HABLA SE WHAT? By Jim Redwine


Gavel Gamut

By Jim Redwine

(Week of 12 January 2015)


During the Vietnam War I served my country in the United States Air Force. As the other branches sometimes say, being in the Air Force is almost like being in the military. I respond, well, I went where they sent me and did what they told me. Was it my fault they sent me to Indiana University and told me to learn Hungarian? That’s right, Hungarian. Hey, if you’ve been in the service you understand. I guess I should be grateful they didn’t want me to learn something useless, such as Vietnamese.

However, the reason I bring up the Air Force is that’s where I met Joe Smith who was from Florida. I had never been to Florida nor known any Floridians. On a map of the United States it looked to me like Florida was a southern state. So I asked Joe, “Why don’t you have a southern drawl?” Heck, my southwestern speech patterns learned in Oklahoma sounded more like Gone With the Wind than Joe’s. He sounded like he was from Ohio.

Joe said, “Florida is not a southern state.”

“Well, is it an eastern state?” I asked.

“No, it is just Florida.”

That was fifty years ago, before every New Yorker who could migrated south and every Cuban who could migrated north. Today Floridians do not speak just some odd variety of Italian, Yiddish or Spanish, Floridians speak Floridian. Ohio has been ousted.

While there are a few people who aren’t old in Florida, most Floridians speak not only some weird language of melded or elided vowels, they also speak old person.

Old person must be spoken loudly and at the same time others are speaking. A typical Florida conversation at the retirement condominium complex where Peg and I are spending two weeks includes references to the Great Depression and the way that Obama fellow plans to steal from social security so he can pay for health care for lazy bums who won’t work. Doesn’t he know we need those social security checks to keep our swimming pool open and pay illegal aliens to mow the grass?

Another staple of old person speak is the requirement that no matter what the first old person says, the second old person must correct it. For example, one might hear, “Cigarettes cost twenty cents a pack during the war (WW II)!”, then a retort of, “They cost nineteen cents and you needed a ration coupon!”

“A ration coupon! Those were for tires and sugar, not tobacco!”

Or perhaps someone might refer to the distance from the retirement complex to the nearest Winn Dixie grocery store: “It’s a mile and a quarter to Winn Dixie!”

“Nope, it’s exactly a mile and three eights!”

Such conversations seem to occur quite often between old married couples, each of whom knows exactly what occurred fifty years ago. Unfortunately, each person’s memory of the event is just slightly different and, for some reason, converting one’s partner to one’s own version is worth hours of loud debate.

As for me, I will settle for knowing I am right and Peg is wrong about the important issue of how often I had to stop for “gas” on the way to Florida. It was not six times as she asserts, but only five. So, there!