Our stories of culture shock resulting from language misunderstanding usually involve foreign tongues, but in some cases it's accents in our own country that cause problems.

For instance, on our Well-Deserved Vacation, Lady Katherine and I stopped for breakfast at a hamlet deep in the mountains of eastern Tennessee.

The young lady serving us took my order for coffee (which was NOT Community), eggs, bacon and hash browns (grits didn't appear on the menu), then said pleasantly, "Wattweetrahsowdoe?"

I had no idea what she was saying, so Lady K (a native of the Virginia mountains) had to translate: "She's asking if you want white, wheat, rye or sourdough toast with your breakfast."

I selected "sowdoe."

Here's looking at you

The encounter with the Tennessee server reminded me of a story I've told often, but always enjoy recalling.

A lady from New Roads and a friend, vacationing in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area, were at a restaurant when their server, after hearing the two women discuss the menu, blurted out, "Y'all sure tawk funny! Where y'all from?"

When they told her Louisiana, she wrinkled up her face and said, "I hear you people down there will eat ANYTHING!"

After they finished their dinners — whole rainbow trout — the server came back and asked, "Would you like me to box up your leftover fish?"

The New Roads lady replied, "Just the eyes. …"   

Face from home

Pam Rice tells a "small world" story:

"My first husband was born and raised in a very small town — Culver, Indiana — one of those one-stoplight towns, while I was a big-city girl from Indianapolis.

"After we moved to Baton Rouge, his best friend since grade school relocated to Houston. Houston was too far to go home to Indiana for holidays, so he came to Baton Rouge and stayed with us.

"It was a Saturday in the early ’80s after Thanksgiving when they decided to head out to a small bar near our apartment off O’Neal Lane for a few root beers and to watch some football.

"As they sat down and ordered, they looked down the bar and there sat a guy they had gone to high school with!" 

Across the gap

Our stories of communication gaps remind Courtland Chaney of this experience in an office supply store:

"I went to purchase multiple items, including a bottle of correction fluid, the white liquid we used to use to cover errors when typing on a typewriter (younger readers can Google ‘typewriter’ if they are unfamiliar with the word).

"I asked a young employee where I could find ‘liquid paper.’ You should have seen his face! He seemed to be deciding whether to call for help in case I was dangerous.

"I explained the product. and he said ‘Oh, you mean white out’ — which I learned is spelled ‘wite out.’

"I just hope he doesn't think I use it directly on my computer screen when I correct my typos!"

(Courtland, I recognize that last line as an old Aggie joke — but somehow I'm not in the mood for Aggie jokes right now. …) 

Special People Dept.

  • Laura Lofton Cotton celebrates her 100th birthday on Monday, Dec. 3. She taught at Baton Rouge High School for 25 years.
  • Rebecca McMorris celebrated her 94th birthday on Sunday, Dec. 2.
  • Ruth “Tiger” Elisar, of Prairieville, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Sunday, Dec. 2.
  • Elizabeth and Al Brown celebrated their 57th anniversary on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Agony of de feet

"In 1940, before World War II, America was selling scrap iron to Japan," says D.J. Strickland.

"A man stopped by our farm to buy scrap iron for the Japanese. I found a ton of scrap iron, and he gave me 75 cents for it. I bought a pair of tennis shoes with my money.

"I was 12 years old, and school was out for the summer. So I decided not to wear my new shoes until school started.

"When school began, three months later, I tried to put my new shoes on, but my feet had grown two sizes. I never got to wear those shoes."

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.