Day in the Life, Language


I went to the breakroom today to heat some water for my tea – pumpkin spice, so yummy! And as I opened the microwave, I was greeted with the aroma of stale microwave popcorn. I grimaced as I stuck my mug in and quickly shut the door. As I stood there waiting for my water to boil, I was reminded of the episode of the office when the Finer Things Club was meeting in the breakroom, and Phyllis came in to pop some popcorn in the microwave. One of the Club members asked her if she could use the other microwave for her noisy task, and she replied “Someone needs to clean it, it smells like popcorn.” After a brief internal chuckle, my brain focused in on the way Phyllis pronounced the word “popcorn.” And it suddenly occured to me that she used a slight “a” sound in corn instead of the “o” that is commonly used. Well, it’s commonly used outside of the St. Louis metro area. Inside that strange island of linguistic distinctiveness, it is quite common to hear things like “fark” “farty” and “carn.” The younger generations seem to be making an effort to eliminate that specific peculiarity, since it is one of those uniquenesses that outsiders tend to scoff at. But it can still be heard from those over age 40 and even some younger residents of certain outlying areas of the county.

So, I wondered, could it be that Phyllis Smith (the actress that portrays Phyllis Vance) is from St. Louis? The more I thought about her accent the surer I was that she must be – or else there’s somewhere else in the country that has that same linguistic peculiarity. So once my tea was ready, I headed back to my desk with a mission. One wiki later, I had my answer…

“Smith was born in Lemay, Missouri, outside St. Louis. In the 1970s and 1980s, she worked as a dancer, a cheerleader for the old St. Louis football Cardinals, and a burlesque performer.”

Score one for the linguistic nerd-girl.

And for the record, I don’t say carn or fark or farty. But apparently I do pronounce Taurus with the same “a” sound, while Aaron says it with a long “o” and laughs at me. I blame my 7th grade mythology teacher for that. She was hard-core St.Louisan with absolutely every STL feature present in her speech. How was I to know she was saying it “wrong”?


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