Monday, September 13, 2010

Talkin' Texas, Austin Style

Austin, Texas is an alluring oasis located smack dab in the heart of Texas. Learn the lingo and you'll fit right in . .

New to Austin? You’re not alone. The little big city on the Lower Colorado River has been growin’ so fast almost nobody’s from here any more.

And it's no wonder. Austin is an oasis of rolling green hills, miles of blue river and more writers, musicians and computer whizzes than you can shake a stick at.

Though the city is located deep in the heart of Texas, you can always tell when you hit the Austin city limit line. The elevation is higher, the landscape is lush and green and the language is a pure, straight up, double shot of Austin. With a good ear and a little coachin’, you too can talk like you were born here.Now, learnin’ to act like you’re from Austin may take a little longer . . .

A Bit About Austin

A couple things newcomers find out right away is that Austin is different—not just different from Texas, but, for the most part, different from the rest of the planet, which is why so many people visit Austin and nobody seems to leave.

The semi-official Austin city motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” and we like it that way.

I hear up north they lock their crazy people in the attic. In Austin, we prop ‘em up on the sofa and invite the neighbors over for iced tea. So it stands to reason we need our own language, which explains everything from our own special pronunciation of regular ol’ English to our own brand of Spanglish.

Talkin’ Austin: The BasicsFirst off, you can always tell a newcomer when they refer to Austin residents as “Austonians” or any other some such nonsense. Be aware—this is a terrible insult, since Houston residents call themselves “Houstonians,” and Austin takes great pride in being unique. Austin folks are Austinites.

Many a new weather man has made the grave mistake of addressing his audience as Austonian, and the unfortunate tee-vee station that employs said weather man gets more irate phone calls than if he’d predicted the weather wrong. To be fair, we don’t much care what weather men, or anybody else for that matter, say about Austin weather—we already know the forecast. We’ve got four seasons: hot, hotter, hottest, and natural catastrophe (flood, hail, tornado, drought, and any coastal north-heading hurricane, and the inevitable evacuees said hurricane blows in with, which we take in with shelter, hot casseroles and good intentions).

To keep things interesting, there’s the occasional annoying cold front that knocks the whole city to its knees—helpful hint: avoid rare rain or ice storms. Austinites don’t know how to deal with bad weather and the resulting skidding, sliding, crashing traffic accidents will likely earn you a nasty note from your insurance company.

Austin Pronunciation Guide

Once you’ve dipped your toe in the Austin pool of assimilation and know enough to call yourself an Austinite, you’ve gotta learn to talk Austin.Begin by dropping the “g” at the end of most, if not all, words—Austinites pride themselves in environmental awareness and that extra “g” is just a waste of time and ink.As in most of Texas and other southern/southwestern states, there is no such saying as “you all” or, even worse, “you guys.” Saying you guys is like scritching your nails on a chalkboard. Best to avoid it at all costs.

Y’all (YAWL) is a plural second-person pronoun. All y’all is a contraction of “all of you,” and refers to an entire group. Y'all is not used when you're referring to a single person.

And you’re not ever “about to do something,” you’re fixin’ to do somethin’, as in, “We’re fixin’ to whoop up on Texas A&M.” There's a whole slew of legend and lore about Texas A&M University, their football team and their bitter and uncalled for rivalry with Austinites, whether said Austinites actually attend or ever attended the University of Texas or not. It’s the principle of the thing, and Austinites are big on principles. For the most part.

Gettin’ Around Austin

If you don’t know the Austin pronunciation of thoroughfares and out-lyin’ areas, you’re gonna get stuck in a whole mess o’ traffic because you can’t translate the traffic report.Some of the traffic stuckedness will not be your fault, as some thoroughfares change names three or four times before you reach your destination, and half the name changes aren’t pronounced the way the whole rest of Texas (or anywhere else for that matter) pronounce them.

Some Examples:

Burnet Lane- “BURN-it,” as in, “Burn-it, durn it, learn it!” Also the pronunciation of Austin’s Hill Country pseudo-suburb, Burnet.

Guadalupe Street- “GUAD-a-loop.” Yes, we know the correct Spanish pronunciation is “Gwaad-ah-LOOP-ay,” but stick around and you’ll see that Austinites don’t care much about rules, linguistic or otherwise.

Loop 1- “MO-pac,” so named for the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks it parallels—sort of.Manchaca Road- “MAN-shack.” Also the pronunciation of a south Austin suburb.Ranch Road 2222- Another multi-named thoroughfare. The correct pronunciation is “Twenty-two, Twenty-two”—not ever, ever, ever , “Two Two Two Two.” This burgeoning byway is changes names as it snakes through Austin, and is also known as Allandale, Northland and Koenig Lane (pronounced

KAY-nig Lane), depending on where you wind up when you’ve gotten yourself lost.Research Boulevard-Depending on your GPS location, this major highway is also known as Anderson Lane, Ed Bluestein, Toll Road 183-A (don’t get us started on this one) and regular ol’ 183, as in, “Pray for me, I drive 183.”‘Nuff said.The Drag—the portion of Guadalupe near the University of Texas, named for fun-loving, free-spirited students, aka “hippies,” in the late 1960s and early 1970’s.

And if you don’t catch on to the lingo or the lifestyle of Austin right away, that’s okay. In the words of adopted, Grammy award-winning Austinite Lyle Lovett, “That’s right, you’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.”

We believe he was writing about Austin. So y’all come on down, ya hear?


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