You’re Saying It Wrong: An Outsider’s guide to local pronunciations

Having lived in three different places, I’ve come to learn some of the local slang, colloquialisms, and ‘correct’ pronunciations of things. I’ve noticed that a common theme between Rochester, Boston, and Los Angeles are the different neighborhoods in each city which are totally pronounced the opposite way of what your brain thinks. Here are some I’ve found questionable after stepping out of the city limits.

1) Rochester (RAH-chester)

Interestingly enough, Rochesterarians are known for their odd, slightly midwestern accent. It’s nasally and weird. When I was home for Christmas, it was more evident than usual that the strangers around me at the mall were total Rochies, exaggerating their vowels. It’s actually a good test to see if someone is a native Rochesterarian or not, by asking them to say the name of the city. If you don’t stretch out that Raaaaahhhchester, you’re probs from like, Albany or the city, where they think ‘upstate’ New York is Westchester.

2) Chili (CHI-lai)

You’d think this five letter word is said ‘CHI-lee’, but as a suburb of ROC, you say it CHIli, rhyming with the alcoholic drink ‘mai-tai’.

3) Charlotte (shar-LOT)

Rochester is right on Lake Ontario, so naturally there is a beach. Or something that resembles a beach when the waters aren’t deemed toxic. However, this beach is not like the North Carolina city, home of the Bobcats or Bachelorette Emily Maynard. It’s questionably said with an emphasis on the second syllable , because that makes more sense.

4) Woburn (WOO-burn)

Not WHOA, BURNN (that was stupid, move on).

5) Quincy (QUIN-zee)

If you pronounce President John Quincy Adams as President John KWINSEE Adams, you’ve been doing it wrong your whole life. Quincy was the birthplace of the President, hence its namesake. The town was named following the pronunciation of the family name, but people have been saying it wrong for years. Have a Bostonian tell you the right way to say it. Or take the red line and see where you end up.

6) Worcester (WUSS-ter)

It’s not ‘Worcestershire Sauce’ so don’t say it like that. But if you ask a native Bostonian, they’ll say it the way it’s really supposed to be said, ‘woos-tah’.

7) Los Feliz

Yeah I actually still don’t know what the correct pronunciation of this is. I hear two different versions all the time. All I know is that Lauren Graham lives there, next to Natalie Portman. So I mean, there’s that.

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Live Blog: Catfish: The TV Show – Joe and Kari Ann

If you missed my first post about my affection for this show, you can read all about how this program about internet dating will change your life. This was an episode that aired in early January, but if you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here (since it won’t embed ugh) and read along!

:00 OK, I really have high hopes for this one. This is finally going to be the one where they find true love.

:02 THIS PERSON LIVES IN WESTERN NEW YORK. JOE!!! PLEASE TELL ME YOU’RE FROM ROCHESTER.

:04 I’m sorry, but this Kari Ann girl looks like a model, and Joe looks like a kid who works at a Blockbuster and plays in a garage band (sorry, Joe). She just messages him out of the blue?? But seriously, who messages anyone out of the blue on FB? Stranger Danger, folks!

:05 OMG WAS THAT THE ROCHESTER AIRPORT? Joe lives in Warsaw, which is basically equidistant from Roc and Buffalo – in other words, the middle of nowhere on a farm.

:08 Joe’s accent is so western NY, I can’t.

:09 Commercial for Snooki and JWoww is on. I’m not gonna lie to you people. I’m excited for this. In unrelated news: my job is ruining my life.

:13 Kari Ann was Miss Teen USA, has a kid, and she was a Playboy model…

:14 So usually, it’s really easy for Nev to find something sketchy on the person, but It’s taking a while for them to find something on Kari Ann. All the people the get in contact with check out. This is a good sign folks. I’m telling you, high hopes!

:17 Nev and Max meet Joe’s friends, including this girl Rose who clearly needs to put the girls away. I mean you are on TV, but you’re also on a go-cart track with hick boys.

:26 Nev and Max are staying in Geneseo!! Aka the town where Molly went to school!!

:29 Kari Ann calls him out for being a stranger all up in their relationship, and Nev says it’s ok because “it’s a good reminder that what he’s doing is weird.” I mean the girl has a point. Imagine if a random person calling you up and being like, so your internet BF is concerned that you’re not who you say you are. Now come meet us. Kbyeeee.

:30 Nev says he’s hot after the nerve wracking conversation and proceeds to take off his sweater. I just think he is the cutesttt (I’m sorry for the onoxious ‘ttt’, but I appreciate him a lot).

:31 “We’re country folk, we stick to our own” – Joe’s dad. ugh.

:32 Ok, it’s not that weird that Kari Ann was in NYC and didn’t tell him, because the city is SIX HOURS AWAY.

:36 Joe’s shaking, I’m shaking. It’’s always about the 35 minute mark into the show when I feel like I’m going to throw up from the anticipation of the significant other revealing themselves.

:38 FUCKIN ROSE. It’s been his friend the entire time. His friend that claimed she met Kari Ann IRL and became friends with her, and that’s how Kari Ann got in contact with Joe. But props to her for keeping up the fake Kari Ann profile. She’s been doing it for years and has ‘mastered’ the art of fake profiling. Right.

:40 I feel so bad for Joe because Rose could care less that she’s hurt his feelings. Also, stop trying to be a Playboy model, but them girls away.

:46 When faced with the decision to choose between a real relationship and fake internet relationships, she hesitates and says she’s not ready to give them up. This is getting more and more intense – she’s created a bunch of fake profiles, and even told one of them to get FB engaged. Hello?!

:47 This episode is turning into an episode of Intervention. The common denominator between a lot of these people pretending to be somebody else is that they’re lacking their own self-esteem, (see: Sonny & Jamison, Jasmine & Mike, Jarrod & Abby) and in order to gain the confidence they need, they turn to fake identities of an ideal version of themselves. It’s clearly a problem they need to seek help for, especially Rose, who has lied and conned a lot of people online.

:48 She decides to post a status telling everyone she’s going away for a while and requests for no one to contact her. Yeah, because that’s going to help her addiction. Just delete everything, you psycho.

:49 Not a psycho: Joe. The kid had his heartbroken and just needs a hug. Nev, hug the boy, will you?

:58 Rose deactivates her Kari Ann profile… for 24 hours. This bitch has 1,000 friends! I don’t even have that many and I’m a real person!!!!

:51 Before Joe parts ways with his internet investigators, he asks them to drive along side him in his ATV to test the speed. Country through and through.

:59 One month later, Rose moved to Cali to be with her BF – whom she met through the Kari Ann. Apparently he was more forgiving than Joe, because when they met and she wasn’t the Playboy model, he didn’t care.

:00 Joe is still single. But not looking for love online ever again. Good for you Joe Coco. Good for you.

Live Blog: Jet Blue Virgin

On my recent trip home to Rochester for Christmas, I took Jet Blue for the first time on my way back to Los Angeles. I’m a frequent American Airlines, U.S. Air, Virgin America flier, so taking an airline that many people I know rave about was exciting for me. Little did I know it was going to be this exciting.

2:15pm Making my usual last stop to get coffee and snacks before going to the land without Dunkin’ Donuts.

2:30pm Don’t have a seat. Need to check in with desk at gate. Hoping it’s on the aisle and not in the exit row.

2:50pm Get to my seat. It’s on the aisle – in an exit row.

2:55pm There’s a dog barking somewhere. It sounds small. It’s not stopping.

3:01:10pm Guy comes on and has a seat diagonal from me. Looks vaguely familiar. Comedian of some sort. Need to keep sneakily looking at him for clues as to his identity.

3:01:20pm Woman follows shortly behind and also looks familiar. Realize it’s Kathy Najimy of Hocus Pocus and Sister Act fame. Sister Mary Patrick goes too far back, and her daughter, holding a California flag iPhone case, tells her to come back. Confirms it’s SMP. Put together that generic comedian guy is SMP’s hubby.

Cover of "Sister Act"

Whoopi Goldberg, NOT Kathy Najimy

3:10pm My TV isn’t working. Ugh. Have to look around at surrounding televisions for entertainment.

3:11pm Generic Comedian Guy is checking is Facebook, and I see that his first name is Dan. Finally recognize him as Dan from The Dan Band .

3:12pm Amy, one of our flight attendants, comes to give us the Exit Row speech. She also does the safety instructions directly in front of my person, and for the first time in a while, I actually pay attention. We take off.

3:15pm Wondering when it’s a good time to tell Amy about my dysfunctional TV.

3:17pm Wondering why SMP was in ROC in the first place.

3:25pm Amy and her co-attendant Sarah start coming down the aisle with bevs and snacks. FREE SNACKS? Jet Blue is great.

3:26pm Decline free snacks.

3:28pm Sarah recognizes SMP and crouches down to tell her something. All I hear is “I love that movie.”  Then she goes to Dan and crouches again and says, “I recognize you too… Are you a comedian? The singing one? What’s your name again? Oh yeah Dan Band!” oh my gah Sarah, smh in second hand embarrassment. You’re not a Los Angeles or NYC based flight crew, are you?

3:30pm Decline free bev – tell Sarah about dysfunctional television, she slams my armrest up and down (high-tech stuff, guys). She apologizes, says we’re a full flight, otherwise she would move me. Offers a free alcoholic beverage or a voucher. I also decline alc. I just wanted to watch TV, really.

3:32pm Play Kelly Clarkson’s Catch My Breath four times in a row on my iPod.

3:36pm Sarah comes back to give me and my seatmate a $15 voucher since the TVs don’t work. The first time I ever voluntarily speak to the person sitting next to me on a flight, I say, “Good thing I said something, huh?” Seatmate gave me a thumbs up.

3:45pm Take note of programs I’m missing because of janky TV: House Hunters, iCarly, the history of donuts, Seinfeld, Dr. Phil, and some rando TV therapist named Bill with a large black woman definitely doing the z snap with head move to some other irate woman.

3:46pm Really wishing there was a Boingo hotspot on this plane (for free) so I could watch The West Wing.

3:47pm Overthinking why anyone would name a wireless airline hotspot ‘Boingo’

3:50pm Sarah comes back to Dan, and he goes to the back of the plane with her. Really wishing I could see what happened back there, but I’m assuming she took a picture with him. S.M.H.

3:59pm Why doesn’t Jet Blue have SkyMall? That’s like, the best part of flying.

4:01pm We start our descent. Thinking about investing in motion sickness meds, even though I’ve always been ok. But I’m getting old, and on the way to ROC, there was a lot of turbulence and I almost vommed (kinda like the six year old girl behind me on that flight).

4:11pm The dog barks as soon as we touchdown. And a baby starts crying. Good timing, people.

4:15pm Get into Jet Blue’s rad JFK terminal. I lost SMP and Dan, hoping they’ll be on my flight to LAX.

4:40pm Check iMDb and apparently Dan is from Bath, NY (small town near Roc), AND AND AND he went to Emerson (the college I went to)!! Def going to try to strike up convo if they’re on my flight.

4:45pm Spend the next four hours blogging, drinking as much Dunkin Donuts’ iced coffee as humanly possible, all while watching The West Wing. Sans Boingo hotspot.

‘Parks And Recreation’: A Love Letter To The Hometown

After I graduated law school, I found a job in the legal profession (!) … in my hometown. Here I am, back where it all began.

English: City of Rochester, New York.

I hope you like that bridge because it took about 10 years to finish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am from Rochester, New York. There are far worse places that you could live. In fact, as a pretty humble city, I suggest that Rochester adopts “there are far worse places that you could live” as its slogan. It has less violent crime than Detroit (Detroit has many fine attributes, like motown), lower average yearly snowfall than Anchorage (AND ten other U.S. Cities!), and, with over a million people in the Rochester metropolitan area, is by far the largest Rochester in the United States. George Eastman (founder of Kodak), Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Kristen Wiig have all called this city home. (A Marie Claire profile of Wiig referred to Rochester as a “suburban backwater,” which was a little harsh for a city with so many fine cultural institutions.)  Did I mention that the National Museum of Play is here, too?

But this piece isn’t about Rochester, this is about hometowns, and living in yours as an adult — whether you’re from a mid-sized city, a mega-metropolis, or a small town. There’s a tendency, I think, to feel like if you live where you did at 14, maybe the rest of your life has become stagnant, too (you know, like a suburban backwater?). It’s easy to fear becoming that former varsity athlete who works at the same gas station he did senior year, reliving his glory days. Luckily for me, I was never very good at anything in high school, so that’s not really a danger. I don’t think appearing in the chorus of high school musicals and playing second doubles in tennis counts as “glory days” by any standard.

One bright spot if you find yourself back in your place of birth is the NBC series Parks and Recreation. It is a love letter to the hometown. The protagonist, Leslie Knope, is proud to be from Pawnee, Indiana, and is proud to live there still. As you watch the series, you can’t help but fall in love with Leslie’s enthusiasm about Pawnee, and hopefully you can catch some enthusiasm about your hometown, too. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from everyone’s favorite mid-level municipal employee:

(1) Nobody insults your hometown but you. And maybe you shouldn’t either. You will never see Knope more angry than when residents of nearby Eagleton snub Pawnee. Eagletonians are jerks, though: “When a tornado went through Pawnee, we asked Eagleton for help, but they claimed they weren’t home. The whole town said they weren’t home.” Your hometown is like your siblings when you were a kid: you might have complaints about them, but you would not put up with that kind of talk from anyone else. So when people make fun of your city’s downtown crow infestation, you should either remind them that at least that means the city’s secret uranium store didn’t kill them all, or take a cue from Leslie Knope and shut the whole conversation down:

(2) First in friendship, fourth in obesity. There are negative things about every city. Maybe the local sweets factory has contributed to a full-blown obesity bonanza. Maybe teen girl battles have compromised the municipal transit system. Despite its flaws, there are certainly plenty of wonderful people in your hometown. There’s something great about friends you have known for decades. But, some of Leslie’s best friends are not native Pawneeans. Remember that just because you grew up in your city, doesn’t mean everyone you meet there did. Be friendly and welcoming to newcomers, and they just might fall in love with your hometown, too. Ben Wyatt thought he was just passing through Pawnee, but the wonderful locals (well, mostly Leslie) changed his mind.

Cover Illustration of The Wonderful Leaps of S...

This guy leaped off of waterfalls nationwide, but he died in OUR waterfall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(3) Lil’ Sebastian Makes Everything Better. In one of Leslie’s greatest triumphs, she brings hometown hero Lil’ Sebastian (a winsome, elderly pony) back to the Harvest Festival. One of the best things about living in your hometown is being familiar with the local shorthand and in-jokes. Someone from Indianapolis or Eagleton might not understand the appeal of a geriatric pony with a heart of gold, but Pawneeans do. My city has a flagpole strung with lights instead of a municipal Christmas tree, a laser light show about an ill-fated 19th century daredevil and his pet bear, and our must-try cuisine is called a garbage plate. I love them all, because I grew up with them — except for the garbage plate, anyway.  It is hard to understand these hometown heroes if you aren’t actually from the town – I remember the locals getting all fired up about “spiced wafers” when I lived in Philly, and I just didn’t understand it because they taste like a grandmother – but when you are from there, it’s magic.

(4) Success starts at home. Living in a small town doesn’t mean that Leslie Knope has given up on her dreams. Instead, she believes that she could be president one day. More importantly, she takes steps to achieve her dreams while she’s still in Pawnee, running an impassioned campaign to become Pawnee’s next councilwoman — just see her closing argument in “The Debate,” where Leslie suggests that maybe true success involves making a difference right where you are:

I love this town. And when you love something, you don’t punish it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first. As your City Councilman, I will make sure that no one takes advantage of Pawnee. If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on too strong, its because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This is my home, you are my family, and I promise you, I’m not going anywhere.

(5) If all else fails, just slisten to Amy Poehler. Here is Poehler’s take on her character’s life in Pawnee: “I think there’s something very romantic about people deciding to be in love with your own small town. There’s a lot of arc in art and literature about moving to the big city, and there’s something really sweet about moving to a small town.” Whenever she talks about her character, Poehler respects Knope’s tenacity, and never acts like Leslie is at all pathetic for living in her hometown. And neither are you. Just ask Leslie Knope (…unless you’re from Eagleton).

Surviving Selling Things Parties: Avon Ladies, Mary Kay Girls, and Me

English: Screenshot taken from the video link ...

Over the past month, I have been invited to four Selling Things Parties. For the uninitiated, during these gatherings, a woman of child-bearing age will present wares, provide complimentary food and drink, and then collect orders for these goods. But don’t be fooled! The goal is not to buy things, but to “get together, have a glass of wine, and look at some great (shoes/makeup/spinach artichoke dip).”[1] What follows is a confusing and – dare I say – convoluted exchange, with the wares being shipped to the seller, who then distributes them, and I think that nobody writes a check until the goods are delivered, but how should I know?[2] All I’m sure of is, somebody probably has to pay for these things, and there is a catalog, and there are snacks.

​Until I was 16 or so, I thought that these parties only existed in works of fiction set in the Mid-West. This is because you are either from a selling things family, or you are not. I absolutely am not. This is probably because the ladies in my family are stunted in our abilities to exclaim over retail items. At wedding and baby showers, we are the ones making compliments that are so painfully specific that they sound like insults: “that is the reddest onesie I’ve seen yet today!”; “Look at that, Marguerite! All of the plates from your china pattern are round!”; “You WILL have a baby, Greta, and he will sit upright in this blue foam chair!”.

​I also think that you are supposed to buy the samples upfront if you’re throwing a Selling Things Party. I don’t like spending money without a guarantee of a return, so I’d have to sell things I already own. I do not know a roomful of ladies who would like to buy my old law school textbooks, but if anyone wants to read about the state of international human rights law through 2009, shoot me a line! [Spoiler alert: TREATIES!]. I also worry that I would spend so much on hors d’euvers that I wouldn’t break even, or worse, that other people would eat all of the good ones if I bought too little. These are very real concerns.

​This is not to say that I think I’m better than ladies who throw Selling Things Parties. If anything, they possess a degree of initiative and a collection of appetizer recipes that I admire.[3] An all-American, homespun capitalism is in these peddlers’ blood, like red hair and a surprisingly low white blood cell count are in mine. These gals were probably raised playing in the other room while their mothers and aunts served fondue and sold Tupperware, whereas I was raised making my own snacks and buying things in stores.

​So, if you are invited to a Selling Things Party, don’t fret. You don’t have to buy anything.[4] If you like shopping, socializing, and Buffalo Wing Dip, you might want to give it a try. But don’t expect to throw a successful Selling Things Party yourself if you weren’t raised with it: like landed gentry and psychics, Selling Things Party Ladies are born, not made. Or rather, they are made, but that is because they are carefully formed in their early years, like bonsai trees and Romanian gymnasts.

1. TM: Every Facebook invite to every selling things party, ever. BACK TO POST
2. I wonder if, in the selling things party context, submitting the order form constitutes the offer, and sending the good is acceptance? For a fascinating study of offer and acceptance in the catalog/advertising context, ​ see Leonard v. PepsiCo Inc, 88 F.Supp.2d 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1999).BACK TO POST
3. Really, these parties are usually okay. My lovely sister-in-law sells Avon, and her relatives throw Selling Things Parties, too. There is always good food, interesting products, and a refreshing lack of retail mark-up. I’m far too lazy and inhospitable to become an Avon lady myself, but I love having a source for really good and cheap cosmetics and gifts! OK, done. BACK TO POST
4. But actually, you do. BACK TO POST