This morning I was listening to the radio and Ben Harper's remake of the Beatles song Michelle came on. You know the song: "Michelle, ma belle, ce sont tres mots qui vont tres bien ensemble.."
Apparently no one clued Ben Harper into what the Beatles actually say there, because he sings: "Sunday Monkey Vault Tree Been en Song". Go listen to it, I'm not kidding.
That got me to thinking about how fortunate I am to be multi-lingual. In addition to a smattering of French, I speak English, Jive and all of the known dialects of Yankee. (I also have an excellent command of Hip-Hop and have mastered Spanish to the point where I can tell you what almost everything on the Taco Bell menu is).
I think my love of languages comes from my mother, that sainted lady who taught me both English and Yankee. She was down here visiting the other day, and was talking about a pair of "dungarees" when I realized that my kids had no idea what she was talking about. One of them knew that dungarees were pants, but the other was sure that only cowboys wear them. We straightened the kids out- "dungaree" is simply Yankee for "jeans"- but it did my heart good to see that my kids are growing up in a home where multiple languages weave themselves through the fabric of our lives.
It was then that I realized how daunting it must be to come to New England. My wife, a native Midwesterner, had to adjust to a new climate, a new region, and most of all, a new language. Most people assume that we North Easterners just mess up our R's and mispronounce words that end in vowels, but it's far more complex than that. Allow me to flex my redneck and show off some Maine-iac:
"I's out fishin' yistday when the wind breezed up sumpin fierce. Yessah, by jaysus, I's afeared I's in an awful gaum, cause it looked like we's in for a hum-dingah of a blow, but god-dammah if I din't make it to shore. Course I'd took the beatah fishin' steada the good cah and course it din't have a skrid of gas, so I had to hump it to the mahket, and it was stahtin' to get wicked nipply out theyah in the puckabrush. Yessah, you know that stoah, run by that jo-jeezly son of a hoah Pinkett? I guess ta hell he's a pieceawork, jeezum-crow, I coulda cahved a bettah kid outuva banana. Anyhow, it was gettin nippy out theyah in the williwacks, so I's mighty glad to see that stoah, cause ain't nuthin a pissah like havin to walk in the cold. Well, Pinkett had a stoah full of leafpeepahs, and two uvum said they'd take me upta the cah cause they liked to heah me tawk. So on the way back to the cah, I tell's 'em a stretcher, and they's a couple of drybone old biddies from away, and I git them a howlin bout somethinorutha that's happened to me the Sadday last, and I guess probly they weren't too used to drivin' and laughin' all at the same cause I'll be god-dammed if they din't catch their christly tiya on the shoulder and get threaded off into the woods and I hadda hump it back to my cah and tow them stupid sumbitches outta the friggin ditch."
So, leaf peepers, flatlanders, Sunday Monkeys and people from away beware: In Yankee, "Ayuh" means both "yes" and "Of course, you stupid sumbitch."