. There were signs posted that confused me. The first one was on the interstate, possibly in New York. It was a blue sign, like a Rest Area sign, which we were looking for, but it said, "Service Area." Huh? Well, nothing was broken, so we didn't need any servicing of our vehicles, so we passed it. But it was a gas station and McDonalds's and presumably had restrooms. After I thought about it a while, it made sense that there would be a place for people to get food and gas on a toll road without having to leave (and pay a toll) and then get back on (and pay another toll). But the name wasn't very clear to someone from a place where the only toll roads make you get off (and pay a toll) when you need to get gas.

In Massachusetts, there was a town with a sign near the City Limits sign. It said, "A Heart Healthy Community." When I asked, my sister-in-law said it meant the town had some programs to encourage the citizens to get exercise and eat healthy. I'm not sure if they used any draconian measures to ensure compliance, though. I would hope not. There were other signs near their town that even my brother didn't know what they meant. Not very helpful...

When we crossed the border into Mississippi from Alabama, we passed the Welcome to Mississippi sign (and understood it completely), and then we saw a sign that said, "Zero Tolerance Enforcement In Progress." Zero tolerance of what? Speeding? Drinking and driving? Smoking? Spitting? Drugs? Hate-speech? Guns in schools? Public displays of affection? Dogs on the grass in the wrong part of the Rest Area? We never got an answer. And we never violated the zero tolerance policy, whatever it was. At least, not when the cops were looking.

We're at home now, in Texas, where (like the rest of the South) ordering iced tea always prompts a follow-up question: "Sweet or unsweetened?" Unsweetened, please. No lemon. And may I have a straw?

Scooter made himself right at home. He went straight to the back wall of the dining room and looked for his food dish, which I was bringing in from the motorhome. And when my mom unblocked his doggie-door, he used it to go outside and take care of business. Then he took up his post on the back of the couch, even though the window shade was blocking his view of the front yard.

All is well.

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