Santa Maria Sun / Humor
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 26
California speakDudes totally don't 'like' much in the Midwest
By SHELLY CONE
These days I’ve been afraid to talk.
I don’t mean that I’m afraid to speak my mind but I’ve been afraid to speak at all. I’m afraid that if I open my mouth a ‘dude’ might slip out. ‘Totally’ may force its way into a sentence or, heaven forbid, a ‘fer sher’ might pepper my conversation. In short, I’m suddenly aware of my California-ness and it’s all the fault of my sister, her friend Danielle, and a bunch of people from the Midwest.
This summer, my family and I spent some time visiting relatives in South Dakota and then drove home cross country through seven different states. Our rental car had Nebraska plates, and we indulged ourselves by talking about how we were incognito Californians posing as Nebraskans, and how because of our plates, we fit in—or so we thought.
We weren’t exactly fooling anyone.
At a gas station in South Dakota, a man knocked on the driver-side window and asked if we were from Nebraska and whether we knew his relatives. It took the man just a few minutes of chatting to figure out that we weren’t from Nebraska.
Midwesterners are a fairly psychic bunch, I started to realize.
As we ordered beers at one of only two bars in a tiny South Dakota town, population like 300 people, the bartender asked us out of the blue, “Where are you from in California?” I knew from previous visits that the locals tend to know when you are not from town, but I wondered how he nailed it with California.
This repeated itself throughout our trip. There was always a random “California?” asked when I bought a soda at the gas station or “Are you visiting from California?” as we ordered at a restaurant.
As we traveled west, I expected it to be easier for people to guess—or assume—that we were from California, but in Las Vegas I thought it might be a little more difficult to discern. I mean it’s Vegas, there are millions of people from everywhere in the world who travel there. Yet over and over, I heard, “California, huh?” with a knowing nod.
By then, all I could think was, “really?” How do people know this? It’s Vegas. I mean, why wouldn’t they guess I was from Argentina or Denmark or North Carolina?
“It’s because of the way you talk,” my sister’s friend Danielle told me the week after we got home.
And so began an enlightening conversation that went like this:
“Seriously? Like, what’s wrong with the way I talk?” I asked.
“That’s it right there” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“You said like. And you said it, like, several times. See. I just said it, too,” Danielle said.
What is so frustrating about this speech pattern is that these words like “like” naturally fit into the cadence of speech. I don’t think I sound like an ’80s valley girl nor do I think anyone around me does. There’s no over-exaggerated mouth movements, facial expressions or gum snapping that goes along with it, like you would see in a cheesy ’80s stereotype, but when you stop and listen to the words they are saying, these stereotypical words are there.
At that point, I hadn’t yet listened.
“No way, I totally did not say ‘like’,” I argued.
“Yes you did,” she argued back.
“Dude you, like, said it, like, five times,” Ron said. Then realizing he said it, too, immediately added a Homeresque “D’oh!”
I was beginning to see the light, or in this case, the like.
“OK so, like, I can see why, people in the Midwest might think that I’m, like—I mean I understand why some people would suspect I’m from California because I, like, talk, argh!” I said next trying in vain to stop infusing my speech with “like.”
“Now you’re, like, going to be watching everything you say—Oops! I said it too,” my sister said covering her mouth.
“Oh my God this is, like, way stupid, why can’t we control the way we talk?” I asked.
The funny thing about this revelation is that despite it, Ron, who has some strong political opinions, thinks I should go into politics. Of course, Ron’s totally unbiased opinion of me as his wife makes me qualified, right? My awesomely devoted husband is obviously also my biggest fan—and also hates to speak in front of crowds.
My biggest fear isn’t speaking in public—it’s now, “What happens when voters find out I’m from California? Like, when I open my mouth.” I mean, politicians are polished; it’s almost the first syllable of the word.
Ron assures me if I got high enough into office I’d have personal stylists and voice and image coaches that would work with me on diction and presentation, immaculately put together people who would not let me get away with greeting the Speaker of the House with “Dude, what up?” or calling an introduced Assembly bill, “super awesome.”
I’m not sold on the idea. I can imagine how my first debate would go: “Sure my opponent has achieved some wins in regard to policy change during his term, but constituents aren’t digging his vibe,” I’d say. He’ll say, “California, right?”
Shelly is committed to being a Californian, even if it’s, like, obvious.
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