Monday, November 28, 2005

Careen or Karen - accents

All my life I have pronounced the word "careen" so that it rhymes with Kareem, as in Abdul-Jabar. The speeding car lost control and careened into the empty cafe. kuh-reeeeen. However, when I used to listen to hockey broadcasts for the Predators, the announcers who are Canadian by birth always said "the puck careened off the boards" where it rhymes with Karen. It Karened off the boards. Have I been saying it wrong all my life? Is the Karen version a Canadian thing? Or is just a Pete Webber thing? C-H-R, feel free to step in here.

Also, I have been reminded that I am in fact southern, as of late. I have virtually no accent anymore, but a couple small things crop up still. In class a few weeks back I said some word like "center" or the like and everyone stared at me. What did you say? they wanted to know. "Center" So, of course, I say this the correct way, which is to say the Southern way, meaning that "cen" from "center" rhymes with "sin". "Pen" rhymes with "pin". But in fact, this is of course just the remains of my Louisiana upbringing. The standard American way makes pen different from pin.

I was also cornered by a classmate recently who teaches Ling 102. They are doing the section on dialects and the textbook apparently mentions constructions like "might could" as in "I might could do that." The students in the class refused to believe any English speaker would come up with such a thing. Since the classmate/teacher is Serbian, she could only tell them it's in the book, so it must be true. Therefore, she cornered me and asked. "Can you really produce such abominations?" I stewed on it and confirmed that "might could" is just fine. It's real. I also decided you could say "I may can do that." Then I hedged on "may could". So, southern readers, can you say "may could"? " I just realized you can definitely say "I might can do that" too. Do you agree? What do they mean, the non-southerners ask? It means "it is likely that I will be able to do that."

On a final language and accents note, my father (northern Louisiana pretty much all his life) loves to make country analogies. I love them. It's like Cleetus saying on the Dukes of Hazzard "well, possum on a gum bush!" What's nice about my dad's stuff is that you know he's always making up new ones because most of them don't work. So, my niece who is 18 and a senior in high school in Baton Rouge just moved out of home, leaving her mom to go live with, I think, her step-mom (I believe ex-wife) of her natural father. Confused? Yeah, me too. The important point is that an 18 year old stopped living with her mom. My dad tried to explain the motivation thus: "It's just like two hens in a barnyard where one of ems got to be the top dog." First, they are hens, not dogs. Second, I don't remember people betting on hen fights. I think you need a rooster in there. What's amusing in general about these stories of barnyards and dawgs and skeeterhawks (that's a dragon fly, you silly Yankees), is that almost none of this is his adult life. He has an MBA and sells gourmet pecan oil in high-end grocery stores and B&Bs. He called me once from a cafe in San Francisco sipping a Napa wine, where we proceeded to discuss the liberal Hollywood elite. But, I guess you never leave your roots. Eventually, the dawgs always come back to roost.


kristybox said...

Might could is awful. It is also commonly used among my in-laws (near Alexandria, LA). All the other variations, well, I've never heard any of them, even among drunk Cajuns. Shrug.

Killer Llama said...
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Killer Llama said...

Good gawd that was funny. I don't think I've ever heard your dad say stuff like that, but now I'm dyin' to!

Yes, might could is very real. It's a synonymous phrase with "maybe I could." I would say though, instead of "it's likeley I will be able to do that", I think "might could" implies that there is still some bit of information out there thay must come out before I make my final decision.

"Would you help me move this weekend?"

"I might could" (if you offer dinner, or something better doesn't come up first, or I don't have to birth a goat...)

May can? Nah. Might can? Maybe. Maybe could? Yeah.

I actually think "might could", while maybe not proper english, does hold a discrete meaning that is not contained in using either "might" or "could" by themselves.

Killer Llama said...

One more comment...

I think you are confusing "careen", which rhymes with "bean", and is defined by Meriam Webster Online as

transitive senses
1 : to put (a ship or boat) on a beach especially in order to clean, caulk, or repair the hull
2 : to cause to heel over
intransitive senses
1 a : to careen a boat b : to undergo this process
2 : to heel over
3 : to sway from side to side : LURCH (a careening carriage being pulled wildly ... by a team of runaway horses -- J. P. Getty)

with "carom", which sounds a bit like Karen (if you confuse the "n" and "m") and is defined as:

1 : to strike and rebound : GLANCE (the car caromed off a tree)
2 : to make a carom
3 : to proceed by or as if by caroms

Carom is much more appropriate for use when calling a hockey game.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the carom comments. Dawgs come home to roost?? Shouldn't those be the hens we were looking for a minute ago?