Why Do We Say These Things?

Is this because I’m an editor, or does anyone else out there find themselves wondering what the deal is with the way we talk? (And by “we,” I pretty much mean all of us—especially myself, because I wonder about the things that come out of my own mouth about a million times more often than I question what anybody else says!) In particular, here are a few things I hear often that—to borrow words from an old-school rap song—always make me go hmmm.

● people using boughten for the past tense of buy. Is this a Minnesota thing? Has anyone else heard this? I don’t remember hearing it in the past, but suddenly, I’ve come across it a few times in just the past several months. (Like I said…hmmm.)

hone in instead of home in. This one’s been around forever, and I should probably just give it up because it seems like a losing battle. But still, it doesn’t change the fact that, in this editor’s mind, hone will always mean “to sharpen” while home means “to zero in.”

try and instead of try to. I use this one myself sometimes. To me, though, when we say we’re going to try and do something, it sounds like we’re saying we’re going to do two separate things—first, we’re going to try. Then, we’re going to do whatever it is we want to do. If we say we’re going to try to do something, on the other hand, we mean we’re going to give it our best shot and see how it all pans out.

● the reflexive pronoun thing. People are always asking one another to “give the form to Person A or myself [myself being the reflexive pronoun here] once you have completed it,” and things like that. Whatever happened to just saying me?

● Eye-talian…as opposed to, you know, Italian. This always makes me wonder if whatever Eye-talian thing the speaker is describing comes from a place called Eye-taly. This one’s a biggie here in Minnesota. We Minnesotans also like to say Holly-Dazzle to describe a legendary local parade we used to have here every December—even though this parade is actually called Holi-Dazzle. (Minnesotans never say holly-days to describe the holidays…so why do we all say Holly-Dazzle? Just one of life’s great mysteries.)

● Last but not least, adults who refer to themselves in the third person when talking to kids—as in, “Mommy’s thirsty. Let’s stop at the drinking fountain.” This is another one I’ve caught myself doing. This, in spite of the fact that, back when I was in kindergarten, I had a teacher who did this all the time—as in, “Mrs. So-and-So doesn’t like it when you talk out of turn.” And it always threw me for a loop. I forever wondered why this teacher didn’t say I.

What speech quirks have caught your attention? Are they ones you use yourself, or ones you’ve overheard? And do people in any other state say Eye-talian? Inquiring minds would love to know—so please drop me a comment!