Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in New York Anymore

Me:  Dad, how far away can I go to college?

Dad:  Ohio


My first day of college at Ohio Wesleyan University in September of 1971 was both nerve-wracking and exciting.  After a 13 hour car ride from Westchester County, NY, I was anxious to meet my roommates, nervous about this new adventure and wanting my parents to leave.

Four of us shared a suite.  Two bedrooms with a common room in the middle and a bathroom.  The common room had four desks and chairs and I think that’s all.

smith hall give a damn posterAcademically I was prepared for college.  Emotionally I was prepared for college.  Linguistically I was not prepared for college.

Whaaaaaaa?  I was a LANGUAGE major.  My degree is in ROMANCE LANGUAGES. And I wasn’t linguistically prepared for college? Here’s the thing.  Ohio Wesleyan is in Ohio.  It isn’t in New York. They don’t speak New York in Ohio.  They speak Ohio in Ohio. Of course, to me it sounded more like Ahia.

After I settled into one of the bedrooms I explored the dorm a little.   Mailboxes on the first floor, vending machines, tv, pool table on the second floor.  I went back upstairs and my new roommate arrived.  I was happy because she was from Ohio and I thought that was really cool.  We hit it off right away.  When she was somewhat unpacked, I mentioned that I was going to go downstairs and get a soda.

She jumped.  “Where are you going to get a soda?” I replied downstairs there is a soda machine.  ” THEY HAVE A SODA MACHINE DOWNSTAIRS??”

At this point, I thought maybe there was something a teensy bit unusual about my roommate.  She didn’t really believe me but went with me to check out this fabulous machine.  We got to the vending machines and she said “Oh.  I only see a pop machine.” To which this little New Yorker replied “What’s pop?”

So our first major conversation in this institute of higher learning was about soda pop.

The next time that I was linguistically challenged was when I went to buy snacks at a grocery store.  Unfortunately for both the cashier and me, she sort of garbled/swallowed her words, plus had the Ohio accent I wasn’t used to, and I had the NY accent (no I don’t that’s a lie) that she wasn’t used to.  As I paid for my very few items, she said “Do you wahasqak.”  I said “Excuse me?” The cashier repeated it, this time a little louder and I said that I was sorry but I wasn’t sure what she said.  Then, in a much louder voice, she repeated it again but this time waved a paper bag in front of me.

Relief.paper bag 2

I said “Oh yes, I’d like a bag, please.”  To which she replied “What?” The person behind me in line came to our rescue and explained to me that she wanted to know if I wanted a paper sack.  That was my second indication that I didn’t speak Ohio. So now I had memorized two new vocabulary words.


Pop √

Sack √

I got back to my dorm room that night feeling like an idiot.  And then my crazy new world tilted again as my roommate asked me if I had a rubber.  Are you kidding me?  She sighed, rolled her eyes and asked one of our other roommates who was also from Ohio. “Sure,” she answered.  And handed over a rubber band.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in New York anymore.




About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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20 Responses to Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in New York Anymore

  1. Good lord. They sound like aliens. A rubber in any other part of North America is a condom.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Not true. And rubbers mean galoshes (do they even make them anymore?) in a lot of places. The big thing around here is large sandwiches on long bread. I grew up saying wedges. Other states or parts of states near us said hoagies . Or submarine sandwiches. Hence subs. Dialectical differences are funny and interesting. But I was completely unprepared for it. In Ohio at the time, soda meant what we call ice cream soda. Which I’ve had once and hated. Ice cream and seltzer water. No wonder my roommate was amazed that I found a machine that sold them ha. But here a rubber is a condom.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hahahaha. Oh my god, yeah, no wonder she was amazed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bea dM says:

        They do make galoshes: I found a couple of websites when I was researching their still existing/not existing, Fashion conscious people would probably groan, but considering climate change heavy rainfalls, they could make a comeback!… Contributing another word: how about ” lift” that’s an elevator in the UK? Watch Brits’ faces if you offer to give them one 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Barb Knowles says:

        And flat/apartment. I’ve always wondered because I assume that barring poor construction, all flats are flat. Now the condo we’re renting….not so much.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Rubbers here are pencil erasers. Yes indeed, the wonders of daily items under different names.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Joseph Nebus says:

    I was fully prepared to say ‘pop’ for ‘soda’ when I moved to the midwest, but it didn’t help any. They can’t hear me when I say ‘pop’.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Almost Iowa says:

    The Harder They Come is a very interesting 1972 Jamaican crime film staring the reggae star Jimmy Cliff, though the characters speak English, the movie has subtitles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      And there is a reality-type show based in Louisiana….cajun country….that is also subtitled. I forget the name of it but I really thought it was interesting. But I have trouble with shows/movies from England. I keep asking my husband “What are they saying?” Now anything from Ireland and Scotland I can understand everything. Genes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Almost Iowa says:

        While staying in a youth hostel in Dover England, I witnessed a confrontation between two groups of testosterone poisoned males. They were using trash-talk to work themselves into lather as prelude to a fight. (yes, it was all about soccer)

        I turned to the guy next to me and asked. “I know the group by the table is German, I recognize the language but how about the other guys?”

        He told me to guess.

        I tried. “Maybe they are Basques,” I said.

        He laughed, “They are from Edinburgh.”

        In almost fifteen minutes of yelling, I failed to recognize a single word as English.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. LOL! I think I better not travel to the country of Ohio until I take a course in… Ohionese. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I truly hope that no one takes any offense at my remarks! They thought I was barely understandable as well. I can’t remember where you are from, but in New York, when talking to a bunch of people (and I’m over an hour north of NYC so it isn’t a city thing), we say “you guys.” I was showing my ESL kids the movie Remember the Titans, which takes place in the south, and had to stop the movie to “translate” that y’all means you guys. haha It was a funny moment but allowed me to talk about regional differences. Thank you for reading and commenting, Paul 🙂


  6. Paul says:

    We definitely don’t say “soda” up here but we don’t really overuse the word “pop” either. It would just be “I’m going to get a drink from the vending machine”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: Saneteachers and Regional Dialects | A Ruined Chapel by Moonlight

  8. Patrick Prescott says:

    Coming by way of Ruined Chapel, I went to college in 1972 only 300 miles away, but it was in Texas. There is a world of difference in tonal pronunciation in West Texas. The words may be the same and mean the same but the pitch and slowness of saying them are a world apart. Weeelll thaaaatsss allll aye haaavve tooooo saaaayyy abouuuutt thaaaattt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you for visiting my blog! Talking that slowly would drive me insane. New Yorkers talk fast and I talk faster than anyone, ha. I live an hour and a half north of NYC and I sound very different. But the Brooklyn accent is very different from the Bronx, etc. I can’t remember the name of the reality show, but there was is a show set in Louisiana, and they always had the closed-captioning on.


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