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Please enjoy a variety of writing samples, selected to show both my stylistic aproaches , as well as range of genre.

 

 

This story published in the Spring 2016 issue of The Olive Tree Review

 

The Bird-Watch

            The watch’s metallic case will often go unnoticed depending on which angle I'm sitting or lying on the couch (or where my preoccupations lie that day).  The case sits baking in the light through the window, warping with the seasons, surrounded by various books, notes, knickknacks, and other various sorts of shelf-worthy essentials (the ashtray from New Mexico, the deck of Civil War playing cards with the opposing faces of Lincoln and Lee, the black and gold coasters from Jamaica that we never use, and the unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan by Kitty Kelley that I'll never read).  But in the midst of all this chaos sits that case collecting dust. 

           Time is curious thing.  A bit overanalyzed I suppose.  A bit broad.  It doesn't take much of a stretch to see in it a metaphor for death.  There's any number of clichés; the final countdown, the clock is winding down, time stands still, punching the clock, a time to remember, better luck next time, down-time, hard-time, helluva time, time to make the donuts, and it's time to shove off.  Time is something that cannot truly be grasped; it’s an abstract notion - an epic struggle between holding on and letting go.  To which, one can do neither.  Time has no master.  The "keeper," a fairy tale even too grim for the Grimms.

            My most recent rediscovery of the case was on a mission to find the Garcia Marquez memoir my mother gave me for my birthday nine years ago. I grab the case and inspecting it, see the imprint in the dust from the last time I grabbed it.  I open it.  I touch the watch inside.             

           The watch is a curious thing.  In fact it's becoming something of a curiosity.  One day it'll be on display in a jar next to the world’s longest fingernails at Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  Essentially obsolete thanks to the cellular phone, the watch is now solely a status symbol.  The young wear them to show their irony, the old wear them to show their stubbornness to change, the poor wear them to seem rich, and the rich wear them to, well, seem more rich.  

            It seems to me no coincidence that the watch not only embodies time, but also embodies, our bodies:  It has two hands, a face, a series of inner workings which most of us don't understand (but we trust that there's probably some joints, valves, and circuitry somewhere in there), a back, and a band—Which is either, like us, metallic cold and constantly pinching, or tanned, weathered and falling apart.  I suppose when we get a little closer to figuring stuff out, we'll be in that jar at Ripley’s too.

            The watch stands still at three hours, thirty-one minutes, and twenty-two seconds.  Its hand underneath its scuffed glass are bright and new; taking for granted all the tarnish they've been able to avoid, which we've gotten the privilege to endure.  The cheap metal encasing the glass and guts has begun to erode.  A steady build up of gunk seems to glue its dials in place. And the birds at twelve, three, six, and nine are staring back at me in silence.

            In retrospect I'm not sure if my grandfather was really a bird lover or just needed something to do and talk about with relatives.  I know he had a stack of books on various species, but I never saw him open them.  There was a bird-feeder in his back-yard, and every Christmas I'd give him a twenty-pound bag of bird-seed (well I should say I signed the small card taped to the ribbon around the bag - To: grandpa / From: love, hans), but I never saw him use it.  There must have been mountains of seed down in that basement.  He had a membership card to the Audubon Society, but what does “membership” really mean anyway (I've been a proud member of the National Geographic Society for years now)?  And finally he had this watch.  The National Audubon Society Singing Bird Watch™ (trademarked of course).  It was another Christmas or Birthday gift, and it would sing-croak-squawk-chirp every third hour, for the rest of his life.  His face would grimace every time it went off.  It wouldn't take a microexpressionist to interpret how he felt.  I wonder if he only wore it when we would visit as not to offend.  He would do something similar as his body was being overrun by the cancer that would kill him.  Holding in the pain as not to offend.  As not to frighten.  He wouldn't dare put his bother of death on his family.  It's a midwestern thing I suppose.

            The watchband is in tatters now.  It's notches too torn and worn to hold the clasp around my wrist.  To move it is to see little slivers of synthetic leather flake off and settle into the bottom of that metallic case.  I inspect all of the shavings that have accumulated over the years.  It's a fine display of the decay that has been going on out of sight, for years.  I go to open up the back and remember that I've opened it before.  I've been through all of this before.  I was going to restore this beautiful-baby back!  Back to brand-new!  I went out and got a shiny new band, tan and sturdy and made of real leather this time.  And I found out exactly what batteries it needed, forty-eight by two-point-fifteen millimeter, number three-forty-eight at twelve-milli-Ampere-hour (I got a two pack even).

            My grandfather was dead in less than month after his diagnosis.  He smoked two packs of unfiltered Pall Malls a day since the depression, and I guess that kind of accumulated like the slow winding of a Jack in the Box.  Then Surprise!  Blam!  Life's Joke!  I was there when the Lutheran pastor came to say his final prayers over him: my grandfather lay with a more exaggerated grimace than his Christmas gift grimace.  Gritting his teeth while his tears trickled down his exhausted face, and soaked deep into his pillow.  Puffs of muffled defiance were all he could muster in the end.

            I found his bird-watch as I was cleaning out his drawers at the assisted living facility he died in.  It was in with his socks and underwear marked with his initials - RH.  My mother saw it in my hand and said, "Oh, he would have wanted you to have that." That’s something people say to be polite. So I reciprocated the gesture and took it home.

            I'm looking for the new batteries and band that are now nowhere to be found.  Did I even buy them?  Was it all just a grand-plan-memory?  I stop looking after a while and return to my grandfather’s watch.  I rub its face.  I fold its band back.  I place it in its cheap metallic case and return its lid.  I place it back in its point-of-view place on its dusty chaotic shelf.  Knowing full well that the hands still stand still at three hours, thirty-one minutes, and twenty-two seconds, and the birds still won’t sing. 

This story published in the 2016 issue of The Olive Tree Review

 

The Knife in America

           There is an old Senegalese parable about an arrogant, inventive little spider named Anansi.  While listening to a story one day, the spider became very upset upon discovering that the story was neither about him, nor by him.  He took his concerns to the local chief of the village and asked permission to have all stories, from then on, be about him and by him.  The chief said that he would grant the spider this request only if he would single-handedly bring a tiger back to him, alive and willing.  The spider agreed, and traveled to a cave that he knew the tiger lived.  The spider then sewed up both of his eyes, and began singing and dancing wildly outside of the cave.  When the tiger came out to investigate, the spider told him that since sewing up his eyes, he now sees the most beautiful colors and cannot help but to dance and sing all day.  The tiger quickly insisted upon the spider sewing up his eyes as well, so he too could see these colors.  The spider quickly complied, and danced with the tiger, all the way back to the astonished chief.  Impressed, the chief granted the spider’s request.

Alpha enjoyed this story very much, and since moving to America, if pressed about his origin long enough, he would tell it.   

            "Ok bro, here is a good story from Senegal, bro.  It's very good.  Funny too,” he’d start.  He'd tell the story, and based upon the response he would tweak it each time.  If “his audience” wasn’t laughing Alpha (as Anansi) would conclude by breaking into a flailing jig that would eventually send him crashing to the ground.  If his listeners were enjoying themselves he could often elaborate upon the story until neither he nor anyone else could keep it straight (Anansi has been known to end up on the moon selling breadfruit).  You see, to Alpha, the story was not nearly as important as the response.  He would do the same kind of tweaking with his own story. He told people he was from Senegal, and not really from Guinea, because he feared people would associate or even blame him for the Ebola Virus.  He told people that his father was a scholar from France, rather than tell of how he had really fled his home country of Sierra Leone, to avoid a bloody revolution.  He even told people his name was Alpha, because he feared his real name of Mamadu, which is “Mohamed” translated, would give people the impression that he might be a member of Boko Haram, or “even worse Al Qaeda,” he’d think to himself and get anxious (of course there was a slim chance in hell any American would ever research the origin of his, or anyone else’s name for that matter.  Most jingoists these days make their “terrorist judgments” pre-research anyhow).  However, he too chose the name of Alpha because he had once thought highly of himself.

            Back in his home-village Alpha always attracted a lot of attention from the women.  The older women, because he was a very kind and gentle boy, always offering to help, if he saw something needed to be carried or worked upon.  The younger women, because he was a very handsome young man, with very rich dark skin, his face clear of any imperfections or scars.  He was tall and thin, which allowed for his muscles to protrude from his tightly-wound frame.  But what most attracted these women was Alpha's perfectly sculpted, symmetrically shaped skull, which he meticulously shaved every morning, with an ivory and bone-handled knife that his father had acquired on a hunting trip to Namibia, when he was a boy.  The other young men in the village let their hair grow dirty and wild.  They would much rather ride their bikes to the estuaries, take camping trips to Mount Nimba, and most important of all, prepare to get work at the hydroelectric plant that had recently opened at the base of the river.  In doing this they could hopefully avoid a life of toil in one of the bauxite mines, becoming miserable like all the men that wake up to work early, then drink and cough all night after.  The other boys thought Alpha was too concerned with his looks and they would tease him.

            "Hey bald-boy!  Hey pretty boy!  Just like a woman.  F'you're not careful you gonna wind up one!"  They would laugh and slap each other on the backs.

            "Nah bro, I'm going to America, to college; then, a millionaire bro,” He’d respond.          

This would cause them to laugh even harder, and laughing, stumble off to do those man-things that I mentioned “real” African men do.

            But, Alpha would study hard, and go to the local school every day, even though this was not required.  He would save his money and buy books that had "New York Public Library" stamped in the front cover; because they were checked out under a false name by enterprising Africans, who quickly mailed them back to their home-villages.  And he would win himself a scholarship to go study in Paris.

            Alpha loved Paris.  He would stroll around the city with books by Camus and Sartre, holding them high in hopes of sparking a conversation, thus allowing him to strut his thickened French accent.  

            Je suis Meursault.  Et toi aussi!  He’d exclaim, looking up from his copy of the Stranger.  Unfortunately France does not suffer from a shortage of pseudo-philosophers and Alpha struggled to make his mark.  He got a job working as a bellhop in a French hotel just off of the Sorbonne, and stopped going to classes.  He stopped philosophizing and started fetishizing all of the wealth he would see in the American guests at his hotel.  He would carry their luggage up to their rooms under a watchful eye, and imagine the bags being filled with American money, which their owners would dump out and roll around in the moment they closed the door.  They would tip him well and say things like “where’s the loovrah, and where’s a good spot for snails?”          J’aime l’Amérique, he’d respond while rubbing the tip between his fingers in his pocket.  As his tips started to mount his passions started to return within him.  He would flirt with girls at the hotel café, offering to show them the Declaration of Independence he kept in his wallet.  He would carry around books by Twain and Truman Capote in hopes that someone would ask if he was from the Dakotas or Chicago or New York City.  Soon Alpha had scrimped enough money together to make his way to America.  Soon he would be the one doing the tipping.  

            Once arriving in New York, Alpha quickly realized that his hopes had been hinged on a false vision.  The money he had seen in Paris was not waiting for him when he got off the plane.  He took a taxi to the address of a hotel that one of his Parisian bosses had promised would give some work.  The driver took him to a run-down two-story on West Twenty-Third Street.  The neon sign outside glowed “Gem Hotel,” well “ em Hel” as the rest of the letters had burned out in the same fashion as its edifice.  There were men in lawn chairs out front on the stoop drinking cans of Coors beer.  They eyed him as the car pulled up.  Alpha paid the driver tipping him five dollars.  He walked toward the hotel doors trying to avoid eye contact with the beer drinkers. 

One of them reached out and stopped him.

            “You need help brotha?”  The man looked to kill him in stare.

            “No sir, I have a job at this hotel.  Sir.” Alpha felt his toes grip his shoes as if he were about to bound away down the street.  The man burst out in laughter.  It was the wheezing kind of cancer-smoke laughter that you could imagine a villainous cat to have.  

            “Ain’t no hotel here no mo, you got had.”  He took a swig out of his tall beer can and licked for a drop that had dribbled on his chin.  Alpha was confused, but moreover he was frightened.  He contemplated his next move.  He was about to ask for clarification when the man spoke again.

            “Naw you ain’t got to be thinkin.  You got ta be movin.  You got the wrong intel son. The Gem is for gems and you ain't shinin much my brotha.”  He laughed again, and it scared Alpha more than before.  He felt the presence of his father’s knife as his quadriceps tightened.

            He called his job back in Paris and was given no clear indicator of what had happened.  He was out of sight and out of mind.  Out of Paris, out of Africa, and in New York.  Alpha and alone.  Finally a man at the hotel gave him some contact information on a place he might be able to stay.  He wrote down the address and took the subway north.  

            He rented out a one-room flat in a dilapidated building in the North Bronx, and had soon spent most of the money he had cherished back in Paris.  He feared his intelligence and shaved head would not be enough to get him his million dollars in America.  Because of this he became depressed.  He lost his kindness that had been so much a part of his soul.  He had lost most of those protruding muscles (from eating all of the processed foods that the North Bronx has become famous for).  He stopped reading books in public.  He stopped reading to start conversations.  He even stopped reading by himself.  Stopped with all of the books that he loved, even though he now had a card that gave him access to all the books he could ever want.  But worst of all, he had stopped shaving his head with the ivory and bone-handled knife from his father. 

*****

             The Hunting trip to Namibia:  

          When Alpha was a young boy, his father would go on hunting trips with his childhood friends from the village.  These were not hunting trips for food but rather for sport.  Something that was a point of pride for his father who would always say, “It is meat that will keep you alive, but it is the hunt that will keep you hungry.”

            His father would leave for a week or two at a time, but he would always return, with something nice for him and his mother.  He would run to his father when he saw him coming from outside the front window.  He would jump up into his arms and feel the sweat of the hunt coming off of him.  His father would give him a package usually of pawpaw candy and wooden soldier figures.  Later on in the night he would tell stories of how he had outrun the Cheetahs on the Lopori River, or had to dodge a mêlée of rough skinned plums thrown down by the Colobus Monkeys up in the argan trees.  He would laugh and allow his stories to become more and more animated based on his sons widening eyes.  

            Then on one hunting trip his father didn’t come back for a very long time.  Months passed by.  Alpha would pace the floor anxiously before and after school.  He would ask his mother “Where do you think he could be?”  What could he possibly be hunting?”

            “He’s taking care my son, don’t you worry,” was all his mother would say.  He questioned himself as to why she would be so calm.  He began to doubt her love.  Then late one night Alpha heard a tapping on the outside of his window.  He sat up and looked out.  He saw his father staring back at him.  His father’s eyes were mad.  He was dripping wet and shaking.  In one hand he held a bottle of brown liquor, and in the other a knife.  He gestured for his son to come out.  Alpha complied and walked out to the man that resembled his memory of his father.  He smelled sharp and sour.  He was radiating a heat like a cook-fire.  He bent down and took his son’s cheek in his hand.  He caressed him.  Then he held out a knife.  It shined in the moonlight.  The white handle bounced the night back at him like the sun off a river.  The blade was dripping loose stringy blood.  His father wiped the red liquid off on his pant leg and handed the knife to his son.  

            “This is what you will have of me.”  With that he squeezed his son’s shoulder and turned and walked off into the tree line.   

            Alpha wanted to do something.  Anything.  He wanted to shout for his mother.  He wanted to run after his father and go on an adventure.  He wanted to take his new knife and become a king.  But he did nothing.  He knew that was best.  

*****

            In the Bronx his hair grew wild and dirty, and sadly it grew only around his ears.  He would look into the mirror, feeling at his smooth central scalp, and curse his father, and curse the ivory and bone-handled knife, and most of all curse New York and America.

            "New York has killed my head!"  He would scream in the mirror, waving his knife.           Alpha had pretty well settled into his miserable state of affairs.  He would attain bad jobs, and put forth the little effort he felt they deserved.  He cleaned toilets at NYU, all the while ruminating on the scholarship he had given up in Paris.  He loaded trucks for UPS, and became angry when he lifted a heavy "book-load" on its way to Africa.  He stocked shoes at a DSW, and hated handling all of the fancy Italian shoes that he couldn't afford.   At night he would wear a different pair of shoes home, watching his feet and how dignified they looked as he walked.  He would take them to an old man at Grand Central Station and get them shined.

            “You sure do have quite the collection young man,” he would say, as Alpha would present him another pair.

            “It’s just money bro.”  Alpha would then lean back and hope for someone like Donald Trump or John D. Rockefeller to notice him.  After the man was finished Alpha would thank but never tip.  He was fired one night walking out of the store with a new pair of black Hush Puppies.  He felt ashamed.  Now he worked in a French Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, running all of the food, that he wasn't allowed to eat, to the customers that couldn't care less.

            He disliked the restaurant immensely.  He thought the French chef was an asshole, which he was, but mainly because he's a chef (a French chef).  One day when Alpha picked up a plate of food to take to a table, the chef stopped and scolded him for holding it wrong.

            "Why is your thumb on top of my plate!?"  The chef screamed.

 "Sorry, it's hot, chef."  Alpha now felt not only the heat from the plate, but from the chef's face as well.

            "Use a tray you stupid monkey!  This isn't Africa, we are clean in my kitchen!"

            Alpha was stumbling over how to respond.  He wanted to scream back at the chef, "In Africa, I was the king!"  He wanted to throw the plate at him and call him a French Pig.  But he did neither of these.

            "Yes.  Sorry," was all he said.  With this the chef slapped the plate from his hand, the ceramic shattering on the floor, a jagged shard jumping back and nipping Alpha in his left thumb.

            "Yes.  Sorry, Chef!  Is what I think you meant.  Now get out of my kitchen!"  The chef was breathing hard.  Noticing the blood dripping from Alpha's hand, the chef became embarrassed over his irrational outburst and could no longer make eye contact with anyone in the kitchen.

            Alpha bandaged his thumb, in the dingy must-filled locker room.  A fellow employee and fellow African, Eric from Burkina Fasso (really Edu from Liberia) entered.

            "My man, what happened to you?" he asked, kneeling down to inspect.

             "The chef hit me with a plate bro."  Alpha replied.

            "You gonna get some money out of that my friend,” Eric laughed as he walked over to his beaten locker, and began to spinning his silver padlock.

            "Oh yah?  What do you mean money bro?"  Alpha asked.

            "C'mon.  Worker's compensation my friend."  Eric, realizing Alpha's ignorance to the concept, continued.  "It's when you get paid if you get hurt at work."

             Alpha lit up.  "That's good bro."

            Eric just laughed again.  "Yah it's good, but anyway, you have to really get hurt,” he laughed.   “You'd have to lose that thumb or something."  Eric finished putting his waiter vestments into his locker.

            "See you tomorrow.  And feel, better, huh."  Eric opened the heavy metal door and left Alpha to sit and look at his damaged hand.  He noticed the slightest bit of blood, starting to soak out into the bandage, from where he had been cut.  As the blood trickled down he pictured his father walking away into the distance of that tree line.  He pictured his father sitting on a throne with a lion skinned coat requesting the presence of his son.  He thought about his mother and how she never knew about his meeting with his father that night.  He thought about the love that had left her, and he forgave her, and he cursed his father, and he forgave him.  He thought for a moment he was like Camus’ Meursault and he was being sentenced to decapitation.  He imagined himself the moment before his execution and he imagined he would be at peace.  He heard the chef yelling in the kitchen above. He squeezed his hand so the blood began to flow more freely.  His legs began to shake with anticipation, and he felt like he was going to scream.  He opened his mouth but nothing escaped.  He felt his heart racing inside his chest.  He decided he would die a millionaire in his life.  He decided that there was such a thing as starting over.  He decided he was his father’s son.  

            He thought about the story of the spider.  He thought about sewing the chef's eyes up. He thought about getting hurt at work and getting paid in America.  He thought about his thumb.  He thought about doing more with less.  And he thought about the ivory and bone-handled knife. 

Dec. 22, 2015

 

The North-Central American English Dialect

Hans Freiwald

Hunter College

Professor Huidobro

1.  Introduction

 

            There is a dialect in American English, that is often overlooked, or when attention is brought upon it, it tends to be in mockery—The North-Central American English dialect.  Now this is not a condemnation of the treatment toward this dialect (which many could argue is entirely perceptional), rather it is an examination on the dialect itself; its history, its geography, its linguistic characteristics (including, but not limited to, its unique lexicon, phonology/phonetics, syntax, and morphology).  To entice, let us look at a very simple distinction in the lexicon of(1) the North-Central American English[1] dialect in comparison to that of two others, (2) the North-Eastern American English dialect, and (3) the South-Central American English dialect (excluding much of the border area shared by Texas and Mexico) as mapped out in a 2013 article by Alexis Kleinman of the Huffington Post.  She asks, “What is your generic term for a sweetened, carbonated beverage?”:

 

(1)   For he word “pop” is overwhelmingly used in the NCAE, which includes the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa (I will hypothesize that there is a phonetically influenced reason for this occurrence later on, under the phonetics section of the paper)

(2)   The word “soda” is predominantly used in the North-Eastern American English dialect, which includes New York, and all of the New England states, from Massachusetts to Maine.

(3)   The word “Coke” has predominant usage in the South-Central United States, including much of Texas, and the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

 

            This paper deals with the NCAE dialect and how it has defined itself as one of the unique dialects in North America.  The NCEA is specifically recognized by various literary linguistic sources.  Geographically the NCAE is unique to mainly one region in the continental United States.  It has a unique lexicon as can previously be seen with the use of the word “pop.”  Phonetically it has specific “rules” of articulation, some examples will include the pronunciation of vowels, as well as the addition of diphthongs.  It is syntactically varied in comparison to other dialects, which includes the omission of various function words like “determiners,” and “auxiliary verbs.” Finally it is morphologically exceptional in that there is a “possessive phenomenon,” that seems specific to the NCEA. This will be proven by showing the NCAE dialect in contrast with others as well as with the use of literary source material and introspective hypotheses made by the author himself.  To translate that using the NCEA dialect it would appear something like—“[uf-dha], this things gonna get worked out now, of sure, yah.  It’s not like them guys’s way of speak[in] now, [nəʊ] sir, and this guy’s gonna tell ya why, you [bΕʈʃə].

 

2.  Evidence and explanation as to where the North-Central English American dialect is found, its history, hypotheses on how it originated, and why it is categorized as a dialect

           

            Author and linguistic specialist, Lázló Matzkó discusses the NCEA in his article, “Some Thoughts on Dialect Mapping in the United States”:  “[The Webster New World Dictionary] WNWD shows North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa as Midland speech areas, while according to Thomas's map these states belong to what Thomas calls the North Central dialect. WNWD is right in showing Midland speech in most of these states, at least on the basis of accent” (95).  Now though this is a comparison between two variations in mapping it does however show that the NCAE dialect is a scholastically recognized dialect that is in discussion.  A more accessible definition and proof that this dialect is more widely recognized can be found on Wikipedia, “North-Central American English (also known as the Upper Midwest or North Central dialect in the United States) is an American English dialect native to the Upper Midwestern United States, an area that somewhat overlaps with speakers of the separate, Inland North dialect” (“North Central American English”).  Now though Wikipedia should not be used as a literary source, it does however show a public recognition of the NCAE dialect.  As has been previously stated, one is now well aware of where this dialect is found, but perhaps more important is why it is found there.

            Much of this region is populated by Norwegian Americans (According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, “The upper Midwest became the home for most Norwegian immigrants. In 1910 almost 80 percent of the one million or more Norwegian Americans—the immigrants and their children—lived in that part of the United States. By the early twenty-first century, about half of the Norwegian American population lived in the Midwest. In 2010 about 17 percent of the population in Minnesota, 30 percent in North Dakota, 15 percent in South Dakota, and 8 percent in Wisconsin were of Norwegian ancestry” [346]), German Americans (“In the latter phases of German immigration newcomers joined established countrymen in a phenomenon called chain migration. Chain migration is defined as the movement of families or individuals to join friends and family members already established in a given place. Chain migration strengthened already existing German regions of the United States. One such concentrated settlement pattern gave rise to the so-called “German triangle,” defined by St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; and Cincinnati, Ohio, with lines stretching between them so that the triangle incorporated Chicago, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Milwaukee, Davenport, and other strongly German cities. Other descriptors include the more accurate “German parallelogram,” which stretches from Albany, New York, westward along the Erie Canal to Buffalo and farther westward through Detroit to St. Paul and the Dakotas, then south to Nebraska and Kansas, back to Missouri and eastward along the Ohio River to Baltimore. Except for large settlements in Texas, San Francisco, and Florida, German settlement is still largely contained within this German belt” [Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, 211]), and Swedish Americans (“The first great wave arrived between 1868 and 1873, as famine in Sweden and opportunity for land in the United States drove 100,000 Swedes, mainly farming families, from their homeland. They relocated primarily in the upper Midwest” [Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, 308].)  It is my hypothesis that a synthesis between these origin languages and their relation to the American English language that is in large part responsible for the formation of this dialect.  As we will see there are many articulation consistencies, syntactical connections, and actual “loanwords” that will help form this hypothesis uniformly.

3.  Phonological and Phonetic changes that take place in the North-Central American English Dialect

            In discussing specific regional dialects, and example that often arises is the pronunciation of the word “coffee.”  This is no more prominent than when one refers to the native Long Island speaker and their pronunciation—[kɔfi].  However, when looking at the pronunciation of “coffee” in the NCAE dialect one would hear [kʌfi].  The NCAE dialect uses the mid-central lax vowel in this instance, as well as in instances of words like [kʌt], and [slʌtr].  One may hypothesize that this occurs because of the Norwegian influence and their use of common words like “God dag” [gud dʌg], meaning “how do you do” and “takk” [tʌk], meaning “thank you[2].”

            There are other phonetically charged changes that are specific to the NCAE dialect.  For example the [ŋ] commonly found at the end of words to articulate tense is often replaced by the [In] sound.  So the word “beginning,” would be pronounced [bigInIn].  There are also noticeable diphthongs specific to the NCAE dialect.  A specific example of this would be when a word ends with an /o/ such as in the word “no” the /o/ would be pronounced with a pronounced [əʊ] mid round vowel sound instead of the [ow] glide.  I hypothesize that diphthongs like this may occur because of the strong use of the umlaut in the German language, which would explain why the change in “vowel quality,” would come to be so much more “dramatic,” and rounded.

            Finally, There is also a schwa replacement that occurs when the /oo/ is present in words such as “goodness.”  In the NCAE this would be pronounced with a [ə] (schwa) – [fuəd], “for [gədnɛs] sakes.”  I hypothesize that the word “god” meaning “good,” and pronounced [gud] was used so much in the Swedish and Norwegian language that when incorporated into English the [u] was shortened to [ə] around voiced consonants to save effort while speaking.  A stretch?  Possibly.  But, a hypothesis nonetheless.

4.  Syntactical Changes taking place in the North-Central American English Dialect

            There are very distinct syntactical occurrences in the NCAE dialect.  In the NCAE dialect words of agreement often come after the subject verb object sentence structure.  For example “Yah,” “You Betcha,” and “sure” will often act as a subordinate clause in a sentence meaning “I understand.” “You’re welcome, you betcha.”  Also in the North Central American English dialect the word “oh” [ow] will be inserted (often) for emphasis.  For example, “Yes I understand,” could become “I understand, oh yes, sure.”  That last example also represents another syntactical occurrence in this dialect, which is the repetition of clauses that have the same meaning.  Another common example would be “ I Never, oh no, not on your life[3].  Which brings me to my last point.  As seen in the last example, function words will often be dropped, like the auxiliary verb “would” and “do,” as well as the determiner “that” were dropped from “I would never do that” to “I never.”  A simple hypothesis for that last example, I believe, could be applied to many dialects in the English language, and that would be that languages were simplified in a country with so many different languages verging together all at one.  One easy way to simplify would have been to pare down any seemingly “unnecessary” words, in order to cut down on confusion. 

5.  Morphological changes that occur in the North-Central American English Dialect

            This is taken from the linguistic essay/study, “Variation in inflectional morphology” written by Chad Nilep:

Inflection occurs not only on verbs (sometimes called conjugation) but also on nouns and pronouns (sometimes called declension). It is here that the (I hope)amusing data from my native dialect comes in. I grew up in North Dakota during the 1970's and 80's speaking a variety of North-Central American English. A non-standard pronoun form used in informal speech where I grew up has at times prompted linguist-colleagues to blurt, "No! Do people really say that?" when I describe it... In informal speech the phrase them guys occurs as roughly equivalent to they - that is as a third-person plural subject (nominative) pronoun.* This, I believe, is common in informal speech in many English dialects... At least where I come from, the possessive (genitive) of them guys is the double-inflected their guys's (pronounced like 'their guises'), where them becomes their and guys receives the regular apostrophe+s possessive suffix... I don't know how widespread this form is. The last example above is from a comment on Georgia Tech football, so it seems less likely that the writer is from the north central US or central Canada.** On the other hand, a commenter at The Japanese Page, a language study forum, says, "I caught myself the other day saying 'It should be one of their guys's turns to drive' and I've heard 'our guys's' also." The commenter goes on to suggest, "I guess I should stay in the Midwest US. (Linguistic Anthropology) 

            To paraphrase from Chad Nilep’s essay—In the NCAE dialect third person pronouns such as “them,” and “they” becomes “them guys” which gives these two morphemes together varying inflections.  For example “they said to them,” becomes “them guys said to them,” or “they said to them guys.”

            Also In the NCAE dialect an apostrophe /s/ must be added to show possession, even with pronouns (as well as phonetically pronounced), even to morphemes that end in the /s/ consonant.  For example “that’s his,” becomes “that’s his’s” or “that’s theirs,” becomes “that’s theirs’s,” or more commonly as previously shown “that’s them guys’s.”

            Lastly, In the NCAE dialect the morpheme “borrow” can sometimes replace the morpheme “loan,” and retain the same meaning.  “Let me borrow it to you,” can mean, “to lend out” in this dialect[4].

6.  Specifics in the lexicon of the North-Central American English dialect, including the addition of loanwords

            Here is a list of some words specific to the NCAE lexicon:

•      “Pop” = a sweetened carbonated beverage.

•      “Hot-dish” = any time you put two or more ingredients in a casserole dish and bake.  One example is tater-tot hot-dish, which contains cream of mushroom soup, lots of cheese, bacon, and of course tater tots.  “It’s darn good, sure!”

•      “U betcha” [ju bΕʈʃə] = “OK,” and “I’m excited,” and “Yes, I agree.”

•      “Okie doke” = “OK,” and can also mean “do you understand?”

•      “Dust-bunnies” = Any dust found under a bed.

•      “Sleep” = The crust found in your eyes after you wake up.

•      “Uff-da”  [uf-dha], = “Uh-oh,” or “that’s great!” or “I’m Tired,” (think of the United States’s East Coasts’s [remember what I previously mentioned on NCAE morphology?] “Forgedda [fØrgΕdə] bout it”)

            Here are some of the loanwords that can still be found in the North-Central American dialect[5]:

·         “Brat” [brʌt] – This is taken from the German word “Bratwurst,” meaning sausage.  This term can mean any type of sausage or “hot dog” in the NCAE dialect.

·         “Oma,” [Ømʌ] and “Opa,” [Øpʌ] – This is taken from the literal German words meaning “grandmother,” and “grandfather.”  It is common for these words to be used to address one’s grandparents casually in the NCAE dialect.

·         “Lutefisk” [lutΕfIsk] – This is taken from the literal word “Lutefisk” from Norway.  This refers to a codfish that has been preserved in lye, for later consumption.  In the NCAE dialect this may refer to any white-fish consumed on a holiday

·         “Smorgasbord” [smowrgəsbowrg] – This is a Swedish word that originally and traditionally represented a table in which a specific meal or type of food was presented or represented.  Its use in the NCAE dialect is more commonly used to refer to an abundance of food, or a large meal.

7.  Conclusion

            The North-Central America English dialect is a distinct and unique dialect specific to the North-Central United States of America.  The NCAE can be defined by its amalgamation of the various languages (specifically Norwegian, German, and Swedish) of the immigrating groups that settled there.  It is a dialect, because of its distinct linguistic characteristics, including but not exclusive to, such as the pronunciation of a mid-central lax vowel in words like “coffee,” [kʌfi]; the often-times preceding clauses that become subordinate in NCAE, such as “Yes, I agree,” becoming “I agree, yes;” the inflectional variation of using and pronouncing “extra apostrophes” in possession, such as “his’s thing;” and finally, because of its specific lexicon and appearance of loanwords.  This dialect is just as prevalent and in use as many of the other American dialects, and like other American dialects it is experiencing contemporary changes in the Twenty-First Century.  Now, if one is to write a paper and hypothesize on the North-Central American English dialect, than, I would argue, that one should conclude with its use.  “Okie doke, I hope this paper was informative for ya now, yah, U betcha.” 

References

Granquist, Mark A. "Swedish Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 3rd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2014.   305-318. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.

Kleinman, Alexis. “These Dialect Maps Showing The Variety Of American English Have Set The Internet On Fire”. Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 6 Jun. 2103. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.

Lovoll, Odd S. "Norwegian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 3rd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 2014. 343-357. Gale Virtual    Reference Library. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.

Matzkó, László. “SOME THOUGHTS ON DIALECT MAPPING IN THE UNITED STATES”. Angol Filológiai Tanulmányok / Hungarian Studies in English 10 (1976): 95–97. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.

Nilep, Chad. “Variation in inflectional morphology.” Society for Linguistic Anthropology. Linguistic Anthropology, 27 Aug. 2012. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.

“North Central American English.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 12 Dec. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.

Rippley, LaVern J. "German Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2014. 207-223. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.

 

[1] Please note that from now on the North-Central American English dialect will be abbreviated to the “NCAE” dialect.

[2] Hypothesis made from words found in the Gale Virtual Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, pg. 348.

[3] Now it is also important to note that though the example I used involved negative articles, it is not specific to such.  For example it can also be used positively, as in “I yah, yep, sure, one-hundred percent, a definite,” as well as just descriptions of the same event or location, as in “I was at the store with the food, the supermarket, the [insert market name, i.e. Target], the Target that I was in, the food store ya know.”

[4] Please note that though this occurs in the NCAE dialect, it has been pointed out to me that it is also present in other dialects and languages.

[5] It should be noted that these loanwords are becoming less and less common, as their prevalence of use was stronger with preceding generations.  This most likely runs parallel with many other American English dialects, especially as the geographic interconnectivity from online communication has begun to merge dialects in more and more ways.  I would hypothesize that this merger is responsible for the “dropping” of loanwords that now seem more and more antiquated.

 

This poem exists in the collection, "the Dirty East," considered for the 2015 Mary Ballard Poetry Prize

Inside Out

 

MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING is missing

“I don’t understand this” hits me with hot Cafe Bustelo breath,

a tepid tuna-fish chaser follows as he hastily holds Anne Frank in my face

“Ironic you idiot”

  (Races through my mind 3x)

A singular “THANKS” burns as It escapes my pursed lips

I’m back inside by the time I reach the school’s exit

      (Bloated like LaGuardia’s painted portrait)

 

The sun’s now warming my paunch, passing through the cotton-poly blend like oily 

paper

I implore my liver to apply the piercing rays like a heating pad on a pulled muscle

The lack of response causes me to curse

Svedka, Saki, Sapporo Light, Steven Spielberg

                                 (and Captain HOOK)

bang-a-rang!  Purple painted pants on that hip-hop hipster

Takes me back to The Charleston, Plymouth gin, personal pan pizzas,

the Knicks

Vs.

the Celtics

And the falafel farts wafting in from around the corner

My kidneys burn as I hurry past Court Square wine

                                                                                      (& LIQUOR)

 

Wilde and Bertrand Russell follow behind me like shadows

While in front, just beyond the beggar with his ‘bitty bottles

Chester Himes and d’Holbach wait on the corner of Eleventh

The fruity little Frenchman refusing to look at his black face

                                                                                   (Determined)

I give the beggar a dollar 

My mind goes to the price of Purell 

                                 (travel-size)

89¢, and the awareness of my stomach surfaces 

BURP

FART

                                                                                                    (relief)

 

Pandora picks Louie CK as the smell of poor man’s pine-sol fills my nose and throat

The septic smell takes me to a bodega in Sunset Park as fearful sounds fly from

a Puerto Rican with a bull-whip WILD from his want of rum, and men, and women

CRACK!

CRACK!

CRACK!

I cross the street in my memory

    (worried)

Now I enter my apartment

I’ll pour a warm Grolsch

I’ll read something by Doris Kearns Goodwin

     Sleep with my hat on

                                                                         (insides will settle away)

 

 

2012

These articles written for Asta Publications

 

Ghostwriting on the Menu:  A Minimalist Guide to the Industry

 

            Recently, the head chef at the spanish restaurant, of which I’m employed, presented me with a new dish. 

            “What is it?” I queried. 

            “Just try,” was hisunadorned reply. 

            The dish was simple, delicious, and took no more than a bite for me to realize his achievement.  The chef had created the experience of enjoying a traditional margarita pizza (flatbread, fresh basil, tomato, and mozzarella) in a single bite.  Now, where could I possibly be going with this you may understandably be asking yourself.  Well, the flavor and technique that the chef achieved would mean nothing unless it could be promoted (to sell it, to make one salivate from description, so to speak).  The chef, who primarily speaks spanish then asked me to write it up for the menu. 

            “Wait a minute,” I thought.  “This is eerily coincidental to a blog on ghostwriting that I’m having trouble beginning,” and there you have it.  The restaurant has one of its now most popular dishes, Cherries Margarita: locally farmed cherry tomatoes roasted in spanish olive oil, infused with basil and oregano, finished in GranDaisy breadcrumbs and toasted rosemary, $13.00; and I have an intro.  Now, one can see that ghostwriting is a broad industry, but who is seeking it out, why are they seeking it out, where can one find a ghostwriter, and finally how can they expect their experience to be?

            First of all, what exactly is a ghostwriter?  Put simply, it’s someone who writes something for someone else, and takes no credit (my name appears nowhere on the menu, for example).  Now, more importantly, who seeks out a ghostwriter?  The quick and easy answer may be, someone who can’t write; but this would also not be entirely correct.  The correct answer may be someone who isn’t comfortable in their writing ability, or actually more appropriately may be someone who doesn’t have time to write;  such as the celebrity, the CEO, the politician, or the musician that may feel the need to “strike while the iron’s hot.”  Recently a friend told me of a project in which he was writing Wee Man’s (of MTV’s Jackass “fame”) autobiography.

            “How’s it going?” I inquired. 

            “Not bad, I just need to finish Shaquille O’Neal’s introduction,” was his response.  I laughed, but was really asking myself how I could find a gig like that.

            Go on Craigslist on any given day, and under writing services you can find hundreds, if not thousands of writers willing to do your compositional bidding.  However, with so many choices, and such anonymity, how can one really know the talent that they are acquiring (let’s be honest, a good writer can make a really good fake resume).  The more intelligent and responsible approach may be for the client to seek out a licensed publication company that offers ghostwriting services. A company like Asta Publications for example (plug-plug), that takes a professional, interactive and logistical approach to satisfy its many busy client’s needs.

            Now, how does the process work?  Well, for the client it’s actually quite simple.  Bring an idea, a concept, a manuscript perhaps (though not necessary), some capital, and some patience (as little as 120 days with a company like Asta); and the ghostwriter will deliver back a finished product.  Now, for the ghostwriter the process is a little more complicated.  The ghostwriter should be prepared to take any concept they are presented, take the time to do many rewrites, take criticism, take satisfaction in a completed project, and take zero credit whatsoever.  Though many people may have trouble with that last lack of credit statement, the honest writer will know that though their name is not on the cover, they have advanced themselves on the road of becoming better at their craft (a writer writes).

            So, are you a busy television celebrity who’s window of viewer interest is closing (slowly, but be assured, surely), a celebrated CEO that is seeking more celebration and compensation, or a chef that wishes you could make skate fish with poison ivy sauce sound more appetizing?  Then you qualify as someone that should seek out a ghostwriter; and now you know how you to go about it.  Pescado Blanco Asado: locally caught Skate fish roasted in herb and Iberico ham compound butter, served with spicy radish and radicchio, finished with a Rhus Radicans creme’. 

 

 

For the Legitimately Motivated:  How to Become Self-Published

 

            I can recall an incident I had a while back at a bar I used to manage.  It was a slow day, and eventually the crowd had dwindled down to only myself and a lone customer. I proceeded to watch the customer consume one too many frozen margaritas, and then as they say in the bar business, he “turned the switch.” I then found myself on the receiving end of a barrage of non-related utterances. They were strung together by a man that I had determined was a loose cannon, an assumed crackpot if you will.  He assaulted me with his theories about the Obama administration, the imminent technological collapse of society and the rise of a Texan ideology. Politely, I informed him that I think he’d had enough, and perhaps it was time to be on his way.  He kindly agreed, took one final swig, smiled wide, and stated, “Thanks for giving a lonely poet your ear.” 

            “You got it,” I replied, and went about my work. 

When I next arrived to work, there was a book waiting for me: Thus Virginia Passes by James Browning Kepple.  I took it home, opened it up to find it was a book of poetry, began to read and found out it actually contained powerful and moving poetry.  “Who is this author?” I wondered.   After googling the name, I found that, sure enough, it was that “crackpot” from a few days earlier.  Now, though he may remain “cracked” in my eyes he had also shown himself to be a legitimate writer, all because he showed me a published work (a self-published work, as I would later find out). 

Why do I begin with my story of Mr. Kepple?  Because he has chosen to become a part of a growing industry that has a growing audience, a growing clientele and an alternative for many who are finding that traditional publishing has closed its doors.

            Sparticus, Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Joy of Cooking all share one interesting commonality, and it shouldn’t take a genius to realize where I’m going here.  All were self-published and all together have sold over a hundred million copies. Now, why did these authors choose to self-publish?  First of all, they appeared to have been extremely self-motivated people, and second, they all found the traditional publishing industry to be less than ideal (Howard Fast, author of Sparticus actually found himself blacklisted due to his allegedCommunist ties).  

Those are some exceptional examples of people who have done it and clearly succeeded, but how can you find yourself in that company of names?  You have a great idea, or perhaps you’ve already composed a manuscript that you’ve sent out to publishing houses (hopefully having copyrighted your material first; it’s a must and affordable and simple online-  HYPERLINK "http://www.copyright.gov") and have had no responses. I think it’s time to take matters into your own hands.  Remember, motivation is essential. 

Online you can find many companies that offer self-publishing services.  Asta Publications offers publishing solutions that include format choices for both print and e-book conversion, professional editing, and some social media marketing.  However, whether you choose Asta Publications or another publishing service, it is up to you, the author, to promote your work and yourself.   People cannot read what they do not know about (simple, but true).

            In the end, though I still hope to never be involved in another one of Mr. Browning Kepple’s inebriated rants,  I must commend him for his pluck and tenacity with which he promotes his work.  He’s self-published, still self-publishing, self-promoting, and a true testament to the ideology that anyone can get their ideas out there if they exude a little effort.  Finally, with that effort one can attain a level of legitimacy, and with that, just maybe find his or her name on that self-publishing genius list next.

HANS FREIWALD

47-14 11th St. (Floor 3)

Long Island City, NY 11101

347.401.2114

hfreiwald.com

hfreiwald@gmail.com

 

OBJECTIVE             To obtain a writing position where I may utilize my skills, and further develop my understanding of the

                               industry.

 

EDUCATION           Hunter College, The City University of New York

                              Bachelor of Arts in English, June 2016

                              Minor: History, summa cum laude, GPA 3.915

 

EXPERIENCE

Spring, 2016                Published in the Olive Tree Review, New York, NY

·         Two works accepted for publication in the Spring, 2016 issue of the writer/artist based review

·         Publishing process navigated with the magazine up until print

 

April, 2016                  Hunter College, The City University of New York

·         Relief teacher for an Introductory Creative Writing Course (ENGL 300)

·         Coordinated lesson plans with initial instructor

·         Created and administered writing exercises for the class

·         Selected and analyzed various pieces of literature

·         Helped students to develop and polish their own works

 

2/14 to 8/14                  Asta Publications, New York, NY

·         Conferred with self-publishing authors on their intended projects

·         Edited works for future publication

·         Assisted in overall layout and designs of published works

·         Developed, edited and wrote articles on self-publishing

 

ACTIVITIES             Often involved in the production of stage plays, and reviews,

                               Produce a weekly podcast (“Jerk Practice”),

                               Obtaining certification in yoga instruction,

                               Nineteen years of restaurant and service experience

 

SKILLS                     Extensive knowledge of current MLA, APA, and Chicago guidelines,

                                Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, Access, Outlook,

                                Various video and audio editing software (Audacity, Premiere, Cubase Pro, Photoshop),

                                Experience in execution of social media outlets (such as Blogger, and Wordpress)

                                Knowledge of taking plays into production

 

References Available Upon Request