B is from northeast Ohio, near the border with western Pennsylvania. And while I’ve lived in this region of the US (the Midwest) for ten years and in eastern Pennsylvania for another four, I’ve found that people here have unique characteristics. If you ever need to spot someone from this part of Ohio, here’s what to look for:
- Needs Done: People in this part of the US use a language construct that most other Americans consider grammatically incorrect. It is the omission of “to be” in the phrase “needs to be done.” For example, people here will say that “clothing needs washed” or that “grass needs cut” or that “furniture needs cleaned.”
- City Pronunciation: Many cities in this area have the same names as cities in other parts of the world: Vienna (Austria), Ravenna (Italy), Medina (Saudi Arabia), Lisbon (Portugal), Parma (Italy), Navarre (Spain), Calcutta (India), and the list goes on. This is not the unique part, since the US loves borrowing place names. The unusual part is the pronunciation: “Vienna” is pronounced “vai-AN-uh,” and “Medina” is pronounced “meh-DAI-nuh.” It’s unclear whether they are unaware of the correct sounds in the language of origin, or if they’re attempting to make it their own. Presumably the latter, since the towns of Johnston (pronounced “Johnson”) and Campbell (pronounced “Camel”) originate from the English language.
- Street Names: Many of the roads up here don’t have names like Jefferson or Miles. Instead, they’re named for the two farms or the two towns they connect. Youngstown Kingsville Road is one thing, but Bradley Brownlee (Road) just sounds like a political campaign to me.
- Street Endings: And while we’re on the topic, I’ve never heard people so dedicated to saying the type of street when they say it’s name. For example, I’ve never heard anyone refer to Broadway (in NYC) as Broadway Avenue, nor does anyone insist on explaining that Market (in SF) is a Street. But here, when describing something or giving directions, you must specify that something is on East Market Street or Elm Road. (I have yet to see an Elm Street, in case you’re wondering if that’s the reason for the specificity.)
- Braking: While this isn’t the first place I’ve seen signs urging me not to use my “Jake Brake” or “Engine Brake” or “Brake Retardant,” it is certainly the most prolific. The truck traffic has to (have) be(en) immense for this kind of ubiquity.
- Grocery Wheels: While tutoring an ESL student last week, I pointed to a picture of a woman in a grocery store and asked her the name of the wheeled, metallic item she was pushing her groceries in. “Buggy!” she said, and I figured that she must have learned some British English. Turns out that no, this is a common term in this part of the US. This joins my mental list of word quirks, like NYC’s use of “on line” to mean in line or in a queue, and Wisconsin’s use of “bubbler” to mean drinking or water fountain.
A few things from Ohio in general carry over too: the obsession with buckeyes (both the cookie and the sports team), the commitment to visiting amusement parks each summer, the guarantee of fried heart-attack-inducing foods at every event and restaurant, the need to spell out the state name using bodies (YMCA-style), the addition of an “r” into “wash,” and the use of B-Dubs to refer to Buffalo Wild Wings.
So, come visit already! If you pronounce every place name the opposite of your natural inclination and ask if a car needs washed, you’ll fit right in.