Well now, the book is done, by golly, for the very last final time, and I’m here to tell ya’s it was fun to write so much Hoosier Twang. Land sakes, I love where I’m from!
It’s about these two young men who fall in love; one’s city, one’s country. One’s tall, one’s short; one’s dark, one’s blond. They’s both of ’em hot, and they loves each other.
My mother would probably die. But, um, she actually took care of that already, and I hope she’s havin’ fun up there in the clouds readin’ about them two boys-a mine.
I wrote these guys to be so close to each other that contrasts are obviously necessary. Jamie’s speeches are meticulously crafted, while Kent’s, uh, freelance.
The city boy’s originally from the country, though, which oughta tell ya somethin’. If he weren’t, I’m not sure they could have ever quite gotten together. As happens in any relationship, they influence each other in thought, word and deed. Toward the end of the story, Jamie loosens up a little. He can talk Hoosier with the best of ’em, which I compare to The Americanization of Emily, a wonderful ’60s film with Julie Andrews and Jimmy Garner.
Kent’s the butch one; farmboys always is, ’cause of all that time they spend plowin’ up the dirt. I dunno, it makes ’em butch somehow.
But Jamie’s studly too, which is one of the themes I explore. Gayboys get so hung up on masculinity, who’s on top and who ain’t. When ya think about it, it’s kind of a useless thing to worry about; ya are what ya are, buddy. If bugs in the house scare ya, then they do; ya can’t help it, except with fly-swatters, Raid ‘n’ a bazooka, so don’t be too hard on yerself. “Ya’s just that way, that’s all; ain’t nothin’ wrong with it, even if I do kinda tease ya sometimes.”
The city boy can build things the country boy cannot; that’s one of the reasons I like this book.
Mind you, it’s been 40 years since I heard an authentic Hoosier Twang; our native dialect has been obliterated by pervasive television and radio, where all the announcers speak Standard American English (which is Midwestern, by the way). For reasons I’ve long forgotten – because I was cruising – I ran across these two guys in the woods. We spoke; I don’t remember the first guy, but there was this fellow from Monticello (Indiana, due east of here maybe 30-40 miles) who took my breath away. I couldn’t tell you what he looked like, but I’ll never forget that twang.
I had to listen hard; I could barely understand him. I knew he was speaking English, but from a hundred years before.
He was what we all sounded like once upon a time. We were illiterate; we talked the best we could, but man oh man. That pore child was a mess.
I don’t remember what he looked like, whether he was hot or not; these two friends were probably ready to get it on with me, but I walked away. He was too different from me; my mother insisted on “creek,” not “crick,” “garage,” not “gararge” – “Chicago,” not “Shicahga.”
I don’t remember feeling superior to him; it was more that he was foreign.
Funny, that; he was native. I was foreign.
My mother grew up dirt-poor, but she insisted that we speak Standard English. And I have ever since; it was a kind of loyalty test, and of course I was loyal to my mother.
She didn’t want us held back because of how we spoke.
She was doing us a favor – though now I wish I’d had a tape recorder while tramping in those woods and hearing what Honest Abe used to sound like.
The Hoosier Twang has been lost. We still drawl our way through most of our sentences, especially among friends, but the old dialects have been buried.
I’m a little sorry to see them go; not entirely sorry, because education’s a good thing, but losing our twang has cost us our history, and the teachers never mentioned any of that.
“Creek!” “Chicago!” I remember just a few old words.
I’d be even poorer than I am if I spoke the old dialect; that was probably why Mom was so insistent. I don’t blame her, she did me a favor. I learned; I’ve been a careful speaker ever since.
Well, except for this: my brother Steve, who’s gone now too. He was from Northwest Indiana, same as I am; he got the lectures too, and attended to them just like I have.
But then he moved to southern Indiana, and being there changed how he came across.
He didn’t want to speak a different language than his customers did; he adapted, he relaxed. Good for him.
He managed small electric companies, co-ops and such, after spending years rising through the ranks at NIPSCO in the northern part of the state.
If you look up Hoosier Twang online, Wikipedia wants to collapse it into “Midland American English.” This is unfortunate, not detailed enough; the article lacks nuance – when the fact is that language is largely a result of geography and demographics. If there’s a hill that “people from here” don’t cross, “people from there” speak a little differently. Scotland and Wales are still bitching about being part of Great Britain, centuries after England walloped those places. (And God bless ’em for it; uniformity is not the ultimate goal here.)
Steve started talking a little southern; and in our last few years together, after Mom died, I did too.
The Hoosier Twang is not primarily Southern; the state borders Kentucky, which has its own rich accent, but the Twang isn’t southern, it’s northern. And it’s illiterate. I’m not ashamed of that; why would I be?
The state I live in was settled by two main routes: by the Ohio River from Kentucky, which is where Steve settled, and by the National Road from Richmond on the Ohio border, the central and northern overland route. (Richmond is fairly prominent in That Book.)
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the Twang is a northern Thang. Monticello is north; I could barely understand that guy.
Well, let’s come to some conclusions now; both Kent and Jamie are from northern Indiana. The Gay One is a mama’s boy and speaks precisely; the Not So/Just as Gay One is a daddy’s boy, who sounds just like the farm. (This makes sense; he’s a police officer, dealing with the public, and people who come into contact with law enforcement are not, by and large, BBC announcers. He adapts; if it helps him relate, he drawls.) (It does not hurt that he speaks exactly like his Daddy did.)
I hope people enjoy the book; I’ve had a blast writing it, even though it cost me ten years of blood, toil, tears and sweat.
Meanwhile this last fact: I live in the birthplace town of George Ade, who was once a very famous, rich columnist and playwright. A hundred years ago he had four comedies playing simultaneously on Broadway, a feat that wasn’t matched for 70 years, until Neil Simon came along. It mattered to me in childhood that a famous writer was born and grew up where I did.
He wrote in dialect, which must have been hilarious at the time. It isn’t anymore, he’s completely forgotten, except here. Come Tuesday I’m going to tour his nearby estate with members of the county historical society. He had quite a place, which he called Hazelden, with 1920’s flappers and pols and movie stars. I’m looking forward to the tour.
He never married; the amateur historians don’t want to think about that. He was a single man, a bachelor, and that was allowed; it still is. You could even call me a bachelor, though I wish you wouldn’t.
George loved football players; so do I. Purdue University’s stadium is called Ross-Ade thanks to him.
Purdue never touches a question about Mr. Ade’s sexual orientation. Neither does the county historical society.
But he built a beautiful house, neo-Tudor, and filled it with artworks, especially Chinese jade. I’m looking forward to this tour – though as a kid I snuck up into his house above the golf course to see all his wonderworks there.
The Book is done; hail, hail and all that. What I remember the most was that Monticello boy who spoke an indecipherable language.
He was Indiana; I’m just an imitation.++
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