My friends from South Jersey are different than Okies. They eat hoagies instead of subs, dip their ice cream cone in jimmies instead of sprinkles, and they vacation at the shore rather than the beach. And, if they ask you for a drink of water, you might bring them back a lumberjack.
Language is fascinating to me, even when diction is thrown into the sewer and meaning tossed to the hogs, we still generally understand what our loved ones are trying to convey to us. And it’s the odd outliers, rather than preciseness, that spice our language with unique personality and make it interesting to listen to people and to guess where they are from.
Water is a simple word to spell, but when it leaves a mouth in South Jersey it becomes wudder, which becomes wadder to an Okie, wootah to the British, and agua to the Latino. We like to say wudder at our house to honor my mother-in-law, Ann. She is the reason my son’s favorite restaurant drink is “wudder with lemon,” just because he likes to say to the waiter, “wudder with lemon.” Ann is an amazing literary women who reads much more than I do, but manages to still maintain the charm of her native language peppering our ears with head-turning words that are beyond the verbal acuity of normal folks. Her mastery of South Trenton English is unparalleled. And she is an absolute eggcorn genius.
Which is to say she mistakenly uses words or phrases that sound like seemingly logical replacements for another word or phrase. Wudder isn’t an eggcorn, just an example of South Jersey idiom. But Ann has invented an entire vocabulary of alternative word usages that to the untrained ear seem entirely plausible. So, who am I to argue with my mother-in-law? Here are some of the legendary eggcorns in her lexicon:
- Lozenges = Lozenger – “Why don’t you take one of these cold and flu lozengers?” Actually, adding a suffix ‘er’ to a noun creates a more powerful mental image, what was once a passive noun has suddenly become a superhero medical remedy, or a South Jersey verb.
- November = Luvember – I have no idea
- Big mouth bass = Loud mouth bass – Once on a visit to Grand Lake with her husband Thom, she mentioned trying her hand at fishing, trying to catch some of those loud mouth bass. I won’t share her husband’s reply, but you can probably imagine.
- Pubic hair = Public hair – An egghorn turned inside out
- Nip it in the bud = Nip it in the butt – maybe this was me instead of her, it’s all starting to run together, our worlds are colliding.
- Up with trees = Up the trees – While driving through Tulsa, Ann once noticed the city’s tree planting program which has the slogan, ‘Up with trees,’ printed on road right of way signs. She said, “Why do they have these up the tree signs?”
- Sandra Bullock = Sandra Buttock – This needs no help from me
What are some of your favorite egghorns?