Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life in the Mid-West  (part III, the final in a series)

Customs and Cultures...where should I start......
You would think that since English is the official language of the United States, it would work the same across the country.
Yeah, you would think.....
I have found that while we might all be using the same words, we are not using the same definitions.   That can get pretty confusing in a very short amount of time.  

Just think about the following imagined scenario:  I am out of carbonated beverages, so  I ask my husband to run to the store for me and hand him a short list of the things I need.  He comes back with a box of Just For Men.  The problem?  I gave him a list written in New Englandese, but he was shopping in the Mid-West.  See....not so simple after all.
New England: any carbonated beverage...root beer, Pepsi, Coke, etc..
Mid-West: Old fashioned word for men's hair-styling product.

 A real-life scenario:
We have gone out to eat and I have ordered an iced tea with my meal.   The waiter comes with the drinks, and I take a large sip of my tea.....only to choke, sputter, spurt and in general make a huge mess.  The problem???  I had ordered in New Englandese, but was sitting at a restaurant in the Mid-West.  I was expecting plain iced tea, but had gotten a mouthful of high-fructose corn syrup tea.
Southerners and Mid-Westerners have been known to have the same sputtering reaction to iced tea ordered in New England.
Iced Tea
New England = served unsweetened, all the time.
Mid-West = usually served sweetened
*WARNING...in the South, when ordering tea, it will be served iced and sweet enough to induce a diabetic shock.

Next real-life scenario:
I once got to teach a Physical Education class at a school in the Mid-West.  On my list of items the students needed to bring/wear to class I included the type of footwear I wanted the students to have. 
Again, I wrote the list in New Englandese, but sent it to parents who lived in the Mid-West....sigh....
The problem?   the 367 e-mails I received asking me what sneakers were.

Athletic Footwear
New England : Sneakers, or shoes designed and named for a specific sport (i.e. running shoes, basketball shoes, tennis shoes...etc..)
Mid-West: Any shoe used for any athletic purpose :  Tennis shoes

So you can see how the language can get a little confusing.  
Customs and traditions can be just as baffling.  Here is just one example:

State Fair:
New England: Wasn't that a musical???   Do states still have those????
Mid-West: (especially Iowa)  Everyone in the entire state makes it point to schedule their last few days of vacation around the dates of their state fair.  Heated discussions/fights take place in state capitols about why schools should NOT start their academic calendars until AFTER the fair had closed.  Any Mid-Westerner on cholesterol medication goes on a strict plant-based dietthe month before the fair so they can sample all 67 varieties of fried foods (most of which are served on a stick for portability as you walk/roll to the next fried food stand).  Entire sections of the largest newspaper in the state are dedicated to informing you about the fair schedule, exhibit locations and contest information.  Grocery stores put extra staff on their customer service desks to handle the people coming in to buy their advanced discount admission tickets.  And just to make sure you don't miss any of the booths offering bacon wrapped, batter dipped, fried hot dogs...there is a State Fair Food Locator iphone app for that.

Hmmmmm......I think I missed the class on that...
But the fair opens this week, and I bet I can get caught up  ;)

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