Do you talk like an Oregonian?

At some point in their lives – nearly everyone has had the conversation about whether it’s pop or soda (or Coke.) And it seems that more and more – it’s the words and phrases that people use, rather than strong accents – that really seem to define where they are originally from. Most of the western part of the country seems relatively ‘accent free’ most Midwesterners, Southwesterners and Northwesters don’t have much of a discernible accent. In a city like Portland with so many transplants now calling this home – it’s nearly impossible to tell just from listening to someone that they “aren’t from around here.” Sure, you still get some people from the South, from Minnesota or Wisconsin, from Boston, that have pretty identifiable accents – but not all of them. Or at least not all of the time. But what I do hear is a lot of very identifiable terminology.

– Californians like to preface highways with “the.” If someone gives you directions and tells you to take “The 5” north rather than I-5 or just 5 – it’s almost a sure thing that they are from California.

– Northwesterners go to the Coast, Mid-Atlantic folks go to the Shore, Californians go to the Beach.

– I think whoever named the Benson Bubblers must have been from Wisconsin, because they’re the only people I know who regularly call drinking fountains ‘bubblers.’

– I don’t know how many times I’ve had people stare strangely at me when I’ve said I brought leftover hotdish for lunch. In Minnesota, nearly anything that gets served all mixed together with rice or noddles is called a hotdish – you people probably call it a casserole. If you’re asked to bring something to a potluck – it’s going to either be a hotdish or bars (which can be anything from lemon bars, to brownies.)

So you Native Oregonians…anything else we transplants say that make you laugh?

Or anything the natives say that we as transplants just can’t adopt?

21 Comments so far

  1. beulahmae on April 4th, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

    As a Southerner, I can’t possibly bring myself to use the word spendy. It just sounds abnormal.


  2. ilearim on April 4th, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

    Actually people from northern California do not say "The 5"


  3. zehnkatzen on April 5th, 2008 @ 9:08 am

    Well, I was born here in Oregon and have lived here most of my life and I can’t really pick anything out that is specifically Oregon … but maybe …

    Highways? We Oregonians just say "Highway" were the rest of you all say "State Route" or "SR". If Clark County were in Oregon, we’d call the road out to Camas "Highway 14" instead of "SR 14".

    We don’t have roadhouses in Oregon. Everything in the hinterlands is a Tavern. While you find pubs in the metros, the word "Pub" on a tavern in, say, Dallas or Silverton would be seen as "putting on airs".

    Someone told me once that calling your kids "rugrats" is an Oregonism, but I don’t know whether or not to trust that one.

    One thing we used to have uniformly is that road signs directing you to the Coast all read "Ocean Beaches", like it’s one big long strand. I used to think of that as the way to tell who’s gone native from who’s not. Outlanders look at "Ocean Beaches" and scratch their head a moment then go "oh, that’s the way to the coast!" Latterly, these signs have started to read "Oregon Coast", so not so much there anymore.

    We call our coastal mountains the Coast Range; outlanders call it the "Coast Ranges".

    Now, I say "The 5", but I will admit as to how I’ve adopted that from immigrants. Oregonians in the Portland Metro say "I-5", but outside of the Portland Metro simply say "the freeway" … with only two major Interstates in Oregon, there’s a ton of territory that is nowhere near one.


  4. divebarwife on April 5th, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

    Heh heh – the "Ocean Beaches" signs did perplex me a bit when I first came here…


  5. zehnkatzen on April 5th, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

    Ix-nay, DBW! That’s how we separate "them" from "us". It SEKRIT! (mad sotto voce giggle)


  6. scoggdog on April 5th, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

    You can usually spot an "out of town-er" when they can’t pronounce Willamette or couch. Also, I’ve heard more then one midwestern pronounce Washington "worshington".


  7. goregon on April 5th, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

    The worst is when people pronounce Oregon "Ore-gone." There’s no excuse for that!

    I say "right on" alot and I was told by one of my professors that it showed I was from Southern Oregon…I didn’t know quite how to take that comment.


  8. divebarwife on April 6th, 2008 @ 12:52 am

    Can I get credit as a non-native for never pronouncing Oregon wrong?

    My mom does seem to think there is an ‘r’ in Washington and I always give her a hard time about it… I could never figure out how she as a Minnesotan adopted that very Midwestern pronunciation when her kids who grew up in the Midwest didn’t do it! That one does drive me crazy!!


  9. zehnkatzen on April 6th, 2008 @ 8:42 am

    Can I get credit as a non-native for never pronouncing Oregon wrong

    Yes, madam, you do. You are divine.

    In answer to another point, overprouncing "wash" to "warsh" made an impression on me early on in life. My 2nd grade teacher said it that way.

    say "right on" alot and I was told by one of my professors that it showed I was from Southern Oregon…I didn’t know quite how to take that comment.

    Neither do I. That’s just bizarre.


  10. zehnkatzen on April 6th, 2008 @ 8:46 am

    scroggdog:

    You can usually spot an "out of town-er" when they can’t pronounce Willamette or couch

    One great foolie is play is to tell the hapless victim tourist that the "Willa" is actually prounced similar to "Mississ" and the "mette" is actually voiced "ippi". Be ready to run.


  11. sabernar on April 6th, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

    I thought that Oregoners pronounced it closer to ‘or-gan’ than ‘or-e-gon’. Is that right, or have I been misinformed?


  12. nimbleowl on April 6th, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

    one time a person who was new to Oregon was asking me if I had ever been to "the O.M.S.I." (pronouncing each letter individually). I had no idea what she was talking about at first, and then I realized… "Oh, you’re talking about Omsi!"


  13. nolando on April 7th, 2008 @ 8:42 am

    I usually just use the "pop, soda, or Coke" variants to properly ID an outta-towner…


  14. throwtheslinky on April 7th, 2008 @ 9:35 am

    A Midwestern transplant’s perspective: We don’t all say "warsh" (although many of us do). "Pop" is way more fun to say than "soda" – regardless of where you’re from – and I’ve just never understood "Coke" as a generic term (sorry, Southerners). We can’t pin the "the" descriptor for I-5 on Californians only, because my experience bopping around the Midwest tells me that Chicagoans do the same thing (but St. Louisans don’t). Another thing I’ve noticed is Californians say "freeway" while Midwesterners say "highway" – what’s the difference? I dunno. And "right on" seems to be an equal-opportunity West Coast thing to say (similar to "wicked" being East Coast). Another West Coast-ism: "I know, right?" (Midwesterners back home look at you funny when you say that.) Finally, my mom (from Missouri or Missour-uh, depending on who you ask) still says Or-uh-GAHN… but she’s learning.


  15. nolando on April 7th, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

    "Missour-uh" is the correct pronunciation for the state’s name. Unless you live in a depraved city of any size.

    I have transplant friends who say the city name, "Eugene," by emphasizing the first syllable ("EU-gene" rather than "euGENE"). Does that one count?

    I grew up here in the NW and say "soda" now instead of "pop," the term I used growing up. Dunno how that happened.

    And here’s the freeway/highway def. – "a ‘freeway’ being a divided highway only accessable via on-ramps and off-ramps and which does not have intersections, and a ‘highway’ being everything else, that is, which lacks on and off-ramps, does have intersections, and which most the time is *not* divided."


  16. zehnkatzen on April 7th, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

    nolando:

    "Missour-uh" is the correct pronunciation for the state’s name. Unless you live in a depraved city of any size.

    That would be Cape Girardeau then.

    Nolando:

    I have transplant friends who say the city name, "Eugene," by emphasizing the first syllable ("EU-gene" rather than "euGENE"). Does that one count?

    Youbetcha. Oregonians stress the 2nd syllable. Also the first syllable of Molalla. And it’s est-uh-CAY-duh not est-uh-CAHD-uh, AWL-bunny not OWL-bunny, and yaw-HOTS, not YACH-hats (though it’s fun to watch a Yachatsian give you a pained look when you say it wrong. But don’t taunt them, they’re nice people.


  17. divebarwife on April 7th, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

    You’ll all have to forgive Nolando’s confusion on how to pronounce Missouri… proper civilization confuses him…

    And Zehnkatzen – you’re sounding a bit Canadian with that "youbetcha"!

    But really… what fun ya’ll – thanks!!


  18. zehnkatzen on April 7th, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

    DBW:

    And Zehnkatzen – you’re sounding a bit Canadian with that "youbetcha"!

    Ah, yes. I’m Oregonian to the bitter core, but I am eclectic … I tend to graft things onto my speech, sometimes gratuitously. Take things out for a test drive, toss them, embellish them … language is a fun thing, neh?

    B-)


  19. justinstanley on April 7th, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

    Me dear old mum throws the "r" in "Washington," too, though she was born in Kennewick and damn well oughtta know better. I think she lived in South Dakota for some of her formative years, though.

    Of course, she also calls "kindergarten" "kinnygarden," so take her pronunciations with a grain of salt.

    Once met someone from the midwest when I was living in Florida who told me his sister lived near Vancouver. Kept asking me if I knew where "Kuh-MOSS" was. Took days before I realized he was talking about Camas.


  20. dieselboi on April 7th, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

    Awesome discussion. We always visited cousins in the midwest who talked funny (according to us.) When they said we talked funny, we said we talked like the people on TV.

    Just returned from Philadelphia where during one quiet moment, my wife asked me – "Do you think people here think we have accents?" We both laughed because we obviously do.

    Also, Thrifty car rental maps in Philadelphia have directions that ask you to take the OregAn st exit. I checked Google Maps and it is spelled OregOn, so someone made a type, but probably based on pronunciation.


  21. sdvaughn500 on April 13th, 2008 @ 1:08 am

    I was born and raised in Oregon. It was when I went to NewYork for a few years that I first heard my home state pronounced "ORY-GONE". The real trick for me, however, is the method in which to ask for your coffee.
    Does "I’ll take it regular" mean with or without milk and sugar???
    I have heard intense arguments in defending both positions.



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