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Thursday, October 22, 2009


I was in the old Marsh Store in Portland, Ind., would have been about 1990. Karen was at home with the kids and I was doing the grocery shopping.

In the produce department, I was looking at apples and not finding a price, I asked the attendant simply: "How much are them apples?"


In my mind I replayed those last few words. Did I really say "them apples"?

I had.

Then it dawned on me . . .Since I moved to Indiana in 1984, I've picked up a little bit of the Hoosier dialect.

Indiana English is an interesting amalgam of cultures and voices. I think there are subtelties of the ancient Indiana languages that underlay our history: quiet murmurings and innuendos that you have to be part of to understand.

There is the German influence: until World War I, German was the second most commonly spoken language here, and even then, most of them didn't give it up willingly. Until the mid-90's, the public radio station in Fort Wayne still ran it's weekly "Die Deutsche Stunde" - the German Hour. (Many Hoosiers may no longer speak German, but they're Germans at heart.)

Another big influence on Indiana English is Mountain English, as in Kentucky mountains. In the depression, many unemployed southerners (including my in-laws) made their way to Indiana to work in the automobile factories, which became munitions plants in World War II. In addition to the auto industry, later developments in recreational vehicles, steel, and other heavy manufacturing gave rise to many opportunities.

Here are some examples:
"I've ate . . ." - Excuse me? In the rest of the English speaking world, one 'has eaten' something. However, I can't tell you the number of times I hear Hoosiers say, "I've ate three pieces of pie."

"You'ns . . ." - I think this is a carry over from those Germans I mentioned earlier. People tell me that 'you'ns' is common in Pennsylvania, too, which tends to make me think this way.

"Hamburger sandwich" - When I told my Dad that people in Indiana often say "Hamburger sandwich" I thought he was going to have to come up for air.

"Chili soup" - Like 'hamburger sandwich', "chili soup" demonstrates the wonderful Hoosier flair for redundancy.

"State Road ___" - Yes, you are certain to identify yourself as an outsider if you say "State Route". 'Routes' are federal roads - Washington intrusions into the Hoosier heartland. Save yourself a lecture next time you drive through here - ask for the State Road [Number].

"Fast time" - For now, daylight saving time is the law of the land here. However, you will find many Hoosiers pining for "slow time" - the good old days of year 'round standard time. Daylight saving time is still referred to as 'fast time' in many quarters: even those who may not use the term know exactly what it means.

"Off-Ten" - I do it, too, now. I was reared to keep the T silent in "often." Those lessons were all in vain. There are Hoosiers who mute the T in public, but in private conversation, just listen carefully.

Dangling "at" - You know: "Where is my coat at?" or "Where did you eat at?" or "What time does that start at?" Most Hoosierisms don't bug me, but this one gets me every time . . . and I'm as guilty as anyone for using it!

"[Ten] a.m. in the morning" - Everyone does this in Indiana . . . just this morning on three separate TV stations, on each channel the weather man said, in effect, "It will start to cloud over around ten a.m. in the morning." It doesn't matter that a.m. already means "in the morning" (or that p.m. already means "in the evening"). More Hoosier redundancy.

There are more! Send any along to me - you know where I'm at!


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the old standard, "Can I have a pop to drink?"

Anonymous said...

How about "pertnear" & down the road aways?

Anonymous said...

sorry, I forgot to sign my name to pertnear & down the road aways! Kim Hoover

Anonymous said...

Warshing machine, anyways, cook out, pitch in, crick, instead of creek, chuck wagons instead of chicken fried steak, fast time and slow time, look to be ternado weather, license branch instead of DMV.