Today I taught Chicky "Little Rabbit FooFoo", complete with hand motions and exaggerated expressions. Desperate to take her attention away from Raffi's extensive song list I had to dig deep in to my bag of tricks for that one. It's been years since I even thought about that children's song with the strange moral "Hare today, Goon Tomorrow" but I remembered enough of the words to have Chicky giggling madly.
After I put her down for a nap, her still singing the song to herself and bopping her invisible field mice, I continued to hum the song, too. It struck me, as I got to the part where the good fairy threatens to turn Little Rabbit FooFoo into a goon, that the word "goon" had been lost from my vocabulary for a long time. "Goon" was one of those childish insults we used to throw around a lot while growing up. But now it seems to have gone the way of gauchos and bikes with banana seats.
Not necessarily a bad thing.
Is goon a regional thing? I've never heard anyone else outside of Massachusetts use it before. But it got me thinking about all the other words, and bastardized versions of words, that I grew up using.
I've always found regional language to be an interesting topic, ever since I was a kid and my southern relatives told me that they didn't call Coca Cola soda. They called it pop, or just Coke. And then they went on to say that I talked funny, which ignited a heated discussion about who talked funnier, us or them. Since they were visiting and there were more of us, we won. But they were on to something. The New England accent, in all its different forms, at its worst can be really ugly. Throw in some strange words and it seems down right foreign.
Mr. C and I recently came across a whole list of Massachusetts slang and we were amazed how many parts of our vocabulary were native to our region. Words and phrases we never thought twice about. For instance, when I was younger (you know, before I got wicked smaht) it never occurred to me that you don't actually "take a left, or bang a left, at the stoplight", you "turn left at the stoplight". I feel sorry for any person visiting our town from outside of New England who I may have given directions to because I probably told them to bang a u-ie at the rotary.
It never entered my mind that others didn't put their trash in the barrel or drink from a bubbler. We had dinner when others would be eating lunch and supper when others ate dinner. Our living room was referred to as the parlor and our basement was called a cellar. We drank frappes in the summer and put jimmies on our ice cream. Unless we were eating a Hoodsie, then you just ate it plain from the cup. And my Nana makes a mean whoopie pie.
If someone said something outlandish we'd reply with a "No suh", to which the other person would reply back with a "Yes suh!" Then, of course, you could add a wicked pissah to the end of that conversation if warranted, said in the negative or the positive.
"Hey, Bobby just got bagged by the police." "No suh." "Yes suh. I was just at the packie and I saw the cop throw him in the cruisah (cruiser)." "What a pissah."
I'm a member of Red Sox Nation and I also root for the B's, the Celts and the Pats. And there's also a good chance that any of those teams could get smucked by their opponent (which is a lopsided game).
When I went off to college friends would tease me about my "Boston accent". They had it all wrong since my accent was very different from the true Boston dialect, but I did start to make a concerted effort to change the way I spoke. Pretty soon I shook all audible connection to the place where I grew up. It served me well when I got my first job in radio and then voice-over work, but I never lost the references, the slang, that connected me to those from my home state. It brings me some comfort that even though you could drop me anywhere in middle America and not tell by my accent where I'm from, if you listened closely for a while I might drop a "so don't I" or a reference to the Pike or the Garden and you'd know I, too, was a Masshole.
It feels good to belong to something bigger than you. Now tell me, what connects you to your home? Is it language, accent, food, or something else entirely? And please, someone else must have used the word "goon" before. I can't be the only one, can I? Because that would be a wicked pissah.