Revenge of the Words
Fiction by Wayne Scheer
Bosco George had a problem. Although born in Iowa, America's plainspoken heartland, his own English sounded like the linguistic love child of Yogi Berra and Sarah Palin. It's not that he didn't know the language, it's just that his syntax sounded like Puff Diddy singing tunes from Oklahoma.
"I just open my mouth for business and the words come out to play," he'd say. Folks would scratch their heads.
As a young man, he'd get angry. "Don't laugh at me," he'd say. "Or you'll be smiling out of the other side of your teeth."
He grew up a tough kid from Cedar Rapids. "I come from the other side of the railroad," he told people. When he saw the confusion on their faces, he'd try to clarify. "You know, where the grass ain't green with envy."
"Say what?" was the usual response.
And, of course, he'd say, "What."
In time, it was clear to Bosco he didn't belong in Iowa, so he traveled the country in search of work and acceptance.
People still laughed. Especially in Texas.
At a bar outside Dallas, he had an encounter with a man wearing a cowboy hat, boots and pants so tight Bosco was afraid to look. The would-be cowboy drawled, "Y'all sure got some funny ways."
Bosco assumed the man must have been drunk and seeing double. That would explain why he dressed so funny and said, "y'all." He just thanked him, and moved on.
In Georgia, he interviewed for a job, but it didn't go well. It began with the woman saying, "Good morning," with her voice rising on the first syllable of "morning." Bosco thought she was asking a question, so he tried to explain why he thought the morning was so good.
Later in the interview, the woman asked him where he was from originally. When he told her, "Iowa," she asked how long he'd lived in this country.
"You're luhnin English real good, sugar. You'll be talkin like us in no tahm."
Frightened, Bosco suffered what he called his "dark bluish" period. "I guess I'm always gonna stand out, like a hammer that hit its thumb on the nail."
But something odd happened the first day he arrived in New York City. He felt at home. "These people talk funnier than I do. We're kindled spirits."
He found a job at a pizzeria in Queens. Everyone thought he was from Italy.