“Now, everyone, take out your R and J,” said Mr. Segal, as he paced, slowly but excitedly, at the front of the classroom.
It was 2000.
Mr. Segal was my high school English teacher, and he emanated passion an inspiration as only supremely gifted high school English teachers do. I was lucky enough to have him for both my Freshman and Junior years, and he changed my life as only supremely gifted high school English teachers can.
I remember looking up from my desk at my young, beaming role model feeling perplexed.
“Take out my orangade?”
I was not being fresh. I did not understand what he was talking about.
He chuckled, in a way that was so warm that I remember it today, as only supremely kind high school English teachers can.
“Only in Philadelphia would this be a point of confusion! Your R AND J. Romeo and Juliet.”
Mr. Segal had come from Chicago, and his very first period as supremely gifted, kind, warm, talented high school English teacher at Lower Merion High School was also my very first period as a supremely overwhelmed, hopeful, excited, nervous high school student.
He explained to me that it was my unique accent that made “R and J” sound like “orange ade.”
(Now, say it out loud three times fast.
Hey, maybe it’s the January 30, 2020 version of Laurel and Yanny!
YOU NEVER KNOW!)
This memory has always tickled me, and though I do not have THE Philly accent, I certainly have A Philly accent.
I kind of like it. I would be proud for my kids to wear it, along with their Eagles sweatshirts and other jawn.
And that is why earlier today, when Beau asked me about my seventh favorite color, I realized I needed to make a public confession about a startling observation:
My children have a different accent than I do.
I do not understand this. How does this happen?! We live together. They used to live inside of me. And yet, when describing the color that sits between REHD and YEH-low in the rainbow, they pronounce it as:
(or, as I like to say, incorrectly.)
This comes up not infrequently. The topic was raised, again, just hours after the debacle with the color that you get when you mix red paint with yellow paint as Beau and I talked about The Bachelor.
Our conversation went something like this:
Beau: “What’s your favorite season of The Bachelor?”
Me: “I don’t know! What’s yours?”
Beau: “I like The Bachelorette. I like Hannah’s season when Hannah picks Jed. But, they broke up, right? Because he had a girlfriend. They never even got married, did they?”
Me, silently, to myself, in my head: “You just said so many words differently than I do! This is more confusing than Hannah choosing Jed AND bringing Luke P. to the final four!”
Me, out loud, to Beau: “Nope. They got engaged, but they didn’t get married.”
And this is when we began our discussion about the final word in that sentence; you know, the thing that some people do after they get engaged, and sometimes there are brides and/or grooms and vows and rings.
My children say this, as most people I meet say this, by pronouncing the word MAH-reed with the first syllable sounding like the name of a female horse.
You thought Laurel and Yanny were tough to decode? Hold onto your hats (which are CLEARLY pronounced HAAAHTS)!
A quiz for you:
1) How do you say the word above, like when two people tie the knot?
2) How do you wish someone a pleasant Christmas (a time when they may eat, drink, and be ___)?
3) How do you say the name of Jesus’ mother? The girl who has a little lamb with fleece as white as snow? The gardener who is quite contrary?
For many of you, 1), 2), and 3) are pronounced the exact. same. way.
My children are like many of you.
This confuses me, deeply. As I might have mentioned, my children have a different accent than I do!
For me, the three words above are pronounced discretely and differently and like this:
1) You get MAH-reed.
2) MEH-REE Christmas!!!
3) I don’t even know how to spell out Mary, but it’s something like Mare-ee and that’s that.
Look. I am an extremely tolerant person. I am not judgmental and I think that people have fundamental rights to be who they are. There is one exception.
In the anecdote above, when Beau asked me about Bachelor Nation
(and right before he told me that if he went on The Bacehlorette he’d use “Hey, girl” as his limo entrance line)
he did not say HANNAH. He said Hannah, with the “HA” part pronounced like the HA in HANd.
Fine. Tomato, tomah-to. Orangeade.
But, I find it egregious when my daughter mispronounces her own name. .
When she tells me that her name is AENNabell I try to invoke executive privilege.
(Too soon? Tooooo soooon, but hey, aren’t we all just trying to cope?)
“I GAVE YOU THE NAME! I KNOW HOW TO SAY IT!”
And when I go off one of these calm but passionate tirades, and mention the fact that Jared Haibon, from Kaitlyn’s season of The Bachelorette and all the Bachelor in Paradises, says these words like I do, and every time he says the word “paradise” it makes me love him and an angel gets her wings, they snicker together, and team up against me, and start to pronounce things with long, over-exaggerated, drawn out vowels.
And then I question whether or not they are here for the right reasons.
This isn’t one of those posts with a neat bow, or poignant message, or sleek date card envelope.
It is a lot of little things. A snapshot in time. A journal entry. A nod to my favorite teacher. A tribute to my high school during a week when my high school needs it more than ever. A cherishing of my kids. A silly ditty. A reminder that while I try to encourage my kids to veer away from binary thinking, when you are faced with the choice between Tyler C. and Jed, there really isn’t a gray area.
“Mom,” Beau asked, as he cuddled into the nook in my underarm.
(I pronounce this UHN-der arm. You may pronounce it ARM-PIT.)
He yawned and looked up at me with sleepy eyes. “Remember when Arie chose Becca and they got engaged but they didn’t get married and he broke up with her and then proposed to Lauren?”
I nodded, bursting with pride. He might not say his colors correctly, but he is well-versed in Bachelor cannon. I know, in my heart, that Romeo and Juliet will soon follow.
He did not have a follow up question. I think he just wanted me to know he knows.
MEH-ree Pub Day Eve, to all.
And, for what it’s worth, I heard both Laurel and Yanny.