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Friday, January 29, 2010

Sometimes I Talk Funny

Sometimes I Talk Funny

I was having a telephone conversation today and since it was a business call I was carefully weighing my words before I spoke. “That will not be necessary. One aspect of my intentions is…”

My teenager, sitting at the kitchen table, was looking at me questioningly.

After ending the conversation and placing the telephone back on the receiver, I turned to him and asked, “All right, what’s up?”

“Why do you talk funny when you talk on the phone?” he asked.

“I talk funny?” I asked in a slightly offended tone.

“Yeah, you don’t talk that like around here,” he said. That was the end of our conversation at that moment but I’ve thought about what he said to me all evening. I’ve come to the conclusion that my writing has more of a place in my life than I had imagined.

As a writer, I try to portray the characters I write about accurately. If they are southern, I try to write with a southern dialect. If they are from the Bronx, I try to imitate a New York dialect, or at least my concept of what it sounds like when I hear it. It just never occurred to me that I switch mannerisms in my daily life depending on whom I talk with or who I’m around. Am I not comfortable with who I am, or my roots, or my heritage?

A typical conversation with friends or family might include phrases such as; “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise,” or “Just keep your shirt on!” I saw a neighbor this evening that had obviously had too much to drink. I said, “He’s good and tanked up!” Maybe I do talk funny, at least to a teenager who uses much more modern phrases such as; “My bad!” or “Hanging with my buds all up in the crib!” Surely he is not referring to plant buds!

The point is that in honing my writing skills to evoke emotion or paint a mental image with my words, I have merged my everyday life with the business aspect of my writing. I use words to camouflage the real woman I am when I talk to strangers or need to wear my intellect like a well worn winter cap. I think before I speak, I put thought into my reactions, and I am always on guard.

The language I use here at home is spontaneous, honest, and intimate. That is the difference; I am not portraying anything or anyone. I am simply being myself. For example, this conversation took place this evening.

“Nana,” my teenager said, “I sort of made a mess upstairs, but I’m going to clean it up, but it might leave a stain on the carpet.” He stands motionless waiting for my reaction. I turned and headed in the direction of his bedroom with him following me in close pursuit.

Opening his door, I saw a mess that defies any logical explanation or description. “Good grief, Cole, sometimes you can be as dumb as a box of rocks! What in the name of Jezebel did you do in here?”

“Nana, how do you know whether rocks are smart or dumb and who is Jezebel?” The master of subject change thought he had me cornered but he was wrong.

“Every dog has his day, Cole, and one of these days you’ll get your just reward. You’ll have a little boy or little girl that is just as wild as you are. I’m going to enjoy watching you deal with that!” I was jabbering away while trying to figure out what the red puddle in the middle of his carpet was and what I should do with it.

Cole rolled his eyes, “The dog didn’t do it, Nana. I had my Gatorade sitting on this board so I wouldn’t have to get up to get a drink while I played my video game. I didn’t expect a reward for that. I just wanted to beat the darn game before one of the other guys did.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “And I don’t want any kids until I’m fifty. I need to have some fun before I have to worry about sending somebody to college!”

“Well, how in the heck did the Gatorade end up on the floor? Getting this up is going to be harder than Chinese Algebra!” I was already reaching for paper towels to blot up the excess liquid as we spoke. I didn’t really care how it got onto the floor. It needed to be cleaned up quickly or it would leave a permanent stain.

“The Chinese have a different kind of Algebra?” Cole asked with a quizzical tone. “Anyhow, the cats were running amok in here and one of them jumped up on the board and it flew up on the other end like a see-saw. I tried to catch the Gatorade before it landed but my foot slipped in the salsa and I missed it.” This was just great. There was apparently chunky red stuff mixed in with the liquid red stuff. I’m thinking it could be every mother’s nightmare.

After blotting up all of the liquid I could blot up, I sent Cole downstairs to get the carpet shampooer. He carried it upstairs along with a bottle of carpet cleaner and a can of soda. I mixed a solution of cleaner and pulled the machine in front of Cole so he could use it to clean his carpet. When he turned the machine on, I lifted the corner of the bed to move it to the side. I thought I was making it easier for him but he had stacked food wrappers and snacks beneath the bed and they all came tumbling out onto the wet mess on his floor.

“Boy, it’s going to take you a year of Sundays to get this mess cleaned up. I sure hope you don’t have any important engagements for the next couple of days. I want this whole room cleaned up yesterday!” I was standing there like a drill sergeant training new cadets and feeling like one too.

“Nana, please stop talking about me getting married all the time. I’m not engaged because I’m not getting married!” He was grumbling and using some form of sign language that the shampooer was supposed to understand.

An hour later the carpet was clean, the messes were picked up, and Cole was fixing himself a sandwich and explaining to me that he was going to be rich someday and he would hire a maid to keep his room clean.

“I just hope you don’t end up eating your own words someday, Cole. You’re not the first young man to declare that you aren’t going to get married and you are going to get rich. A lot of times a fly in the ointment can change everything.” I just smiled at him and watched him devour his triple stacked sandwich.

“What ointment are you talking about? I didn’t hurt myself, I don’t need any ointment. “Do you want a bite of my sandwich?” He was pulling a bag of chocolate chip cookies from a cabinet to go with the few crumbs of sandwich he had left.

“Never mind about the ointment, it’s just an old cliché. You eat your sandwich, Sweetie. A boy your age has a hollow leg and you’ll burn the calories right off.” I smiled at him and was about to leave the room when he replied to me. “Nana, I do not have a hollow leg, you’re thinking of Capt. Jack Sparrow again, aren’t you?”

I guess sometimes I do talk funny!

© Dianna Doles-Petry



  1. At least Cole understood about you and the Sparrow, hahaha! From now on with Cole, begin all your conversations with, "This is your Captain speaking..."

    As a writer, I fully understand how we integrate language into the different roles our characters, as well as our selves, play. And yes, one day Cole will understand too.

    Dianna, I am so glad you've taken the WWAUW Love and Writing challenge! I look forward to reading more from you throughout the year.

  2. Once again, Dianna, you have made me feel as though I was in the room with you and Cole while you were having your conversation. And, you fit Captain Jack in.

    I look forward to reading more of you adventures. I've yet to find a dull moment of which I'm sure I never will.


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